Michael Tilson Thomas

Courtesy of Michael Tilson Thomas

Before stepping down 10 months ago at age 75, the San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) owned the longest active tenure of any music director of a major American orchestra; he’d held the position since 1995. Though he’s played piano, composed, and conducted at an elite level since his teenage years, Tilson Thomas has always been more than the classical music wunderkind who grew up to become the great maestro. There was a piece of himself he’d inherited, a piece that hadn’t necessarily been ignored but hadn’t been foregrounded in his work either.

January 25th, 2021. Michael Tilson Thomas is artistic director and founder of Miami's New World Symphony, music director laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. On top of that, he's also a composer. His latest recording with San Francisco Symphony juxtaposes two poignant works; his earliest, From the Diary of Anne Frank, and his latest, Meditations on Rilke.

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It was the fall of 1802 when Ludwig van Beethoven confessed his nearly fatal despair about his growing deafness, in what’s now known as his "Heiligenstadt Testament." His music then took a daring new turn. WRTI’s Susan Lewis talks with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas about Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica."

Credit: Art Streiber

In a first-ever Philadelphia Orchestra performance of a work by composer-conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, this week's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast on WRTI 90.1 will feature his Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind. Sunday, Sept. 23 at 1 pm, and Monday night, Sept. 24 at 7 pm on HD-2.

By Office of Emergency Management [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

America was celebrating its bicentennial when Michael Tilson Thomas first became intrigued by a Carl Sandburg poem. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, nearly 40 years later,  he premiered his musical setting of  Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind with a cautionary message still relevant today.


Credit: Art Streiber

Join us on Sunday, February 25th from 1 to 3 pm to hear guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas conduct the Philadelphians in a performance of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the mighty "Eroica," which proved to be not only a turning point in the composer’s career, but in the history of orchestral music.

Credit: Vahan Stepanyan

Michael Tilson Thomas is on the podium for this Sunday’s Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert re-broadcast from 1 to 3 pm on WRTI.

A symphonic self portrait that premiered in 1830 has become one of the most-performed works in the orchestral repertoire. WRTI’s Susan Lewis discusses this epitome of romantic program music with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

Explore an interactive feature about the Berlioz's work here.

This Sunday afternoon it's a concert from last December at Verizon Hall, with guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas  and pianist Hélène Grimaud in a performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra featuring the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Symphonie fantastique of Hector Berlioz. The concert had been performed only days earlier at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and the reviews were sensational.

January 28, 1936: The Publication in Pravda of the Article "Chaos Instead of Music."  This article signaled Stalin’s displeasure with Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and led to the composer’s “redemption” in his Symphony No. 5.  This program will explore Shostakovich and the sometimes mutually beneficial, sometimes terrifying, relationship between music and the totalitarian state. Suzanne Vega and Michael Tilson Thomas host. Sunday, July 28, 5 to 6 pm.

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