ABOUT MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS AND THE SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY
Since his 1974 debut conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas has built a legacy of ARTISTIC EXCELLENCE at the helm of the San Francisco Symphony. Michael Tilson Thomas’ signature interpretations and recordings of core masterworks by composers such as Mahler, Beethoven, and Schumann have been recognized globally for their nuance, mastery, and unique musical perspective.
A native Californian, Michael Tilson Thomas has led the San Francisco Symphony in two decades of showcasing the path-breaking artistic work of AMERICAN MAVERICKS where he has championed music by pioneers of the American sound such as Charles Ives, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Carl Ruggles, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Aaron Copland, Lou Harrison, Henry Brant, Morton Feldman, Edgard Varèse, and Lukas Foss, among others. In 2000 and 2012, MTT and the SFS broke new ground with the far-reaching American Mavericks Festivals, featuring concerts dedicated to these composers, as well as educational partnerships, experiential learning, recordings, a national concert tour, and a host of new media tools to allow for a deeper understanding of this music.
Since his appointment as SFS Music Director in 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas has represented unwavering commitment to championing NEW AND UNFAMILIAR WORKS with the Orchestra. Under his artistic leadership they have established and maintained commissioning relationships with composers such as John Adams, Robin Holloway, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, and Charles Wuorinen, and formed new bonds with young composers such as Samuel Adams, Mason Bates, and Ted Hearne. In addition to commissioning and performing dozens of new compositions by this era’s most important musical voices, Tilson Thomas has led the Orchestra to champion these new works by taking them on national and international tours, and recording and releasing them on the Orchestra’s in-house record label, ensuring their exposure and life beyond their local premiere. In 2012, in partnership with the publisher Boosey & Hawkes and the New World Symphony, MTT and the SFS established the New Voices program to seek out and promote the work of new composing talents. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers recognized the Symphony’s commitment to innovative programming with eight awards since 2000.
Michael Tilson Thomas’ creative reimagining of the CONCERT EXPERIENCE has brought cutting-edge original staging to works of the symphonic and operatic repertory. Since 1996, he has conceived acclaimed semi-staged productions ranging from operas such as The Flying Dutchman ,Peter Grimes , and Boris Godunov , to works of musical theater like West Side Story and On the Town , to bold stagings of concert works such as Missa solemnis . Further pushing the boundaries of traditional orchestral performances, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony opened SoundBox in 2014, presenting evenings of eclectic musical exploration to culturally adventurous listeners in a club-like environment. A resounding cultural and critical success, SoundBox has broadened the classical music experience.
Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s award-winning MEDIA catalogue began in 1996 with a debut live recording with the Orchestra, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet on RCA Red Seal. It was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance, and several years later Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra won three 1999 Grammy Awards for their all-Stravinsky recording. In 2001, the San Francisco Symphony under Tilson Thomas became the first US orchestra to successfully launch its own audio/video recording label, introducing SFS Media with a renowned Mahler cycle that encompasses all of the composer’s symphonies and major song cycles. The label has gone on to offer recordings of many other major works, including those of Beethoven, Ives, and John Adams, as well as a compilation of American maverick composers and a complete West Side Story . In all there have been 55 SFS Media releases to date. They have captured eight Grammy Awards as well as such honors as France’s Diapason d’Or and Germany’s Echo Klassik and Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik awards. MTT’s unique ability to communicate the joys and context of symphonic music led to the creation of Keeping Score , a multi-year, multi-tier program (inaugurated in 2004) to bring music to tens of millions of Americans through national radio and television programs, DVDs, in-school education programs, and a website that enables visitors to delve deeply into the music, at their own pace.
Guided by Michael Tilson Thomas’ lifelong commitment to music EDUCATION , the San Francisco Symphony has significantly expanded its education and community programs to reach more than 100,000 children, students, educators, and families annually. Its Adventures in Music program now ensures that every child in grades 1–5 in San Francisco’s public elementary schools receives free and equitable access to music education for five consecutive years; after which the Symphony’s training programs for young adults nurture the next generation of musicians and citizens, from amateurs to scholars of the highest pre-professional level. Under Tilson Thomas’ leadership, the San Francisco Symphony’s music education program has grown to be among the most comprehensive of its kind.
Michael Tilson Thomas’ many HONORS AND MILESTONES include the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the US government, presented by President Barack Obama in 2010, Columbia University’s Ditson Award for Services to American Music, and the President’s Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was named Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year by Musical America , Gramophone ’s Artist of the Year, and inducted into the magazine’s Hall of Fame. Tilson Thomas has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France. During the 2019–20 season, his 25th, Tilson Thomas celebrates his 75th birthday as well as the 50th anniversary of his relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra, where he served as Principal Conductor and is now Conductor Laureate. 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, which MTT co-founded and continues to lead as Artistic Director. To date, the San Francisco Symphony has awarded 18 graduates of this program permanent positions in the Orchestra.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2019–20 SEASON
Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen
San Francisco Symphony Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen leads two weeks of concerts in the 2019–20 Season, before beginning his tenure as the Orchestra’s 12th Music Director in September 2020. One of the most influential and creative forces in music, Salonen has, through his many high-profile conducting roles, work as a leading composer, and as an advocate for accessibility and diverse musical voices, shaped a unique vision for the present and future of the symphony orchestra.
Salonen’s SF Symphony concerts February 20–22 feature Britten’s Les Illuminations and Ravel’s Three Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé with soprano Julia Bullock, Stucky’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary , and Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye ( Mother Goose ). Concerts February 27–29 feature Esa-Pekka Salonen’s own Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz, Beethoven’s Overture to King Stephen , and Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5.
Guest Conductors & Soloists in Guest Weeks
San Francisco Symphony subscription concerts are led by an array of international guest conductors and feature guest artists from around the world, some returning to Davies Symphony Hall and some making their SFS subscription debuts. Conductors returning to lead the San Francisco Symphony include Marek Janowski, Cristian Măcelaru, Ton Koopman, Manfred Honeck, Teddy Abrams, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, James Gaffigan, Edward Gardner, and Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt. Making their SFS conducting debuts are Karina Canellakis, Antonio Pappano, Dima Slobodeniouk, Fabien Gabel, and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.
Soloists returning to perform with the San Francisco Symphony in concerts led by guest conductors include pianists Lang Lang, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet; violinists Gidon Kremer, Nicola Benedetti, Sergey Khachatryan, and Leila Josefowicz; and vocalists Julia Bullock, Lauren Snouffer, Stuart Skelton, and Ain Anger. Remarkable artists making their SF Symphony debuts include pianists Gabriela Montero performing Tchaikovksy’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Alexander Gavrylyuk performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1; violinist María Dueñas performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto; countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen in Handel’sMessiah ; and soprano Emily Magee singing the role of Sieglinde in Act I from Wagner’s Die Walküre .
The 2019–20 Film Series, which features the San Francisco Symphony performing film scores live as the movies are projected on a large screen above the stage, includes Lee Unkrich’s Academy Award-winning Coco with music by Michael Giacchino, Ivan Reitman’s original Ghostbusters , Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life featuring Dimitri Tiomkin’s timeless score, and Ron Howard’s Academy Award-winning drama Apollo 13 . In addition, the SFS presents one performance of Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film Get Out , winner of an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
One of America’s most distinguished choruses, the 150-member San Francisco Symphony Chorus is known for its precision, power, and versatility. Led by Director Ragnar Bohlin , the SFS Chorus is featured next season in a variety of concert programs, including performances of Stravinsky’sCanticum sacrum and Symphony of Psalms , Handel’s Messiah , Brahms’ A German Requiem , Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, and a semi-staged production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) .
Great Performers Series & Special Presentations
Continuing its longstanding tradition of hosting a diverse range of world-class artists and orchestras, the San Francisco Symphony presents concerts by visiting orchestras new to Davies Symphony Hall, including the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra led by Vladimir Lande and featuring violinist Pavel Milyukov, Chineke! Orchestra with conductor Kevin John Edusei and pianist Stewart Goodyear, and Metropole Orkest with songwriter Randy Newman. Returning to Davies Hall, violinist Joshua Bell leads and performs with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and world-renowned pianists Yefim Bronfman and Igor Levit perform all-Beethoven recital programs. Also presenting recitals during the 2019–20 season are pianists Yuja Wang, Murray Perahia, Hélène Grimaud, and Chick Corea; flutist Sir James Galway; mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; cellist Gautier Capuçon; and violinists Ray Chen and Anne-Sophie Mutter—whose season-long residency also includes a quartet chamber performance with violinist Ye-Eun Choi, violist Vladimir Babesko, and cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott.
Subscription packages for the San Francisco Symphony’s 2019–20 season go on sale TUESDAY, March 12 at 10 am at www.sfsymphony.org/MTT25
, (415) 864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, located on Grove Street between Franklin and Van Ness. For additional details and questions visit www.sfsymphony.org/MTT25
For a limited time, patrons have the option to get 2 additional DSH concerts free when buying a Davies Symphony Hall 6-concert or more subscription package; 3 additional DSH concerts free when buying a 12-concert or more package; or 3 additional DSH concerts, an additional seat upgrade, and 2 complimentary drink vouchers when subscribing to 18 or more concerts. Offer ends April 12, 2019 .
Single tickets for individual 2019–20 concerts will go on sale July 22, 2019.