Now into his second decade at the helm of the San Francisco Symphony, MTT is not content to rest on his laurels, though no one would blame him if he wanted to: 2005–06 is a time of many accolades for the maestro, including the prestigious Gramophone Artist of the Year Award in 2005. Long a beloved presence in the Far East, MTT and the Symphony make new inroads into Asia this season, with their first visit to mainland China.
AMBASSADORS FOR SAN FRANCISCO: 2006 ASIA TOUR
While the San Francisco Symphony had toured Asia periodically since its Japanese debut in 1968, it had never appeared in mainland China. That all changes with the 2006 tour, as MTT and the Symphony give their first performance in Shanghai in addition to several dates in Hong Kong. Tours are not only a way to reach new audiences, but also provide an opportunity for MTT and the Symphony to serve as ambassadors for San Francisco. Underscoring this commitment, the Orchestra’s first performance in Shanghai coincides with the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship between San Francisco and Shanghai. But the Symphony’s visit goes beyond concerts of Stravinsky, Copland, or Tchaikovsky, as MTT and the Orchestra lead a day of master classes with students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, launching a partnership that will continue in future Asia tours.
As the Lantern Festival firecrackers thundered last Sunday night, [Michael Tilson Thomas] and his San Francisco Symphony received thunderous applause at the Shanghai Grand Theatre.…It’s hard to say what it was about Thomas that stunned the Shanghai audience the most: his charisma or his music. ”
— Michelle Qiao, Shanghai Daily Scope, February 15, 2006
MTT and the Symphony’s February 2006 Asia tour included its first visit to mainland China. Cellist Lynn Harrell was featured soloist.
Hong Kong, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Grand Theatre
A BANNER YEAR: GRAMOPHONE’S ARTIST OF THE YEAR
In a career defined by pushing boundaries through new modes of programming and artistic expression, it’s now time for the industry to recognize Michael Tilson Thomas’s singular influence. MTT’s annus mirabilis is a global affair: Locally, he is awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of San Francisco. Nationally, he is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which honors “individuals who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large.” Internationally, he receives the Gramophone Artist of the Year Award for 2005, a feather in the cap for SFS Media and the growing Mahler cycle. In response to this flurry of recognition, MTT’s reply is concise: “Give me another ten years, please.”
To have been chosen as Gramophone’s Artist of the Year from among such an accomplished group of colleagues is truly an honor,” Tilson Thomas said. Noting that he made his conducting debut with the SFS leading Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in 1974, Tilson Thomas said, “Over the years I have appreciated Mahler’s references to so many lost musical worlds. Making these associations clear has always been my goal in performing his symphonies. I am grateful to my colleagues of the San Francisco Symphony who have made the music come to life again in this way. Thank you, Gramophone, for this honor. ”
— Michael Tilson Thomas, quoted in Classical Source
Jonathan Fischer (oboe)
Amy Hiraga (violin)
Longtime friend and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet was featured in MTT and SF Symphony’s April 2006 East Coast Tour.
New York, NY, Carnegie Hall
Newark, NJ, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
Washington DC, Kennedy Center