MTT returns to lead San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas returns to Davies Symphony Hall this month, delighting Bay Area audiences as he fufills two engagements with the San Francisco Symphony. In the first concert, the Music Director Laureate leads the Symphony in a program of music by Mozart – his Three German Dances, K 605 – MTT’s own composition Notturno – with flutist Demarre McGill as soloist – and Schumann’s Symphony No 1.

Michael Tilson Thomas – © Brigitte Lacombe

Mozart wrote these Three German Dances in 1791 – the year in which he died – while holding the position of Kammermusicus (Imperial Chamber Composer) in Vienna. He wrote 13 dances in all, most of which were written whilst he was engaged to write music for the court dances and balls that were held in the Public Ballrooms of the Viennese Imperial Palace. Each of the Three German Dances to be performed in this concert differs from the others in that the instrumentation changes in each – apart from the violins which are heard in all three pieces. The first dance features small, light fanfares by the trumpets, the second highlights the role of the woodwinds, and in the third – which takes the title Sleigh Ride – sleigh bells are heard, followed by a trumpet solo.

Who better than to describe Michael Tilson Thomas’ Notturno than the composer himself!

This work features as soloist American flutist Demarre McGill, now principal flute of the Seattle Symphony. A former principal flute of the Dallas and San Diego symphonies, the Florida and Santa Fe Opera orchestras, McGill was also acting principal flute of the Metropolitan Opera and Pittsburgh Symphony orchestras. He is internationally recognised as a soloist, recitalist, chamber and orchestral musician, and has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Grant Park, San Diego and Baltimore symphony orchestras and the Chicago Symphony. Also an educator, he has performed, coached and presented masters classes in South Africa, Korea, Japan, Quebec and the United States.

Demarre McGill – © Denver Rispel

Robert Schumann’s Symphony No 1 is probably the most frequently performed of the four that he wrote. Written in January 1841, it’s known as the Spring Symphony, the inspiration for which is thought to have come from the work of German poet Adolf Böttger, who frequently included the imagery of springtime in his writing. The symphony was written in the space of four days, orchestrated in February and premiered on March 31st, 1841 in Leipzig – a performance conducted by Schumann’s friend, Felix Mendelssohn.

This symphony is one of the four which Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony recorded in 2017 on the in-house SFS Media label. This release of the four Schumann symphonies, recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, was nominated for a 2019 Grammy® Award in the category Best Orchestral Performance.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in works by Mozart, Tilson Thomas and Schumann, with soloist Demarre McGill, at Davies Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday, November 12th and 13th at 7.30 pm, and Sunday, November 14th at 2.00 pm. Further information can be found on the San Francisco Symphony website where details for reservations can also be found.

Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes
Three German Dances
Schumann – Spring Symphony

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