Michael Tilson Thomas, LSO Principal Guest Conductor

Michael Tilson Thomas, LSO Principal Guest Conductor

Musical Alchemists

Michael Tilson Thomas

Prodigious artistic talent runs deep in Michael Tilson Thomas’ family, writes Andrew Stewart. The conductor, born in Los Angeles in December 1944, received lasting lessons in creativity from his paternal grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, stars of New York’s famous Yiddish Theater, while his parents encouraged their son’s childhood studies on piano and oboe.

Nature and nurture prepared the young musician for studies in piano, composition and conducting at the University of Southern California. His remarkable dynamism, as vital today as ever, and extraordinary musicianship flourished at the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, where he directed world premieres of works by Boulez, Copland, Stockhausen and Stravinsky.

‘This was big … with the dynamics dramatically well disciplined and the climaxes allowed to build steadily to an almost unbearable tension. The LSO, as so often with Tilson Thomas, were on their best form.’
The Guardian on Michael Tilson Thomas with the LSO

News of Tilson Thomas’ skyrocketing successes in the United States soon reached the London Symphony Orchestra. He made his London debut with the LSO in 1970 and returned two years later for his first BBC Prom. The partnership between Orchestra and conductor matured over the next 15 years in concert and in the recording studio.

In 1988 Michael Tilson Thomas became the LSO’s 13th Principal Conductor. The revitalising effects of his leadership were recognised in 1989 when the LSO received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s inaugural Orchestra Award. On the world stage Tilson Thomas and the LSO scored critical hits on tours to Austria, Germany, Japan and the United States, and attracted acclaim for their many recordings, including a Gramophone Award-winning performance of Bernstein’s On the Town.

Michael Tilson Thomas stood down as the LSO’s Principal Conductor in August 1995. The Orchestra had gained in refinement and tonal nuance under his care without losing its renowned panache and collective passion. His work over the past two decades as Principal Guest Conductor has reinforced his place among the LSO’s family of musicians and strengthened the ties of affection binding one of the most important creative relationships in the Orchestra’s history.

Bernard Haitink

Britain’s musical life has been enriched over the past half century by Bernard Haitink’s work, not least with the LSO. The Dutch conductor, who celebrated his 85th birthday in March 2014, forged a close and lasting friendship with the Orchestra in the 1990s. His interpretations of 19th- and 20th-century masterworks have taken the LSO on revelatory journeys of discovery in everything from Haydn and Beethoven to Brahms and Bruckner. Musical integration, crystal clear focus and spellbinding intensity are among the hallmarks of their artistic relationship. Haitink’s recent recordings for LSO Live confirm the special chemistry that arises whenever he appears with the Orchestra’s musicians.

André Previn

The Swinging Sixties were in full swing when André Previn made his debut with the LSO. The famously versatile musician, a multiple Oscar winner for his film scores, became the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor in 1968. He remained in post for the next eleven and a half years. Previn championed works by British composers, honed the LSO’s famous virtuosity with performances of Messiaen and Stravinsky, and inspired a generation of future musicians and concertgoers with his primetime BBC television series André Previn’s Music Night and legendary ‘Mr Preview’ sketch with Morecambe and Wise. His long LSO legacy continues to grow thanks to his work as the Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate.

Sir Simon Rattle

‘Rattle was absolutely on top of the piece, directing with a Boulez-like tension and severity, and the LSO playing was top notch.’
The Guardian on Sir Simon Rattle with the LSO

Profound thinking, decades of study, scrupulous attention to detail and visceral energy flow into the spontaneously combustible mix that makes Sir Simon Rattle’s performances so unforgettable. The Liverpool-born musician, who became Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1999, made his mark with the LSO the following year in concert performances of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos and with an interpretation of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony that left its audience – and the LSO’s players – uplifted by the experience. Billions of viewers worldwide were glued to their television sets when Sir Simon and the LSO, abetted if not necessarily aided by the keyboard artistry of Mr Bean, appeared in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Musical Alchemists

> Thu 23 Oct 2014
BRUCKNER Symphony No 8
Bernard Haitink conductor

> Thu 30 Oct 2014
DEBUSSY Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
MOZART Piano Concerto No 22
BRAHMS Symphony No 4
Bernard Haitink conductor
Mitsuko Uchida piano

> Sun 11 Jan 2015
SCHUMANN Das Paradies und die Peri
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Sally Matthews peri
Mark Padmore narrator
Kate Royal soprano
Bernarda Fink alto
Andrew Staples tenor
Florian Boesch bass
London Symphony Chorus

> Thu 15 Jan 2015
WEBERN Six Pieces
BERG Three Fragments from 'Wozzeck'
LIGETI Mysteries of the Macabre
STRAVINSKY The Rite of Spring
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Barbara Hannigan soprano

> Thu 12 Mar 2015
COLIN MATTHEWS Hidden Variables
GERSHWIN Concerto in F
Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
Yuja Wang piano

> Sun 15 Mar 2015
BRITTEN Four Sea Interludes
SHOSTAKOVICH Concerto No 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings
SIBELIUS Symphony No 2
Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
Yuja Wang piano

> Wed 10 Jun 2015
ANDRÉ PREVIN Violin Concerto
André Previn conductor
Anne-Sophie Mutter violin

> Sun 14 Jun 2015
MOZART Violin Concerto No 3
MAHLER Symphony No 1 ('Titan')
Bernard Haitink conductor
Alina Ibragimova violin

> Sun 21 Jun 2015
BEETHOVEN Overture: Leonore No 2
BEETHOVEN Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
BEETHOVEN Symphony No 9 ('Choral')
Bernard Haitink conductor
Erin Wall soprano
Karen Cargill mezzo-soprano
Steve Davislim tenor
Hanno Müller-Brachmann bass-baritone
London Symphony Chorus 

> Thu 2 Jul 2015
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No 1
DVORÁK The Wild Dove
DVORÁK The Golden Spinning Wheel
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
Krystian Zimerman piano

> Sun 5 Jul 2015
JONATHAN DOVE The Monster in the Maze: a new opera for children (UK premiere)
WALTON Symphony No 1
Sir Simon Rattle conductor
LSO Youth Choir
LSO Community Choir
London Symphony Orchestra
Alasdair Middleton libretto

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