classical music

Michael Tilson Thomas & the San Francisco Symphony

Part of Classical Season 2019/20

Mahler’s most powerfully emotive symphony sits alongside a new work by America’s unofficial composer laureate, John Adams.

Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony have won seven Grammys for their recordings of Mahler’s symphonies, including one for Symphony No.6.

Of their 2014 performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.3 at Royal Festival Hall, The Guardian commented: ‘in Tilson Thomas' superb shaping of Mahler's final slow movement, the performance touched greatness, and held on to it.’

Mahler’s forceful, passion-laden Sixth Symphony seems to have a life of its own. Myths have grown up around its three hammer blows, which seemed to Mahler to portend three blows of fate that he experienced a year after the first performance: the death of his daughter, the diagnosis of his heart condition, and his forced resignation from the Vienna opera.

But the symphony Mahler may have named ‘the tragic’ is fuelled by vitally urgent emotional drama. Dark militaristic marches alternate with tender themes thought to depict his wife Alma. Despite its devastating resonances, it persists with heroic vitality in challenging the limits of musical convention.

The relationship between John Adams, the composer of Nixon in China, and the orchestra of his home city has lasted over 40 years, taking in the first performances of works such as Grand Pianola Music and Harmonielehre.

In this concert, the San Francisco Symphony perform the UK premiere of a new work by Adams at Royal Festival Hall, commissioned by San Francisco Symphony and Carnegie Hall.

Under Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra’s 2012 recording of Adams’ Harmonielehre & Short Ride in a Fast Machine won a Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance.

The 2019/20 season marks Michael Tilson Thomas’ 75th birthday, and his 25th and final season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

Some music and some performers seem made for each other. So it is with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, their Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, and American music.
The Telegraph


San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas conductor


John Adams: New work for orchestra (UK premiere)
Mahler: Symphony No.6

Dates & times

21 Mar 2020
Approximate run time: 120 mins
Run times may vary, find out more


Royal Festival Hall


£20 - £75
Booking fee: £3.00 (Members £0.00)
£20, £30, £45, £55, £75


25% off (limited availability)
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