In May 2018, Michael Tilson Thomas is inducted as an American Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Other Honorary Members include Bob Dylan, Bill T. Jones, Yo-Yo Ma, Leontyne Price, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Paul B. Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Alice Waters, Robert Wilson, Thomas Ades, Norman Foster, Sofia Gubaidulina, Anish Kapor, and David Hockney
The Academy – founded in 1898 as a society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers – seeks to foster and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country.
Honorary Membership was established in 1983 to include Americans of great distinction in the arts whose work falls outside the traditional departments of Art, Literature, and Music.
Michael Tilson Thomas leads four orchestras over seven concerts in the 2018/19 season for his second Carnegie Hall Perspectives series, reflecting a multifaceted career and a commitment to shaping the future of music. The series will highlight music by composers he has championed throughout his career, world premieres by Ted Hearne and Julia Wolfe, plus the New York premiere of his original composition Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind.
“I think about the great masterpieces as being like national parks,” says MTT. “We revisit them at different times of our lives, in the company of different people, and this changes the nature of the experience. The pieces themselves are preserves for endangered emotions – all the wonderful, wistful, and ardent feelings that music contains.”
Michael Tilson Thomas returns to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra on March 1, 2, & 3, performing his Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind with soprano Measha Brueggergosman alongside Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique.”
The performances are held at Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall.
For his first performances with the New World Symphony in 2018, Co-Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas leads the orchestra in a varied series of programs.
On February 3, MTT and the New World Symphony present their annual New Work concert, featuring the world premiere of a new piece by MTT and a new play with music by Wall (a NWS commission). The performance also spotlights the world premiere of a revised Miami in Movements by Hearne and Kane (also a NWS commission).
The New World Symphony’s annual gala, this year celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary season, is held on February 10.
On February 17 & 18, MTT conducts the orchestra in Debussy’s Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra with Leif Ove Andsnes in a program also comprising Xenakis’s Shaar and Stravinsky’s The Firebird.
MTT returns to conduct the New World Symphony in May.
This January, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas appears for his first performances of 2018 with the San Francisco Symphony.
At Davies Symphony Hall on January 11, 12 & 13, MTT leads the orchestra with Emanuel Ax in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto in a concert also comprising Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and R. Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.
MTT conducts the orchestra in a concert version of Bernstein’s comic operetta Candide, celebrating the Bernstein centenary, on January 18, 19, 20 & 21.
As part of the California Hall of Fame 11th class, MTT is inducted with entertainer Lucille Ball, bioscientist Susan Desmond-Hellmann, artist/activist Mabel McKay, atmospheric chemist Mario J. Molina, quarterback Jim Plunkett, poet Gary Snyder, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, and vintner Warren Winiarski.
“These Californians represent the dynamic spirit and imagination that is the hallmark of the Golden State,” says Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “Their exceptional skill and craft enrich our culture and inspire us all.”
Individuals are selected for achievements and contributions in areas such as science, philanthropy, sports, business, entertainment, the arts, literature, technology, activism and politics. Inductees and family members of posthumous inductees are presented with “Spirit of California” medals by the Governor and First Lady in an official state ceremony held at the California Museum on December 5, 2017. Their lives and legacies will be commemorated in an artifact exhibition opening on December 6 at the California Museum.
“Like so much classical music, Schumann’s is a preserve for endangered emotions,” says MTT. “He’s talking about wistfulness, whimsy, ardency, longing, setting off recklessly in conflicting directions, losing your way, or just mulling things over… Schumann moves between many sound worlds in these symphonies. Some sections are truly massive and proclamatory. Other parts are soloistic or chamber-like.”
Recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall over the course of the 2015/16 season, the album spotlights Schumann’s orchestral masterpieces and will be available as a double-disc SACD and for streaming and download.
“My approach to Schumann—and to the whole standard repertoire—is to vary the number of musicians playing at any given time,” MTT continues. “According to the musical situation, the orchestra might morph from a large ensemble to a chamber orchestra, and vice versa … We approached these symphonies from the point of view of Schumann’s piano music, with all its color, unusual effects and voicings. And I wanted these symphonies to sound as though they were being played on the piano, with free and spontaneous turns of phrase and color, and with the music’s wonderful sense of breathing—the way people breathe, sometimes deeply, sometimes with little emotional gasps…I hope these performances suggest a different way of thinking about this repertoire, especially as it prioritizes the tender, simple, and vulnerable side of the music. Although the music is very personal, it feels universal. Schumann’s symphonies are about all of us.”
“…live performances of the Schumann symphonies of extraordinary robustness, lyricism and interpretive depth … There are surprises and revelations in abundance, from the combination of elegance and urgency in Thomas’ reading of the First Symphony to the big sweeping gestures and expressive clarity of the Fourth.” –Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
Following the 2019/20 season, MTT will assume the title of Music Director Laureate, continuing to conduct the orchestra for at least four weeks each season and working with the organization on special projects. Ahead of his 25th anniversary season as Music Director, the coming years will feature new recording projects, festivals, commissioning of new works, staged productions, a two-week tour of the US in 2018/19, and a three-week European tour in 2019/20.
“Looking back over these decades,” says MTT, “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. 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.”