Performance Saturday, April 8, 2017 | 8 PM

San Francisco Symphony

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

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


MAHLER Symphony No. 1 (Stürmisch bewegt)
Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor | San Francisco Symphony

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. 
Program Notes
This performance is part of Mahler Symphonies, and Weekends at Carnegie Hall.