Michael Tilson Thomas

b. 1944

American

Summary

Despite being one of the busiest conductors on the international scene, Tilson Thomas has devoted considerable time to composing throughout his career. His From the Diary of Anne Frank, for narrator and orchestra, was commissioned by UNICEF and given its world premiere at Philadelphia's Academy of Music in 1990 by the late Audrey Hepburn and the New World Symphony, conducted by the composer.

His most recent work, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, received its world premiere in Miami in April 2016 with the New World Symphony and soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Other recent compositions include a song cycle on Emily Dickinson's poems, premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in February 2002, performed on their 2003 European tour and 2005 American tour; Urban Legend, for contrabassoon and orchestra, first performed by the San Francisco Symphony in October 2002; Three Poems by Walt Whitman for baritone and orchestra; Five Songs, for voice and piano, including We Two Boys Together Clinging, recorded by baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist Craig Rutenberg for EMI; Street Song, written for the Empire Brass Quintet and also available in a version for symphonic brass; and Agnegram, the composer's short (4') 90th-birthday orchestral tribute to longtime San Francisco Symphony patron Agnes Albert. Described as buoyant and exuberant with shades of Stravinsky, Walton, Bernstein, and Spike Jones, Agnegram was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony on 14 May 1998.

Biography

Born in Los Angeles on 21 December 1944, Michael Tilson Thomas is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career. Internationally acclaimed as both conductor and composer, Tilson Thomas composes in a colorful, eclectic style that reflects his passion for the diversity of American musical life.

He began his formal studies at the University of Southern California where he studied piano with John Crown and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl. At age 19, he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, Tilson Thomas was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Principal Conductor of the Great Woods Festival, and Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Tilson Thomas is the San Francisco Symphony's 11th Music Director. He is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Despite being one of the busiest conductors on the international scene, Tilson Thomas has devoted considerable time to composing throughout his career. His From the Diary of Anne Frank, for narrator and orchestra, was commissioned by UNICEF and given its world premiere at Philadelphia's Academy of Music in 1990 by the late Audrey Hepburn and the New World Symphony, conducted by the composer. Since then the work has been played by the London Symphony Orchestra, televised throughout Japan in a new Japanese translation, played by the Israel Philharmonic in a Hebrew version, performed in Holland in the original Dutch, in South Africa, in Germany, in Spain by the Orquestra Simfonica de Barcelona, at the Ravinia and Aspen Music Festivals and throughout the United States.

His most recent work, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, received its world premiere in Miami in April 2016 with the New World Symphony and soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Other recent compositions include a song cycle on Emily Dickinson's poems, premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in February 2002, performed on their 2003 European tour and 2005 American tour; Urban Legend, for contrabassoon and orchestra, first performed by the San Francisco Symphony in October 2002; Three Poems by Walt Whitman for baritone and orchestra; Five Songs, for voice and piano, including We Two Boys Together Clinging, recorded by baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist Craig Rutenberg for EMI; Street Song, written for the Empire Brass Quintet and also available in a version for symphonic brass; and Agnegram, the composer's short (4') 90th-birthday orchestral tribute to longtime San Francisco Symphony patron Agnes Albert. Described as buoyant and exuberant with shades of Stravinsky, Walton, Bernstein, and Spike Jones, Agnegram was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony on 14 May 1998.

Tilson Thomas was commissioned by the city of Hiroshima to compose a piece for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of that city. Shówa/Shoáh, a work for orchestra, is the result. It was premiered on 6 August 1995 by the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra.

Among his many honors and awards Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, received the Ditson Award for contributions to American music and the American Symphony Orchestra League's Lifetime Achievement Award. He was Musical America's Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year, Gramophone Magazine's Artist of the Year and has been profiled on CBS's 60 Minutes and ABC's Nightline. He has won seven Grammy Awards for his recordings. In 2008 he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files.

— July 2016For specific inquiries about this composer, please contact Kathy.Schuman@schirmer.com or call 212-254-2100.

News

Performances

14th August 2020

SOLOISTS
Bruce Campbell
PERFORMERS
Britt Festival Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Teddy Abrams
LOCATION
Britt Pavillion / Jacksonville, OR / United States

16th August 2020

SOLOISTS
Bruce Campbell
PERFORMERS
Britt Festival Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Teddy Abrams
LOCATION
Britt Pavillion / Jacksonville, OR / United States

Photos