Music Review: MTT: MOZART, TILSON THOMAS & SCHUMANN (Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony)

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by Harvey Perr on November 16, 2021

in Music,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

WELCOME HOME, MAESTRO THOMAS

There are concerts and, then, there are concerts. The first of the two programs marking the return of Michael Tilson Thomas, after serious brain surgery, belongs to the latter category. This was an occasion that might even be counted among the more significant events in the history of the San Francisco Symphony. A packed house came to welcome Thomas back and to see if the surgery affected, as many predicted, his ability to return to the glory days of his brilliant career.

The answer came within seconds. He plunged into Mozart’s theatrical and often playful Six German Dances, K.509 with vigor and strength. The briskness which Thomas brought to the piece was invigorating and ultimately joyous. Thomas was back and in dandy form. And the audience relaxed.

Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony
at Davies Symphony Hall (November 12, 2021)

This was followed by Notturno for Flute, Harp and Strings, one of Thomas’s own compositions, his tribute to the elegant and soulfully romantic classicism of times gone by. One could not imagine it played more beautifully. Written for renowned flutist Paula Robison in 2004, the flute soloist this time was Demarre McGill and the gentle sweetness of his playing added immeasurably to the heartfelt solemnity of the piece. The pairing of Thomas and McGill proved to be both inspired and inspiring. And the interplay of the harp brought a lovely, understated refinement to this gorgeous recreation of Italianate lyricism.

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts his Notturno, featuring flutist Demarre McGill (November 12, 2021)

At intermission, it was clear that MTT had made a triumphant return.

And we had not yet heard Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B flat major, Opus 38, known as the “Spring” Symphony, because the season is evoked in all its variety, although the Larghetto movement just as easily suggests moods which could be described as autumnal. It was a vivid and altogether delightful way to bring to a close a remarkable afternoon at Davies Hall.

One looks forward eagerly to the second program.

MTT conducts Robert Schumann’s First Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall (November 12, 2021)

photos by Stefan Cohen

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony
MOZART, TILSON THOMAS & SCHUMANN
reviewed on November 14, 2021

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