Sounds and SoundBox: Shaking It Up at the San Francisco Symphony

January 28, 2015 5:52 PM

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It seems safe to say that Michael Tilson Thomas--or MTT, as he's been known since street banners announcing his appointment as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, 20 years ago, went up all over town--had a spectacular birthday weekend recently. On that Thursday, he celebrated his 70th with a gala performance at Davies Symphony Hall that featured not only five virtuoso pianists (Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Marc-André Hamelin, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Yuja Wang; when they performed Liszt's Hexameron for Six Pianos and Orchestra, MTT joined them) but three famed rock'n'rollers (Elvis Costello, Boz Scaggs, and Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh), who sang the Beatles great "Birthday" song to him.

The next night and through the weekend, MTT conducted Igor Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale, a wonderful hour-long piece for seven musicians (on clarinet, trumpet, trombone, bassoon, bass, piano, drums) and three actors, speaking the words of the narrator (Elvis Costello), the soldier (Nick Gabriel),...

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