Michael Tilson Thomas returns to Davies Hall for two concert series

Michael Tilson Thomas | Credit: Brigitte Lacombe

Michael tilson thomasthe return of the New York Philharmonic on November 4 after a decade of absence, the pandemic and a medical crisis deserved distinctions:

The warm ovation that greeted his appearance might have lasted longer if Thomas hadn’t quickly climbed the podium to get down to business – standing to lead and looking alert and submerged, his cues a skillful combination of precision. and flexibility, “said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times.

Early August, [he] announced that following surgery to remove a brain tumor, he was retiring from his next performance to receive treatment. “I can’t wait,” he said, “to see everyone again in November.

Even from such a tireless musician, always dynamic at 76, this promise seemed optimistic.

But Thursday at Alice Tully Hall, looking a little tired but still vigorous and eyes shining, Thomas stepped onto the podium to lead the New York Philharmonic in inspiring performances by demanding work by Ruth Crawford Seeger, Berg and Beethoven.

The only concession to his continued medical recovery was before the performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.3, as reported by David Wright in Classic New York Review:

MTT by the Golden Gate Bridge in 1993 when he was appointed Music Director | Credit: Terrence McCarthy / San Francisco Symphony

“Although the Philharmonic has performed lately without an intermission, Tilson Thomas naturally got one before tackling the ‘Eroica’. Shortly after the two opening chords sounded, it felt like this performance was going to be about fierce energy channeled through a precise rhythm, for an uplifting effect.

Next for MTT, a homecoming event at Davies Hall on Friday, the first of two concert series with the San Francisco Symphony.

“I am so happy to be returning to the Davies Symphony Hall stage for the first time in almost two years,” MTT said in a message to SF Symphony. “What a great joy it will be to be together again. I especially want to thank all of you who sent me such good wishes during this period of recovery.

“For two weeks in November we will be relaunching our special collaboration with works by Schumann, Mozart, William Grant Still, Copland, a new trombone concerto by our own Tim Higgins and a nostalgic piece for flute and orchestra by me. I can’t wait to share all of this with you.

At November 12-14, the program includes Mozart’s Three German Dances, K.509, composed in a single session in 1787; Schumann’s Symphony No.1, “Spring”, most recently performed by MTT in 2015; and MTT’s own Notturno, featuring Seattle Symphony Principal Flautist Demarre McGill in his debut in the SF Symphony Orchestral Series.

MTT Wins Two Grammy Awards for SF Symphony Recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 in 2006 | Credit: Kristen Loken

MTT said of his work: “Notturno is a virtuoso piece evoking the lyrical universe of Italian music. Its form is reminiscent of concert arias, “concert studies” and salon pieces – creations from a bygone world that I still hold in great esteem. The piece has a subtext. It is about the role that music plays in the life of a musician and the role that we musicians play in life.

In 2017, MTT and the SF Symphony released a full recording of Schumann’s symphonies on in-house label SFS Media, later nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Comment from MTT: “Like so much classical music, Schumann’s is a reserve for endangered emotions. He speaks of nostalgia, of fantasy, of ardor, of nostalgia, of recklessly going in contradictory directions, of going astray or simply of thinking. Schumann moves between many sound worlds in these symphonies.

Scott Foglesong will give an “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour before the performances on November 12-14. Free for all concert ticket holders; the doors open 15 minutes before.

A broadcast of these performances will air Tuesday, November 23 at 8 p.m. on Classical KDFC 90.3 San Francisco, 104.9 San Jose, 89.9 Napa and kdfc.com, where it will be available for broadcast on demand for 21 days after the broadcast.

The November 18-20 concerts include Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and the premiere of SF Symphony William Grant Still Reasons – two pieces of American music par excellence. The program also includes the world premiere of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra’s principal trombone, Timothy Higgins. Concerto for trombone, commissioned by the SF Symphony and performed by Higgins.

Higgins comments: “It was exciting to write a trombone concerto, but also to be able to write for the San Francisco Symphony and to know the musicians. The piece makes extensive use of the virtuoso resources of the orchestra, providing underlined passages and solo turns for many instruments besides the soloist. “Why don’t you take advantage of all this incredible talent on stage? I would have hated the piece to be just a trombone with accompaniment all the time. I would much prefer if the audience could focus on listening to the soloist or on the orchestra. I want people to notice both.

Higgins adds, “I want people in the audience to hear how versatile the trombone is. … Whether it’s something rhythmic or angular or wide and lyrical, I want them to hear how varied our expressive palette is. I think really effective solo writing for trombone is able to use both sides of the coin, both angular and lyrical playing, and merge them into something compelling. This piece incorporates a lot of technical challenges, but everything is done with a lyrical line.

MTT with a young Teddy Abrams, recently named 2022 Conductor of the Year by Musical America

Peter Grunberg will be giving the “Inside Music” talk from the stage one hour before the performances on November 18-20. And a post-concert Q&A with Grunberg will be presented from the stage immediately following the November 20 concert, also free to all ticket holders.

A broadcast of these performances will also be shown on November 30 at 8 p.m. on Classical KDFC.

Davies Symphony Hall is operating at full capacity again, and participation requires proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for anyone 12 years of age and older, including patrons, artists, volunteers and staff. All clients are required to wear a face mask when attending performances.

MTT’s concerts in 2022 include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Czech Philharmonic.


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