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Michael Tilson Thomas Leads the SFS in Four Concert Programs in November

October 27, 2017

Public Relations
San Francisco Symphony
(415) 503-5474


Season-long Bernstein Centennial celebration continues with Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety, Symphony No. 2 with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet on November 2, 3, and 5; concerts also feature Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben

MTT leads performances of Ives’ Symphony No. 3 November 10–12 and Symphony No. 4 November 16–18; both to be recorded live for future release on SFS Media

November 10–12 concerts also include Ives’ Psalm 90, Gershwin’s An American in Paris, and the first SFS performances of Dvořák’s The American Flag featuring bass-baritone Philip Skinner and tenor Amitai Pati in his SFS debut

November 10–12 concerts feature launch of new pre-concert Prelude Series of informal discussions

Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard replaces Susanna Phillips in concerts November 24–26, which include Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate, K.165(158a), and the first SFS Performances of Mozart’s German Dances, K.509

November 16–18 concerts also feature Beethoven’s Violin Concerto performed by Pinchas Zukerman (Nov 16 & 17) and Viviane Hagner in her SFS debut (Nov 18)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in four dynamic concert programs in November. Concerts on November 2, 3, and 5 continue the SFS’s season-long celebration of Bernstein’s birth centennial with performances of his Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety—a musical representation of W.H. Auden’s narrative poem of the same name—featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.Thibaudet is considered one of the premiere interpreters of the solo part for Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, performing it extensively throughout the 2017–18 season with notable orchestras in the U.S. and abroad. Strauss’ heroic tone poem Ein Heldenleben concludes the program. One hour prior to each concert on November 2, 3, and 5, MTT will give an illuminating pre-concert talk on Leonard Bernstein, moderated by Peter Grunberg. This talk is free to all ticketholders.

The November 10–12 concerts are the first of two back-to-back weeks featuring the music of American composer Charles Ives. In these concerts, MTT conducts an American-themed program, featuring Ives’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting, to be recorded live for a future SFS Media release. MTT, who has long been a renowned interpreter of Ives’ work, states: “At its core, the music of Charles Ives is an expression of the heart and soul of America. The complexity of Ives’s rhythmic and harmonic ideas was very much ahead of his time, and, even as he was often labeled eccentric by his peers, he created a uniquely American sound. My aim with these programs is to reveal the true essence of Ives’s music in order to allow the audience to see America through his eyes.” In his Symphony No. 3 Ives depicts scenes and emotions from the “camp meetings” of the 1800s in which thousands of believers would assemble with tents and supplies to engage in a marathon of preaching, praying, and singing hymns. These “camp meetings” were at the heart of the religious revival that swept America during the 19th century and their songs, moods, and sermons greatly influenced the world of the young Charles Ives. The concert also includes IvesPsalm 90, which many consider to be the apex of his choral music, featuring the San Francisco Symphony Chorus under the direction of Ragnar Bohlin. Other works on the program were both shaped by travel—Gershwin’s An American in Paris, inspired by his visit to Paris in 1928; and the first SFS performances of Dvořák’s rarely performed The American Flag, inspired by the Czech composer’s journey to the United States in 1892–95, and featuring bass-baritone Philip Skinner and tenor Amitai Pati in his SFS debut. Amitai Pati was a participant in the 2016 Merola Opera Program and is currently a first-year Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, where he most recently appeared as Gastone in La Traviata. Philip Skinner, also a graduate of the Merola Opera Program and former Adler Fellow, made his SF Opera debut in 1985 and first appeared with the SF Symphony in 1989.

On November 10–12, the SFS launches its Prelude Series—a pre-concert discussion led by a knowledgeable guest speaker in a casual, intimate lounge setting on the First Tier Lobby of Davies Symphony Hall, 45 minutes before each performance. The series presents an engaging way to enhance patrons’ classical music experience at Davies Hall and will be offered for a select number of concerts each month. This first Prelude Series will be led by Steven Winn, an award-winning writer and veteran theater and culture critic of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The following week, November 1618, MTT leads the orchestra in performances of IvesSymphony No. 4, with Christian Reif as second conductor and pianist Peter Dugan as soloist. These performances will also be recorded for future release on SFS Media. Although it didn’t receive its first complete performance until 1965, over a decade after the composer’s death, Ives’ intricate and rhythmically complex Symphony No. 4 is considered to be one of his greatest masterpieces. The complexity MTT refers to in the above quote can be seen in the simultaneous use of several meters throughout the work, as well unique orchestration as in the fourth movement, where the last two stands of second violins comprise a “distant choir.” In the 1965 premiere of Ives’ Symphony No. 4 two assistant conductors were enlisted to help with the performance. Christian Reif will serve as assistant conductor in these concerts, working with MTT to guide the audience through the organized chaos of Ives’ Fourth Symphony.  The second half of the program features Beethoven’s virtuosic Violin Concerto, performed by Pinchas Zukerman on November 16 and 17 and Viviane Hagner in her SFS debut on November 18.

The November 24–26 concerts feature MTT conducting the SFS and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as soloist in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate, K.165(158a)—the latter replaces previously announced Berg’s Seven Early Songs. Leonard will take the place of soprano Susanna Phillips, who was originally scheduled for these performances, but has had to withdraw as she is not able to travel due to her pregnancy. Isabel Leonard made her SFS debut in October 2013 and most recently appeared with the SFS as part of the Bernstein Celebration concerts in September 2017. MTT is considered one of the world’s leading interpreters of Mahler’s music and his recordings of Mahler’s symphonies with the SFS have won seven Grammy Awards. According to Los Angeles Times, “Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony are the most exciting Mahler combination anywhere.” Concluding this dynamic program are the first SFS performances of Mozart’s delightful German Dances, K.509.

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