In a 2016 New York Times Talk, MTT observed, “[San Francisco] has allowed me to expand and be an artist and be someone in the community in a way that would’ve made my grandparents and my parents very proud and quite specifically it has allowed me to be in the fullest sense an American, a Jew, and as of two years ago, a gay married man. And whatever else I’m doing in music would be impossible without this raw material which all of this richness provides.” The 2016–17 season paints the fullest portrait yet of MTT the San Franciscan, as he leads a special concert celebrating San Francisco’s LGBTQ community and introduces Bay Area audiences to his new composition, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind.
Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, recorded in March 2017
Celebrating the inclusive spirit: Symphony Pride
After cancelling two concerts in North Carolina in response to discriminatory legislation adopted by the state, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are presented with a unique opportunity. They seize the moment, offering a special concert in Davies Symphony Hall in April 2017 that celebrates the inclusive spirt of the Bay Area LGBTQ community. The Symphony Pride program is wide-ranging, featuring LGBTQ musical mavericks such as Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Meredith Monk, Aaron Copland, and John Cage; and songs by Broadway luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Kander and Ebb, sung by Audra McDonald. Thanks to the tireless efforts of event chairs Mark Leno and Joshua Robison, proceeds from the event benefit local service organizations working toward LGBTQ causes. Symphony Pride is celebratory and cathartic—a remarkable event.
In a typical San Francisco Symphony season, it’s not uncommon for Davies Symphony Hall to be full. . . .But this wasn’t a typical San Francisco Symphony season, and on Tuesday, April 4, Symphony Pride sure wasn’t a typical concert. This one was about community. . . .
The eclectic program included almost exclusively music written by gay composers, thumbnail sketches of whom were narrated by the maestro and displayed on monitors. Broadway baby Audra McDonald sang Sondheim and Bernstein thrillingly; then, with Thomas at the piano, sang Laura Nyro’s ‘Save the Country,’ which, like Aaron Copland’s ‘Lincoln Portrait,’ seemed to have been written yesterday. . . .
Ending a performance that had been greeted with the excitement of a sports championship, the passion of a revival meeting and the spirit of a barn-building, Thomas embraced the intersecting communities of performers and listeners. ‘We sit here as a mass of people on stage,’ he said. ‘Please come back and see us often.’”
Mahler’s Das klagende Lied
In a new facet of their Mahler journey together, MTT and the SFS re-envision Mahler’s early cantata Das klagende Lied as a semi-staged event in January 2017. The all-Mahler program also features radiant mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke in Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer. MTT notes that his “goal with Das klagende Lied is to take listeners through the beautiful intricacies of this work, using video, lighting, and other elements to peel back the layers of music. These elements will serve to illuminate every facet of Mahler’s music, and it is my hope that the audience will walk away having had a deeper, more inspiring experience than they might have had otherwise.”
Music for a Modern Age
What happens when the San Francisco Symphony’s experimental SoundBox aesthetic expands into Davies Symphony Hall’s large space? MTT and the Symphony answer this question with a cutting-edge program offered in June 2017 under the title Music for a Modern Age. American Mavericks such as Charles Ives and Lou Harrison are represented, as is George Antheil, whose A Jazz Symphony is given a cinematic, multi-sensory treatment. The program is anchored by the West Coast premiere of MTT’s Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, to texts by Carl Sandburg. Reflecting its creator’s own voracious musical taste, Four Preludes is “inspired by the music making of Sarah Vaughan, Leontyne Price, James Brown, and Igor Stravinsky.” The dazzlingly versatile Measha Brueggergosman stars.
Helen Kim (Associate Principal Second Violin)
Nicholas Platoff (Associate Principal Trombone)
Edward Stephan (Principal Timpani)
Christian Reif (Resident Conductor and Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra)
Bright Sheng: Dream of the Red Chamber Overture (World premiere)
Michael Tilson Thomas: Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind (West Coast premiere)
Robin Holloway: Europa and the Bull
(with Principal Tuba Jeff Anderson, North American premiere, San Francisco Symphony co-commission)
Pianist Yuja Wang joined the San Francisco Symphony for the November 2016 Asia Tour. The tour marked the Symphony’s first appearance in South Korea.
Seoul, South Korea, Seoul Arts Center
Tainan, Taiwan, Tainan Municipal Cultural Center
Taipei, Taiwan, Taipei National Concert Hall
Shanghai, China, Shanghai Oriental Art Center
Beijing, China, National Centre for the Performing Arts
Osaka, Japan, Osaka Festival Hall
Tokyo, Japan, Suntory Hall
Cellist Gautier Capuçon was featured in the April 2017 New York Tour.
New York, NY, Carnegie Hall