The music director has just told his players that he will be giving up the job in 2020, after 25 years, when he reaches the age of 75.

Press release follows.

COMMENTARY: Is MTT the last of the old-fashioned maestros?


SAN FRANCISCO, October 31, 2017 — Michael Tilson Thomas today announced plans to conclude his distinguished tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in June 2020. The 2019–2020 Season will mark both his 75th birthday and his 25th year leading the Symphony in what is widely considered one of the most productive musical partnerships in the orchestral world. Tilson Thomas’ legacy with the SF Symphony began in 1974 with his debut at age 29, conducting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, and was solidified by his commencement as the Orchestra’s 11th Music Director in September 1995. Following the 2019–2020 Season, Michael Tilson Thomas will assume the title of Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and will continue to conduct the Orchestra for a minimum of four weeks each season in addition to other special projects. In anticipation of the celebratory 25th anniversary season of the MTT/SFS partnership, the next two years will feature signature recording projects, festivals, commissioning of new ­­works, staged productions, a two-week tour of the United States in 2018–2019, and a three-week European tour in 2019–2020.


“Looking back over these decades I am filled with gratitude for the extraordinary artistic partnership I have had with the members of the Orchestra and for the warm and generous style of music making we have shared with all of our audiences,” said Michael Tilson Thomas. “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. 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.”


Throughout more than two decades, Michael Tilson Thomas’ leadership of the San Francisco Symphony has been recognized worldwide for building an orchestra that consistently displays artistry of the highest level in its home of Davies Symphony Hall, on over two dozen national and international tours, and through media and recording projects. He has championed the creation and performance of new music through relationships with today’s important musical voices, explored the adventurous and iconic American sound, and enhanced the orchestral concert experience through innovative staging and immersive settings. MTT has led the Symphony in growing new audiences by making orchestral music accessible to all through extensive, award-winning media projects including audio and video recordings, national radio and television broadcasts, and streaming and web content. Under his leadership, the Orchestra has built a leading commitment to music education and community activities, expanding its involvement with San Francisco’s public school children, fostering many of the finest young musicians, and embracing creative ways to engage with the Bay Area’s diverse population.


“Michael Tilson Thomas embodies the personality and the spirit of San Francisco,” said Sakurako Fisher, President of the San Francisco Symphony. “Striving for excellence in all that he does, creative and curious in nature, inclusive of all, and adventurous in his thinking. We look forward to continuing to support his vision, ideas, and innovation around what an orchestra can mean to its community.”

“When Michael made his debut with the Orchestra in 1974, it was clear that his passion for the music was matched by his ability to communicate it profoundly with our audiences,” said SFS cellist Margaret Tait. “His creative, personal approach to music making and the broadening of the repertoire have been embraced by the Orchestra and made these two decades exciting, rewarding, and inspiring.”


“Working with Michael has been one of the most joyful and meaningful collaborations of my life,” said Eugene Izotov, SFS Principal Oboe. “His inspiration, guidance, and spirit have raised the artistic level of this orchestra and shaped the San Francisco Symphony into the kind of ensemble it has never been before. Although he leaves his post as Music Director, I know that his passion, youthful energy, and endless musical curiosity are here to stay with us.”


“Under Michael Tilson Thomas’ leadership, the worldwide artistic reputation of the Orchestra has experienced a trajectory of unprecedented growth,” said SFS Executive Director Mark C. Hanson. “His vision, energy, and ideas have excited and engaged both new and long-time audiences and have attracted 50 extraordinary musicians who have joined the Orchestra during his tenure. The MTT/SFS partnership is unparalleled and will only continue to strengthen over time.”




Zachary Woolfe, who appears to take his opinions from a colourful blogger, has issued the following tweet about yesterday’s op-ed on Rosenkavalier which was clearly not run past the arts section before publication.


New Yorker’s Alex Ross seems to agree:


Any other opinions, or is this the party line?

From Frank Salomon Associates:

When Leon Fleisher was 8 years old, his mother took him to hear Rachmaninoff play a recital at the War Memorial Auditorium in San Francisco. As the concert ended, somehow, Mrs. Fleisher had spirited her little boy from the second balcony to the wings of the hall to meet the maestro.

Rachmaninoff,  a tall imposing figure, came off after the last piece, looked down at a speechless Leon and asked, “You pianist?” Leon could only nod his head, to which the great composer and pianist exclaimed, “Bad business, bad business” and strode back on stage to play an encore.

Now, more than 80 years later and having overcome challenges that would have felled most of us, Leon Fleisher is about to celebrate 75 years of making music and his 90th year in 2018-2019. The legendary pianist and conductor, who brings a special musicality and humanity to all he does, will perform at Carnegie Hall; in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, San Francisco; with the Toronto Symphony in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal; with the Baltimore Symphony; and at the Gilmore, Ravinia, and Tanglewood Festivals, among others.



The director of Moscow’s Russian Academic Youth Theater (RAMT), Sofia Apfelbaum, has been arrested in connected with the so-called embezzlement charges brought against the international opera director, Kirill Serebrennikov, who is under house arrest.

The police claims that Investigators claim Apfelbaum helped Serebrennikov’s group obtain 214 million rubles ($3.7 million) in state funding by deception.

Serebrennikov is an outspoken critic of the Putin regime. Apfelbaum’s views are unknown.


Donna Perlmutter on LA Observed has been closely watching Mirga Grazynte-Tyla at the Philharmonic.

Here’s what she writes:
I’m describing what happened when maestra Mirga (let’s simply dispose of her last name for now) did Mahler Four with the Philharmonic. She let out all the stops, gave Mahler his head in each touchstone of the above and let the score dictate those emotionally graphic environments in full-out dimension.

Now understand the 30-year-old Lithuanian (full name: Mirga Grazynte-Tyla), who has taken over the Birmingham Symphony, is enormously talented — not just based on various critical observations but, more important, on the elite professional company she keeps. But she’s a new breed. The feminine breed. Not the masculine stereotype at all, although in these days of fluid gender — the next Playmate of the Month is a transie! — who’s to say where the line gets drawn. (And while we’re at it, there’s hardly a male conductor — not Bernstein, not Dudamel — who has not used an expressly feminine gesture to cull an effect from players, proving that gender i.d. can be multi-faceted.)

So get this: In front of a huge orchestra playing Mahler, gargantuan music that often looms over the world, she remains a slight figure, as they say, a mere slip of a girl. When it storms she jumps up and down — like a feather, not with power. She leads with her undulating arms, mostly bare arms (while all orchestra members and all conductors, even other women baton-wielders, are sleeved).

And because Mirga uses no shoulder engagement, the kind needed to lean in and down to embrace low strings and draw a sense of sweeping depth, the sound doesn’t match the picture that players usually rely on. Instead, she resorts to fiercely gesticulating fingers, powerful facial animation and, in rhythmically geometric music, angular arm movements.

One observer wrote: “Mirga needs to find her inner man” — for which he was roundly criticized. But then the creative connoisseur Gidon Kremer, who knows best, has given Mirga a big nod — so that pretty much takes care of that issue. He joined her and the orchestra for the Weinberg Violin Concerto and together they summoned up this grave, dense work so darkly gripping in the eastern European spirit of Shostakovich — as Kremer’s playing conjured distant, far-away cries in the night, aptly enervated.

Full review here.

Dalibor Jenis will sing Iago in Otello next March and Paolo Rumetz will sing Rigoletto next May.

Both fill in for the sick Russian baritone, who has withdrawn from opera performances.

The Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region has slashed its subsidy to the Opéra de Lyon by 10 percent in response to the grotesque expenses claims of its director, Serge Dorny.

The Belgian administrator claimed more than 100,000 Euros to support his first-class lifestyle.

The region has now cut 300,000 Euros from his subsidy.

Dorny has been in charge at Lyon since 2003.

Frankie Hutchinson, Tours & Projects Manager of the London Symphony Orchestra, has persuaded British Airways to make clear on their website exactly which instruments passengers can carry as hand luggage.

Here is the new policy:

You can bring your musical instruments with you when you travel with us.

You can take small musical instruments in the cabin as part of (but not in addition to) your free hand baggage allowance, subject to the space available. We will make every effort to accommodate your violin or viola in its hard case in the cabin, even if the case is slightly larger than our maximum baggage size, as we know temperature and pressure can damage these instruments in the hold.

Larger musical instruments, such as guitars and cellos, can be carried in the hold or you can buy an extra seat to carry them with you in the cabin.

Please always transport musical instruments in a hard case. We cannot accept instruments, such as guitars, in soft cases as we don’t want them to get damaged.

And here is the website link.

Print this out and carry it with you when you fly BA.

Thanks, Frankie!

The Offenbach expert Jean-Christophe Keck and a lawyer, Michèle Gruffaz, are facing court in Lyon accused of exercising undue influence on Eva Rehfuss, a Swiss opera singer who died in December 2008, aged 85.

Ms Rehfuss made Keck her sole heir a year before she died, claiming he was her ‘last true love’.

The estate was worth around five million Euros.

Her son has challenged the will.

Report here.


We hear that the William Davidson Foundation has given the DSO a new gift of $15 million.

In return, they’ve renamed part of the hall the William Davidson Atrium.

Three other foundations have chipped in $3.5 million, bringing the total to $18.5m.

There’s a marvellous opinion piece today in the New York Times by the philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum, analysing how Strauss and Hofmannstahl got it all wrong about older women in the character of the Marschallin.

For instance:

So what has this wise woman with what one critic calls “acute sensibilities” and “profound understanding” done? Out of all the men around, she has chosen one who is interested in sex alone, who has no capacity for intelligent conversation, and who has no interest at all in her as a person, except as a sex teacher. Why did she make this choice? No plausible motive is suggested. And this absence of motive, particularly in one so wise, creates the lie: the implicit explanation is that this is the only option she has.

Read on here.

One of the icons of French-Canadian music has been toppled this weekend by claims by his niece and other family members that he abused them sexually when they were very young.

The niece, Sophie Bernier, discloses in an interview with Le Soleil that Françoys Bernier, chief conductor of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and founder of the Domaine Forget academy, invaded her bed and abused her from the time she was fourteen years old. A cousin corroborates her account of his conduct. Her mother, too, admitted that her brother groped her as a young girl.

«Écoute, c’était Françoys Bernier, le grand Françoys Bernier. Il était en train de construire le Domaine Forget, c’était son moment de gloire, tout le monde était subjugué par lui. Il était un Dieu. Et c’était un milieu extrêmement fermé.»

Bernier died in 1993, aged 65.

Here’s the story in Le Soleil. And a followup in Ludwig Van Montreal.

Shocking even among the present torrent of sexual harassment.