Press Room


Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

(415) 503-5474
[email protected]

Mar 12, 2019

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony announce 2019–20 season: celebratory final season of MTT's distinguished 25-year tenure as Music Director

Public Relations
San Francisco Symphony                                                                                                                    
(415) 503-5474
[email protected]

Click here to access PDF versions of this Press Release, the 2019-20 Season Calendar and Season-at-a-Glance, and for the 2019-20 Artist Photo Gallery




Celebration of the American Sound

  • Commissions and world premieres of new works by John Adams, Mason Bates, Rhiannon Giddens, Camille Norment, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Adam Schoenberg, Michael Tilson Thomas, Julia Wolfe, Pamela Z, and Aaron Zigman
  • First SFS performances of works by Tania León, Allison Loggins-Hull, Wynton Marsalis, Jessie Montgomery, Steven Stucky, and Michael Tilson Thomas
  • New San Francisco Symphony co-commission awarded to Chinese-born American composer Fang Man in conjunction with League of American Orchestras’ Women Composers Readings and Commissions program
  • MTT-led programs featuring American visionaries Samuel Barber, John Corigliano, and Carl Ruggles
  • Celebrations of MTT’s work as a composer through performances and SFS Media album release
  • SoundBox season curated by Michael Tilson Thomas, Missy Mazzoli, and Julia Bullock
  • SFS Media album releases of works by American icons Charles Ives and Aaron Copland

Connections and Collaborations

  • Season-long artist residencies by soprano Julia Bullock, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter encompass SF Symphony Orchestral Series concerts, recitals, SoundBox programs, and educational and community projects
  • Esteemed guest artists from around the world perform with Michael Tilson Thomas in celebration of his final season as Music Director
  • Young artists mentored by MTT and the SFS make notable SF Symphony debuts
  • SFS Musicians Jacob Nissly and Alexander Barantschik take solo turns performing concertos with the Orchestra

The Masterworks

  • New semi-staged production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)
  • MTT and the SFS historic finale concert of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand
  • MTT-led performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 and Des Knaben Wunderhorn with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny
  • Beethoven’s 250th Birthday marked by performances throughout the season of Symphonies Nos. 2, 5, and 7; Piano Concerto No. 2 with Emanuel Ax; and Violin Concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter; as well as all-Beethoven recitals by pianists Yefim Bronfman and Igor Levit, and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter
  • Carnegie Hall performances and 11-city tour of European musical capitals marking Michael Tilson Thomas’ final tour as SFS Music Director

Community Celebrations

  • MTT’s final season as Music Director kicks off with Opening Night Gala and Community Concerts for social service providers
  • SFS’s comprehensive Music Education programs celebrate 100 years of enriching the lives of Bay Area children and families
  • Season-long celebration of the SFS/MTT partnership features exhibitions, archival recording projects, special events, and more
  • Día de los Muertos Community Concert and Celebration highlighting vibrant Latin American cultural traditions
  • 20th annual San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year Concert and Banquet

Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • Two weeks of concerts led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, including works by Ravel and Britten performed by soprano Julia Bullock, Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5, and Salonen’s Violin Concerto performed by Leila Josefowicz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) today announced plans for the final season of MTT’s distinguished tenure as Music Director. The 2019–20 season marks his 25th year leading the SFS in what is widely considered one of the most remarkable and productive artistic partnerships in the orchestra world, having transformed the SFS into a leadership position among American ensembles. The wide-ranging programs and initiatives of MTT’s final season as SF Symphony Music Director celebrate the spirit of this extraordinary partnership with an expansive exploration of the American Sound; a creative breadth of programming where new voices stand alongside iconic masterworks, reimagined; a broadening of the traditional concert experience through staged productions and events in experimental spaces, meaningful collaborations with the world’s leading artists, and the championing of community and access to music education. The 2019–20 season embodies and celebrates the lasting and meaningful relationships MTT has built with the Orchestra and with their audiences across the Bay Area and the world.  

“From my very first encounter with the San Francisco Symphony in 1974, I was aware of the daring spirit of this Orchestra and this city,” said Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. “That spirit has been very much at the center of our long and meaningful relationship. When you come into an orchestra, you sense the personal qualities in that orchestra. It takes a very special environment of people who have worked together and deeply trust one another to make music magical, and that is what has happened these last 25 years. This season is very much about celebrating the relationships we have built together.”

“There is such a special connection between Michael, the musicians, and our audience,” remarked Sakurako Fisher, President of the SF Symphony. “The SF Bay Area has embraced this creative partnership from the start, and, throughout his 25 years, has celebrated their shared spirit of individuality and inclusiveness. It’s been an extraordinary tenure that has transformed not just our Orchestra, but also the expectation of what our community wants our Orchestra to be. Together, they have made the San Francisco Symphony a place for the curious, for the thoughtful, and for the imaginative. Michael’s artistic and pioneering legacy serves to ensure an exciting future for the Orchestra.”

“With Michael, the SF Symphony has earned a reputation as an ensemble of risk takers who play with passion and absolute abandon,” said violinist Melissa Kleinbart, chair of the Orchestra’s Players’ Committee. “Over the past two decades, it has grown into an ensemble of musicians who approach each performance as an opportunity to create something magical, memorable, and meaningful, always willing to try to something completely new. The chemistry between Michael and the Orchestra is something intangible and, thanks to his visionary leadership and commitment to this organization, we have solidified our reputation as one of the leading orchestras in the world.”

“The warm and genuinely close relationship that Michael has not just with the members of the Orchestra but with our entire community is something unique and wonderful to see,” said Chief Executive Officer Mark C. Hanson. “Long-term relationships are deeply important to Michael, and the resulting journey of generous and adventurous music making has been our shared reward. The San Francisco Symphony has grown tremendously under his guidance and is only matched by his vision and enthusiasm for sharing the music with those around him.”

[To download the full PDF version of this press release, click the link at the top]

Please wait...