Performance Wednesday, November 19, 2014 | 8 PM

San Francisco Symphony

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 is one of the composer’s most fanciful works. It’s a magical five-movement masterpiece that’s mysterious, nostalgic, and humorous in its boisterous finale. Scored for a massive orchestra that includes cowbells, mandolin, and guitar, Mahler’s symphony takes the listener on one of the great orchestral journeys.


  • San Francisco Symphony
    Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director and Conductor


  • MAHLER Symphony No. 7

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • San Francisco Symphony

    The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts in 1911 and has grown in acclaim under a succession of music directors: Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Basil Cameron, Issay Dobrowen, Pierre Monteux, Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt, and, since 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas. The SFS has won such recording awards as France's Grand Prix du Disque and Britain's Gramophone Award, and the Mahler cycle on the symphony's own label has been honored with numerous Grammys, including those for Best Classical Album (Mahler's Third, Seventh, and Eighth symphonies), Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Classical Album (Mahler's Eighth Symphony), and Best Orchestral Performance (Mahler's Sixth and Seventh symphonies). The SFS recording of John Adams's Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine won a 2013 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance and an ECHO Klassik award. A series of earlier recordings by Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra, for RCA Red Seal, has also won praise, and their collection of Stravinsky ballets for RCA (Le sacre du printemps, The Firebird, and Perséphone) received three Grammys. Some of the most important conductors of the past and recent years have been guests on the SFS podium, among them Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, and Sir Georg Solti, and among the composers who have led the orchestra are Stravinsky, Ravel, Copland, and John Adams. The SFS Youth Orchestra, founded in 1980, has become known around the world, as has the SFS Chorus, heard on recordings and on the soundtracks of such films as Amadeus and The Godfather: Part III. Adventures in Music, the longest running education program among US orchestras, brings music to children in grades one through five in San Francisco's public schools. Keeping Score, designed to connect audiences with music and the emotions it conveys, aired on PBS, is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and can be accessed at SFS radio broadcasts, the first in the nation to feature symphonic music when they began in 1926, today carry the orchestra's concerts across the country.

    Michael Tilson Thomas

    Michael Tilson Thomas first conducted the San Francisco Symphony in 1974 and has been music director since 1995. A Los Angeles native, he studied with John Crown and Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California, becoming music director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra at age 19 and working with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Copland at the famed Monday Evening Concerts. He was pianist and conductor for Piatigorsky and Heifetz master classes and, as a student of Friedelind Wagner, an assistant conductor at Bayreuth. In 1969, Mr. Tilson Thomas won the Koussevitzky Prize and was appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ten days later, he came to international recognition, replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert at Lincoln Center. He went on to become the BSO's associate conductor, then principal guest conductor. He has also served as director of the Ojai Festival, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, a principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and principal conductor of the Great Woods Festival. He became principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988 and now serves as principal guest conductor. For a decade, he served as co-artistic director of Japan's Pacific Music Festival, which he and Leonard Bernstein inaugurated in 1990, and he continues as artistic director of the New World Symphony, which he founded in 1988. Michael Tilson Thomas's recordings have won numerous international awards, and his recorded repertory reflects interests arising from his work as conductor, composer, and pianist. His television credits include the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts; in 2004, he and the San Francisco Symphony launched Keeping Score on PBS. His compositions include From the Diary of Anne Frank, Shówa/Shoáh (commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing), Poems of Emily Dickinson, Urban Legend, Island Music, and Notturno. He is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France, was selected as Gramophone's 2005 Artist of the Year, was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2010 was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.

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Mahler's Symphony No. 7 in E Minor
San Francisco Symphony | Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor
San Francisco Symphony

At a Glance

Mahler began composing his Seventh Symphony during the unusually productive summer of 1904, just after completing his Sixth. He started with the two evocative “Night Music” movements, which eventually became the second and fourth of the five-movement piece. He found himself creatively blocked when he tried to pick up the thread the next summer, but eventually a solution came that allowed him to quickly compose the remaining three movements.

The last of Mahler’s trilogy of purely instrumental middle-period symphonies, the Seventh has long been considered one of his most poetic—but also elusive—compositions. Unlike the overt programs and scattered clues he provided for most of his earlier symphonies, Mahler said little about this eclectic and fascinating piece, leaving a wide range of interpretation open to performers and audiences alike.
Program Notes


Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony perform the Scherzo movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 7

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Sponsored by DeWitt Stern Group, Inc.
This performance is part of Great American Orchestras II.