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Michael Tilson Thomas

  • Composer
  • Conductor
  • Pianist


Michael Tilson Thomas press reviews

  MTT receives the National Medal of Arts
February 25th, 2010
White House Announces 2009 National Medal of Arts Recipients

Presidential initiative is managed by the National Endowment for the Arts

Washington, D.C. — President Barack Obama today presented the National Medal of Arts to ten recipients for their outstanding achievements and support of the arts.  The medals were presented by the president and Mrs. Michele Obama in an East Room ceremony at the White House. The National Medal of Arts is a White House initiative managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Each year, the NEA organizes and oversees the National Medal of Arts nomination process and notifies the artists of their selection to receive a medal, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence.

“These individuals and organizations show us how many ways art works every day. They represent the breadth and depth of American architecture, design, film, music, performance, theatre, and visual art, ” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “This lifetime honor recognizes their exceptional contributions, and I join the President and the country in saluting them.”

The 2009 National Medal of Arts Recipients:

Bob Dylan, Singer, Songwriter Duluth, MN

Clint Eastwood, Director, Actor San Francisco, CA

Milton Glaser, Graphic Designer New York, NY

Maya Lin, Architect, Sculptor Athens, OH

Rita Moreno, Singer, Dancer, Actress Humacao, Puerto Rico

Jessye Norman, Soprano Augusta, GA

Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Arts Patron, Design Advocate Charleston, SC

Frank Stella, Painter, Sculptor Malden, MA

Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor Los Angeles, CA

John Williams, Composer, Conductor Queens, NY


The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Conservatory, Oberlin, OH

The School of American Ballet, Ballet School, New York, NY

The National Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is awarded by the President and managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Award recipients are selected based on their contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States. Each year, the Arts Endowment seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. The National Council on the Arts, the Arts Endowment’s presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.

The Nancy Hanks Center

1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20506-0001


The National Endowment for the Arts gratefully acknowledges The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities for its support of the 2009 National Medal of Arts.

Chicago Symphony, Tilson Thomas a brilliant pair
February 13th, 2010
John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune Classical music critic
One thing that makes Michael Tilson Thomas so welcome on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra subscription series, apart from his skills at the podium, is his programming. You can depend on his concerts to be fresh, imaginatively conceived, even surprising. Such is the case with the programs he is presenting over the next two weeks at Orchestra Hall.
Most of the audience no doubt came mainly to hear Yefim Bronfman play the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, but it listened attentively as Tilson Thomas illuminated the gnarly intricacies of Alban Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra.
Berg’s music breathes a disintegrated Romanticism. Faded remnants of Mahlerian waltzes drift in and out; shards of marches anticipate the Expressionist angst of the composer’s “Wozzeck.” Tilson Thomas found an internal logic to what he called, in his helpful verbal introduction, Berg’s “cinematic” layering of aural images. The more wildly Berg piles on musical information, the clearer and more controlled the conducting seemed to become.
He prefaced the Berg with the CSO premiere of American modernist composer Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Andante for Strings (1931). Crawford Seeger – the iconic folk musician Pete Seeger was her stepson – based her arrangement on a movement from her String Quartet. Its mournful lines of dissonant counterpoint built to a powerful climax before ebbing away.
Bronfman appeared to be enjoying himself immensely. Perhaps the steely strength and apparent ease he brought to Brahms’ titanic duel between piano and orchestra was partly fueled by outside factors: Earlier in the day Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music announced it had awarded him its $50,000 biennial Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance for 2010, a prestigious honor.
I have heard more exciting performances from this pianist but few as technically solid: Those torrential double-octave runs and knotty passage work were as child’s play to him. Tilson Thomas and the orchestra gave him everything he needed. The crowd went wild.
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Grammy Awards
January 31st, 2010
The San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) live concert recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and the Adagio from Symphony No. 10 conducted by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) received three Grammy® Awards in the categories of Best Classical Album, Best Choral Performance for Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor; Ragnar Bohlin, Kevin Fox & Susan McMane, choir directors, and Best Engineered Classical Album for Engineer Peter Laenger at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles. This recording is the latest release in the ongoing Mahler recording cycle for the orchestra’s own SFS Media label. Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in E flat major, Symphony of a Thousand, was recorded live in Davies Symphony Hall November 19, 21, 22 and 23, 2008 and features performances by sopranos Erin Wall, Elza van den Heever, and Laura Claycomb; mezzo-sopranos Katarina Karnéus and Yvonne Naef; tenor Anthony Dean Griffey; baritone Quinn Kelsey; and bass-baritone James Morris. The San Francisco Symphony Chorus under the direction of Ragnar Bohlin is featured on the recording as well as the San Francisco Girls Chorus, directed by Susan McMane and the Pacific Boychoir under the direction of Kevin Fox. The Adagio from Symphony No. 10, which opens this two-disc set, was recorded April 6-8, 2006. A short video with behind the scenes footage and insights from the recording can be viewed here: “A Universe of Sound: Recording Mahler’s Symphony No. 8.”

With these three awards the SFS’s Mahler cycle has now received a total of seven Grammy awards. The first recording, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, was released in February 2002 and won the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Kindertotenlieder, featuring mezzo-soprano Michelle De Young won Best Classical Album in 2003. Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 won Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance in 2007. The SFS has garnered seven additional Grammy Awards for recordings outside of the Mahler cycle.

Since the Mahler recording project began in 2001, the San Francisco Symphony has recorded all of the Mahler symphonies, the Adagio from the unfinished Tenth Symphony, Kindertotenlieder and Das Lied von der Erde and released a re-mastered recording of Das klagende Lied. Additional works still to be released include Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, Songs Of A Wayfarer (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen) and selected songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. All of the new SFS/MTT Mahler symphony recordings were produced by Andreas Neubronner and have entered the top ten of the Billboard Classical Chart.