Tour includes Orchestras first performances in Beijing and Macau, first visits to Japan and Taiwan in more than 15 years, and concerts in Shanghai and Hong Kong 

Pianist Yuja Wang is soloist with Orchestra in Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) perform for the first time in Beijing, China, on a six-city, 10-concert tour of Asia in November 2012. The Orchestra also performs two concerts each in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and plays its first concerts in Taiwan in 20 years. Its two concerts in Tokyo mark their first return to Japan in 15 years. The tour opens November 7 at the Macau Cultural Center, the Orchestra’s debut there.

Photo from Esther Hasse

Pianist Yuja Wang, a native of Beijing, is soloist with MTT and the Orchestra in all six cities on the tour, performing Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The Orchestra also performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, and music by three American composers: John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Lou Harrison’s “The Family of the Court” from Pacifika Rondo, and Henry Cowell’s Music 1957. This is the Orchestra’s seventh Asian tour, and their fifth visit to Japan since their debut there on their first international tour in 1968.

The Orchestra also plans a variety of educational and outreach activities in China. As a cultural exchange underscoring the sister city relationship between San Francisco and Shanghai, MTT and San Francisco Symphony musicians will lead a day of master classes with students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music on November 13.  The Shanghai Conservatory of Music was founded in 1927 and is one of the most important music schools in China. MTT will also lead a master class in conducting for Conservatory students, and conduct the Shanghai Conservatory Youth Symphony musicians.  SFS Executive Director Brent Assink and General Manager John Kieser will speak with arts management students and faculty at the Conservatory’s Department of Arts Management. Musicians of the SF Symphony will also lead master classes at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where tour soloist Yuja Wang was a student. Further details of the Orchestra’s educational activities in China will be announced at a later date.

The Orchestra’s recording series on SFS Media continues to reflect the artistic identity of its programming, including its commitment to performing the work of American maverick composers alongside that of the core classical masterworks. In conjunction with the November tour, Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra will release a new recording from their acclaimed two-week American Mavericks Festival last season, including works by Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell and Edgard Varèse.  In February 2012, MTT and the Orchestra released a recording of John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine with the SFS-commissioned Harmonielehre on SFS Media.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony maintain a leading presence among American orchestras around the world through an active touring program, award-winning recordings, and innovative broadcast and education projects. In 1996, MTT led the orchestra on the first of their nearly two dozen national and international tours together to Europe, Asia and throughout the United States, with annual performances at Carnegie Hall.  Recent tour highlights include the March 2012 two-week national U.S. tour of all-American Mavericks music, with Meredith Monk, Jessye Norman, Paul Jacobs, Emanuel Ax, Joan La Barbara, Jeremy Denk, and Mason Bates; a 2011 three-week tour of Europe; a 2007 European tour that featured two televised appearances at the BBC Proms in London, concerts in  Edinburgh, Berlin and Frankfurt, and at several major European festivals, including Lucerne; and their first appearances in mainland China, including opening the Hong Kong Arts Festival, as part of their 2006 Asia tour. They opened Carnegie Hall’s 2008-09 season with a gala tribute to Leonard Bernstein that was filmed and broadcast nationally on Thirteen/WNET New York’s Great Performances on PBS television.

Based in one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the United States, the San Francisco Symphony has a similarly diverse musician roster. Of the 100-plus musicians in the SF Symphony, almost a dozen are Chinese- or Japanese-Americans. The orchestra’s recordings have long been in demand by Japanese music fans and audiophiles, and the Orchestra and Tilson Thomas have a long-lasting relationship with the country. Japan was the Orchestra’s first destination on its first international tour, in 1968. They returned in 1975 under then-Music Director Seiji Ozawa, who led the Orchestra from 1970-1977.  Until 2000, Michael Tilson Thomas was co-Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Festival, which he and Leonard Bernstein inaugurated in Sapporo, Japan in 1990.


About Yuja Wang

Born in Beijing in 1987, Yuja Wang began studying piano at age six, with her earliest public performances taking place in China, Australia and Germany. She studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing under Ling Yuan and Zhou Guangren.  From 1999 to 2001 she participated in the Morningside Music summer program at Calgary’s Mount Royal College, an artistic and cultural exchange program between Canada and China, and began studying with Hung Kuan Chen and Tema Blackstone at the Mount Royal College Conservatory. In 2002, when she was 15, she won Aspen Music Festival’s concerto competition.  She then moved to the U.S. to study with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she graduated in 2008. In 2006 Yuja received the Gilmore Young Artist Award.  In 2010 she was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Since her 2005 debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra led by Pinchas Zukerman, Yuja Wang has already performed with many of the world’s prestigious orchestras, including, in addition to the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New World Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Orchestra, and internationally with the Tonhalle Orchestra, China Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Gulbenkian Orchestra, London Philharmonic, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo and Orchestra Mozart, among others. She made her debut with the San Francisco Symphony in 2006 at its annual Chinese New Year concert, and has returned to perform with the Orchestra each year since then, developing a close artistic connection with Michael Tilson Thomas. She performed in Japan and Korea with the New York Philharmonic on its 2006 tour. In 2008 Yuja performed as a soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra led by Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall.  Prior to this tour, she performs Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini October 27 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on October 31 with MTT and the Orchestra in San Francisco.

Her acclaimed recordings include Transformation, for which she received an Echo Award 2011 as Young Artist of the Year. Wang next collaborated with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to record her first concerto album featuring Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, which was nominated for a Grammy® as Best Classical Instrumental Solo.  Her most recent record, Fantasia, is a collection of encore pieces by Albéniz, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin and others.  She records with Deutsche Grammophon.


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