Performance Wednesday, April 13, 2016 | 8 PM

San Francisco Symphony

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
“The orchestra achieved a range of emotion and dynamics, a presence as formless as mist or as staunch as granite, the generated sound a perceptible force and making for a thrilling experience,” wrote The Kansas City Star of the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. A Copland protégé, Tilson Thomas conducts music by the American master and Schumann’s Second Symphony. The heroic outer movements of Schumann’s work frame a bucolic Scherzo and an impassioned, melancholy third-movement Adagio.


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


  • COPLAND Orchestral Variations
  • COPLAND Inscape
  • COPLAND Piano Concerto
  • SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2

  • Encore:
  • GRIEG "The Last Spring," Op. 34, No. 2 from Two Elegiac Melodies

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • San Francisco Symphony

    The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts in 1911, and has grown in acclaim under a succession of distinguished music directors: Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Basil Cameron, Issay Dobrowen, Pierre Monteux, Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt, and Michael Tilson Thomas, who assumed his post in 1995. The SFS has won such recording awards as France's Grand Prix du Disque, Britain's Gramophone Award, and the United States' Grammy. Each year, the symphony offers Adventures in Music, the longest-running education program among this country's orchestras, which brings music to every child in grades 1-5 in San Francisco's public schools. In 2006, the SFS launched the multimedia Keeping Score on PBS and the web. Visit for more information.

    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 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. Mr. Tilson Thomas's recordings have won numerous international awards, and his recorded repertory reflects interests arising from work as a conductor, composer, and pianist. His television credits include the New York Philharmonic's 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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  • Inon Barnatan

    Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Inon Barnatan started playing the piano at the age of three and made his orchestral debut at 11. In 1997, he moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Maria Curcio and Christopher Elton. He has also studied with Victor Derevianko and Leon Fleisher. In 2006, Mr. Barnatan moved to New York City, where he currently resides in a converted warehouse in Harlem. He received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2009; in 2015, he was awarded the Martin E. Segal Award by Lincoln Center.

    Mr. Barnatan currently serves as the first artist-in-association of the New York Philharmonic. This three-season appointment sees him appear as soloist in subscription concerts and in chamber performances. In 2015-2016, he embarks on his second season with the philharmonic, playing works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Saint-Saëns, in addition to joining members of the orchestra for Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Other highlights of Mr. Barnatan's 2015-2016 season include his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and performances in Paris, Brussels, Bonn, Copenhagen, Istanbul, St. Louis, and Toronto, as well as at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, London's Wigmore Hall, and Tokyo's Suntory Hall. Mr. Barnatan recently teamed up with his frequent recital partner, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, on a new Decca Classics recording of Chopin and Rachmaninoff sonatas. Mr. Barnatan was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's CMS Two program from 2006 to 2009, where he curated a festival of Schubert's late solo piano, vocal, and chamber music works in 2009.

    Mr. Barnatan's most recent solo album, celebrating Schubert's late works, was released by Avie in 2013. His 2012 album, Darknesse Visible, was named BBC Music Magazine's Instrumentalist CD of the Month and was selected as one of the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012 by The New York Times. His debut solo recording, featuring works by Schubert, was released by Bridge Records in 2006. He has also recorded Beethoven and Schubert with violinist Liza Ferschtman.

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COPLAND Piano Concerto (Molto moderato—Allegro assai)
Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor | Garrick Ohlsson, Piano | San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Symphony

At a Glance

AARON COPLAND  Orchestral Variations

In 1957, in response to a commission from the Louisville Symphony Orchestra, Copland arranged his Piano Variations, composed nearly 30 years earlier, for full orchestra. He described the Orchestral Variations as consisting of “a theme of dramatic character followed by 20 variations and a coda.”


“Inscape” is the lovely coinage of 19th-century English poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. In a brief preface to the score, Copland writes that Hopkins invented the word “to suggest ‘a quasi-mystical illumination, a sudden perception of that deeper pattern, order, and unity which gives meaning to external forms.’”

AARON COPLAND  Piano Concerto

Like many composers in the 1920s, Copland was interested in jazz and in exploring whether that intoxicating language might be a fruitful influence on concert music. The Piano Concerto was the last of the not very many pieces in which he pursued this idea.

ROBERT SCHUMANN  Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61

By the time he wrote his Symphony No. 2, Schumann had a lot of experience under his belt as an orchestral composer. Nonetheless, his creative life was imperiled. He had begun to show signs of serious mental and physical illness, and by August 1844 he hit rock bottom. Through much of 1845 he remained unproductive, but suddenly, in the second week of December, his creative juices started to flow, and he composed the symphony in the space of about three weeks. Schumann worried that audiences would notice traces of what he called the “black period” in which he wrote this symphony, but this is not an autobiographical study in illness or depression. There is, overall, a feeling of hard-won affirmation and triumph. 

Program Notes
This performance is part of Great American Orchestras II.