MTT, Thomas Hampson, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Grebanier, Peter Wyrick, Carnegie Hall, 2008




Throughout his career, Michael Tilson Thomas has delighted in making connections between the rich artistic traditions of the past and the wondrous musical horizons of the future. It all informs MTT’s unique outlook: masterclasses with Heifetz and Piatagorsky; early collaborations with Stravinsky, Copland, and Bernstein; and projects with composers including John Adams and Mason Bates. The 2008–09 season shows MTT uniting the past and present of American music in new and unexpected ways as he conducts a gala Carnegie Hall Bernstein celebration and commissions and premieres a major new work from rising composer Mason Bates.


Leonard Bernstein would have turned ninety in 2008. Carnegie Hall, where Bernstein appeared more than 400 times during his career, is the natural choice for a blowout all-Bernstein gala, led by his friend and colleague Michael Tilson Thomas. The once-in-a-lifetime program opens Carnegie Hall’s 2008-09 season and features MTT and the San Francisco Symphony alongside several prominent Bernstein interpreters—soprano Dawn Upshaw, baritone Thomas Hampson, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and vocalist Christine Ebersole. “In this program, we are going to try and celebrate the range of [Bernstein’s] musical interests…the whole range of the possibility of his music to amuse, to delight, to provoke, to question,” MTT notes. The Symphony captures lightning in a bottle, as the concert is recorded for broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances and released as an SFS Media DVD.

Michael Tilson Thomas, on Leonard Bernstein in The New York Times



One evening in November 2007, during the intermission of an San Francisco Symphony concert—“between Tchaikovsky and Brahms”—MTT invited composer Mason Bates backstage to talk about a possible new commission. For Bates it is a stunning transition from San Francisco Symphony audience member to commissioned composer: “Fifteen years ago, I had been on California soil scarcely a month when I stumbled into Davies Symphony Hall” for what happened to be the inaugural American Mavericks Festival. “Immediately, Michael and the SFS blew my musical mind.” The rest is history: Two years later, MTT and the SFS unveil their first Bates commission, The B-Sides, setting off a decade-long partnership and continuing MTT’s advocacy of young composers.

 Michael Tilson Thomas
Joshua Kosman, reviewing a performance of Mason Bates’ The B-Sides, San Francisco Chronicle
MTT and Gavin Newsom at the 2008 Opening Gala
Michael Tilson Thomas, Yefim Bronfman, Karen Jung, Mark Jung, John Goldman, Marcia Goldman

Timothy Higgins (Principal Trombone)
Jessica Valeri (Horn)

Sofia Gubaidulina: In tempus praesens
(US premiere, with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter)

Mason Bates: The B-Sides
(World premiere, San Francisco Symphony commission)


2008–09 Tours

A September 2008 tour to New York and Tennessee saw a starry lineup of guest soloists: soprano Dawn Upshaw, baritone Thomas Hampson, vocalist Christine Ebersole, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma; pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque; and the quartet of soprano Erin Wall, mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen, tenor Garrett Sorenson, and bass Alastair Miles.

New York, NY, Carnegie Hall
Greenvale, NY, Tilles Center
Nashville, TN, Schermerhorn Symphony Center 

San Francisco hometown hero Garrick Ohlsson headlined the January 2009 West Coast Tour.

Seattle, WA, Benaroya Hall
Chico, CA, California State University, Chico
San Luis Obispo, CA, Harmon Hall, Christopher Cohan Center
Santa Barbara, CA, Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts
Los Angeles, CA, Walt Disney Concert Hall
Costa Mesa, CA, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center
Palm Desert, CA, McCallum Theatre

Tune in to KDFC at 3pm daily for “MTT Time”—special concert broadcasts from each year of MTT’s historic tenure, featuring commentary from MTT himself.

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