The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra has announced that Michael Tilson Thomas will step down from his role as Music Director at the end of the 2019-20 season. MTT will be 75 and will have served in the post for 25 years. He will assume the title of Music Director Laureate and will conduct the orchestra for a minimum of four weeks each season.
‘Having been a Music Director of an orchestra for most of my adult life and as I approach my 75th birthday, I feel this is an appropriate moment to set aside some of my administrative responsibilities and begin a new period of creative possibilities,’ he said. ‘Fortunately my new and unique relationship as Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony will allow me to continue to work with my esteemed colleagues for years to come on projects close to my heart.’
His final seasons will include a two-week US tour in the 2018-19 season and a three-week European tour in the 2019-20 one.
MTT’s first appearance with the SFSO was in 1974 as a 29 year old when he conducted Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and he went on to make a speciality of Mahler’s music, recording a complete cycle of the symphonies with the SFSO for its own label. His music directorship has been characterised by an eclectic choice of repertoire that has created a whole new audience for symphonic repertoire and MTT’s appearances at Davies Symphony Hall are always considered events. Additionally he has developed many new media projects, one of which is the ‘Keeping Score’ series which has introduced numerous people to the wonders of classical music, largely due to his easy and engaging manner in front of the cameras.
MMT and the SFSO’s latest release is a set of the Schumann symphonies which is reviewed favourable in our November issue and in which David Threasher comments that ‘the playing throughout is one of the joys of this set, with characterful woodwind soloists … aided by a recording of remarkable clarity’.