The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and an all-star lineup of guest artists celebrate Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’s (MTT) 70th birthday with a special concert on January 15, 2015. The festive program honors MTT’s distinguished career as a conductor, pianist, and composer. The evening’s concert is centered around Liszt’s Hexameron for Six Pianos and Orchestra, featuring MTT in a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration with five of today’s foremost pianists: Yuja Wang, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, and Marc-André Hamelin. While MTT joins the performance as the sixth pianist, conductor Teddy Abrams—a former member of the SF Symphony Youth Orchestra, former Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor at the New World Symphony, and current conductor of the Louisville Orchestra—leads the SFS and soloists in this work. Dinner and after-party packages are also available for this special event. Proceeds from the celebration benefit the SF Symphony’s diverse community and education programs, initiatives that have been a hallmark of MTT’s tenure as Music Director.
On the occasion of his 70th birthday and amidst the celebration of his 20th season as Music Director of the SFS, MTT said, “I still feel like very much the same person. My outlook on life, my idealism, wanting to work with people in a way that is collaborative—I think those are very much the same. The music, and the opportunity to work with great orchestras and musicians day in and day out gives me the most energy and joy.”
In addition to Hexameron, each of the five guest pianists take solo turns with the orchestra during the performance: Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs Gershwin’s Sweet and Low Down with SFS Principal Bass Scott Pingel and Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly; Thibaudet also joins Jeremy Denk in Schubert’s Marche caractéristique; Marc-André Hamelin performs the third movement of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Emanuel Ax plays the Andante of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21; and Yuja Wang joins the Orchestra in Litolff’s Scherzo from Concerto symphonique No. 4, a work she also performs on the SF Symphony’s Masterpieces in Miniature recording, recently released on the Symphony’s own SFS Media label. The program also includes works by Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Rossini and Bernstein, and the audience will be treated to special appearances by Beach Blanket Babylon and other surprise guests.
Guests looking for an elevated experience may purchase “MTT Birthday Dinner” packages that include premium concert seating, a pre-concert cocktail reception and dinner in the Wattis Room and SoundBox—the SF Symphony’s new experimental concert venue in Zellerbach A Rehearsal Hall—and an exclusive after-party with birthday treats, also in SoundBox. Proceeds from the Birthday Dinner support the SF Symphony’s community and education programs, which annually serve over 75,000 Bay Area children. Also central to the MTT birthday celebration is a special campaign to support the acquisition of fine stringed instruments for use by members of the Orchestra. Long a priority for MTT and the SFS, a number of generous donors, patrons, and friends are supporting the instrument acquisition through the newly created Michael Tilson Thomas 70th Birthday Fund.
The MTT Birthday Dinner is chaired by William Fisher, Marcia Goldman, and Nellie Levchin, and is sponsored by Franklin Templeton Investments and Wells Fargo. The Birthday Dinner menu is created by Alice Waters and prepared by McCall’s Catering. Décor at the Birthday Dinner is provided by Blueprint Studios.