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San Francisco Symphony

Saturday, April 8, 2017 8 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Michael Tilson Thomas is one of our era’s most critically acclaimed conductors of Mahler's masterpieces, and this concert shows why. Mahler never lived to complete anything more than the opening Adagio of his Symphony No. 10, but the movement’s power and pathos makes it one of the composer’s most compelling works. Mahler’s First Symphony has power too, but it’s the elemental sounds of nature, the innocence of folk song, and a spectacular transcendent climax that grip the audience.


San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director and Conductor



Adagio from Symphony No. 10

Symphony No. 1

Event Duration

Please note that this concert will start promptly and there will be no late seating before intermission. The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.

At a Glance

When Bruno Walter conducted the posthumous premieres of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Symphony No. 9, it seemed that all of Mahler’s music had been offered to the public. Mahler had misgivings about going beyond the Ninth. He had called Das Lied von der Erde a symphony without numbering it, so that the symphony he called No. 9 was actually his 10th. Thus he had dealt with “the limit” by circumvention, or so he believed. Mahler, in 1910, was a man in torment, for he believed himself on the point of losing his intensely beloved wife, Alma. Their devotion was mutual and passionate, but they were fundamentally out of tune. Through the score of the 10th Symphony (left unfinished at the composer’s death), Mahler scribbled verbal exclamations that reflect this crisis.

Once, contemplating the failures of sympathy and understanding with which his First Symphony met at most of its early performances, Mahler lamented that while Beethoven had been able to start as a sort of modified Haydn and Mozart, and Wagner as Weber and Meyerbeer, he had the misfortune to be Gustav Mahler from the outset. He composed this symphony, surely the most original First after Berlioz’s Symphoniefantastique, in high hopes of being understood, even imagining that it might earn him enough money so that he could abandon his rapidly expanding career as a conductor—a luxury that life would never allow him. No other piece of Mahler’s has so complicated a history, and about no other did he change his mind so often and over so long a period. He changed the total concept by canceling a whole movement, and for some time he was unsure whether he was offering a symphonic poem, a program symphony, or just a symphony. 


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 who include Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, Basil Cameron, Issay Dobrowen, Pierre Monteux, Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, ...

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts in 1911 and has grown in acclaim under a succession of distinguished music directors who include 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. The SFS education program Adventures in Music brings music to every child in grades 1 through 5 in San Francisco's public schools. In 2004, the SFS launched the multimedia Keeping Score on PBS-TV and the web. In 2014, the SFS inaugurated SoundBox, a new experimental performance venue and music series located backstage at Davies Symphony Hall. 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. For more information, go to sfsymphony.org.

Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas first conducted the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) 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. He worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Copland at the famed Monday Evening Concerts and was pianist and conductor for the Piatigorsky and Heifetz master classes. In 1969, Mr. Tilson Thomas won the Koussevitzky Prize and was appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). He came to international recognition 10 days later, replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert at Lincoln Center. He went on to become the BSO's principal guest conductor, and he has also served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and as a principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. With the London Symphony Orchestra he has served as principal conductor and principal guest conductor; he was recently named conductor laureate. He is artistic director of the New World Symphony, which he co-founded in 1987. He served as artistic director of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in 2009 and 2011. Mr. Tilson Thomas's recordings have won numerous international awards, including 12 Grammys for SFS recordings. In 2014, he inaugurated SoundBox, the San Francisco Symphony's new alternative performance space and live music series. His television credits include the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts, and in 2004 he and the SFS launched Keeping Score on PBS-TV. His compositions include From the Diary of Anne Frank, Shówa/Shoáh, settings of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Island Music, Notturno, and, most recently, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind. Michael Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France, was Musical America's Musician and Conductor of the Year, and was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2015. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2010 was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.

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