MTT’s lifelong musical passions, spanning Reich, James Brown, Mahler, more

Posted on: April 30, 2019

At 74, Michael Tilson Thomas, “still boyish, lean, and hyperactively busy … will nevertheless step down as music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2019-2020 season,” writes Justin Davidson in Monday’s (4/28) New York magazine. “Three decades ago, he founded the New World Symphony, a Miami-based training orchestra, and he brings the group to Carnegie Hall on May 1 and 2.… In the 1960s and early ’70s … Tilson Thomas sauntered into the heart of the classical music Establishment and started to rattle its bars….  ‘My all-time favorite hero is James Brown,’ he casually told the Times that year…. In 1973, he talked [Steve] Reich into letting him give the Boston and New York premieres of the mercilessly repetitive Four Organs, and the concert caused a celebrated commotion at Carnegie Hall…. The Finnish-born conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen nudged the Los Angeles Philharmonic in an MTT-esque direction during his 17-year tenure there, and [Salonen] will succeed Tilson Thomas in San Francisco. The world has caught up to him….  Meanwhile, MTT has immersed himself ever deeper in old passions—in works like Mahler’s Ninth… ‘I’m definitely a partisan for very old-fashioned musical values,’ he admits.”

Posted April 30, 2019

In photos: Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, in 1970 and today. Photo on right by Spencer Lowell