From making his debut in his twenties to Principal Conductor and beyond, LSO Conductor Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas looks back at 50 years of history with the LSO.
I was 25 when I first conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, stepping in at the very last minute for a concert which included Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. I had conducted the work several times before and my experience had always been that time was needed at the beginning for everything to warm through, for the players to get the feeling of the work. But with the LSO it was different: pulse, tempo, brilliance of execution, it was all there at the start, even though many of the players had never seen the music before. This left more time to spend working on the most important aspects of the performance.
The personality of an orchestra doesn’t change. Like a champion sports team, its personality evolves, but it never loses its unique spirit. Over the past 50 years I’ve observed that the LSO spirit doesn’t just remain, it gets stronger, and drives musical risk taking. Every player in the orchestra shares in its ideals, its goals and in that same unique musical spirit, creating the perfect team.
Orchestras in the past did not imagine that it would become their responsibility to create their own audience for the future, as the arts seem increasingly to diminish in our schools. Everyone growing up in our world has the right to experience classical music from a young age and from the inside, and that means knowing the musicians and making music themselves. It will enrich all of our lives and our futures.