Michael Tilson Thomas’ twenty-third season is colored by the bittersweet announcement, in October 2017, that he will conclude his tenure as San Francisco Symphony Music Director in June 2020. The milestone will mark both his 75th birthday and his 25th year leading the Symphony. The 2017-18 season is no valedictory tour, however, as MTT and the Symphony embark on an ambitious season-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s birth centennial and present a probing staged production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov.
Copland’s Third Symphony, an SFS Media release recorded in March 2018
Bernstein at 100
For longtime San Francisco Symphony watchers, the music of Leonard Bernstein has served as a kind of touchstone in the Michael Tilson Thomas years. When 2017-18 rolls around, all eyes turn to San Francisco as MTT and the Symphony celebrate Bernstein’s birth centennial in a series of concerts that showcase the breadth and depth of the composer’s musical genius. The season-long tribute reaches a high point with concert performances of Bernstein’s satirical comic operetta Candide in January 2018. The Bernstein 100 celebration is captured for posterity in an SFS Media recording of Bernstein’s song cycle Arias and Barcarolles—which MTT and Bernstein premiered in 1988 in New York City—featuring mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny. It’s a dazzlingly diverse tribute to an American original.
My father was such a polymath, and had such a giant view of music, that there weren’t a lot of people in the world who could really keep up with him. Michael Tilson Thomas was one of the people who could, and that was a big part of their deep, enduring friendship. Working with Michael all these years, the San Francisco Symphony has become a single, breathing entity that understands all those uniquely tricky Bernstein rhythms. I never get tired of hearing Michael and the SFS play my father’s music.
All Hail: Boris Godunov
For more than twenty seasons, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony have explored how concert hall and theater can merge, how extra-musical means can illuminate musical meaning. Audiences anticipate the Symphony’s season-capping staged productions of operatic masterpieces and American musicals, and radical theatrical interpretations of concert works. June 2018 brings Mussorgsky’s potent political drama Boris Godunov to Davies Symphony Hall in a production conceived by MTT, stage-directed by James Darrah, and featuring a cadre of leading Russian singers led by Stanislav Trofimov in the title role. Shakespearean in scope and humanity, this ambitious opera is rife with conflicted heroes, power struggles, and betrayal.
(Associate Principal Oboe)
(Associate Principal Bass)
Mark C. Hanson
(Chief Executive Officer)
Wuorinen: Sudden Changes
(World premiere, San Francisco Symphony co-commission)
Violinist Gil Shaham joined the San Francisco Symphony for the March 2018 California Tour.
Los Angeles, CA, Walt Disney Hall
Santa Barbara, CA, Granada Theatre
Costa Mesa, CA, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall