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Symphonies - Released March 3, 1998 | RCA Red Seal

Distinctions Choc du Monde de la Musique - 10 de Répertoire - 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released February 26, 2021 | SFS Media

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
These performances by the San Francisco Symphony under its conductor laureate, Michael Tilson Thomas, were recorded at different times, live at San Francisco's Davies Hall, between 2015 and 2018, but they cohere nicely into an all-Berg program that succeeds in immersing the listener into the world of this composer. Berg's Violin Concerto is one of the few 12-tone works that consistently hold the stage, and this is not only because it has tonal elements in the form of Bach quotations but also because its structure is clear. This becomes apparent when it is paired with Berg's early works, on the edge of tonality or freely atonal, which are thorny things; the supposedly difficult 12-tone system here actually comes as a breath of clarity. The performance of the Violin Concerto by Gil Shaham is deliberate and a bit languid, its slow tempos in keeping with the memorial function of the work, but it is in the Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, that Tilson Thomas really shines, showing his continuing ability to get the orchestra to punch above its weight and tease out the knotted threads of these intense pieces. As an entr'acte, there is soprano Susanna Phillips in Berg's Seven Early Songs, lush evocations of turn-of-the-last-century Vienna that deepen the overall effect of an album that adds to Tilson Thomas' record of accomplishment in retirement and would make a fine introduction to Berg. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 23, 1987 | Sony Classical

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released January 1, 1990 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released November 8, 2019 | SFS Media

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
A bit of an oddball in the world of music to say the least, Charles Ives grew up in Connecticut in a culture that was very open-minded about music. His father was a bandmaster for the US Army and delighted in simultaneous musical clashes that most people would find unbearable, whether it was a melody played in a key with false relation or the sounds and rhythms of different marching bands overlapping during a parade. Asynchronism therefore made total sense to a young Ives growing up in this environment. After graduating from Yale with some difficulty, Ives preferred the financial stability that came with working as an insurance agent and became quite the astute businessman, only composing music in his spare time. He stopped writing music in 1927 at the age of fifty-three as he was fed up with the lack of interest in his work, however it was at precisely this time that people began to take an interest in it. His music was often inspired by the hymns sung in New England and tended to blend rhythms and harmonies, making it difficult to understand. Symphony No. 3, subtitled The Camp Meeting, is derived from a Protestant hymn tune and is a clear evocation of a religious-assembly in 19th century America. This religious element has been emphasized in the album conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas as he added around ten choral contributions of the same genre. As for Symphony No. 4, it didn’t have a complete performance for quite some time due to the sheer complexity of its rhythms and when it was finally performed it required multiple conductors, which is why during its première, war veteran Leopold Stokovski was assisted by two young colleagues. Michael Tilson Thomas is a true champion of American music and has already devoted a number of monographs to the brilliant work of Charles Ives, showcasing him as a musical pioneer notably through the complete symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra (Sony Classical). He returns here to conduct the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for whom he has been Music Director since 1995, but will be leaving in 2020. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released August 30, 1999 | RCA Red Seal

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released December 31, 1995 | RCA Red Seal

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Aaron Copland may well be the best-known, the most loved, and the all-around greatest of twentieth century American composers, but his music from the '20s and '30s is still relatively unknown, still relatively unloved, and of still questionable greatness. Was Copland the Modernist too far out to connect to a big audience so he re-created himself as Copland the Populist to become the best-known, most loved, and greatest American composer? But was his Piano Concerto from 1926 really too jazzy and vulgar, his Symphonic Ode from 1928 really too cerebral and severe, his Piano Variations from 1930 really too harsh and austere, and his Short Symphony from 1934 really too rhythmic and complex or was it lack of familiarity made them seem so? From this 1996 recording by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, one would have to vote for the latter because Copland the Modernist is every bit as great a composer as Copland the Populist. With virtuoso pianist Garrick Ohlsson on the Piano Concerto, Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco perform Copland's vulgar, cerebral, harsh, and complex music with ease, assurance, and extraordinary panache, making it sound as brilliant, as beautiful, and as endearing as any of his later Populist music. RCA's digital sound is as brilliant as the performance, with plenty of detail and depth. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released June 7, 1988 | Sony Classical

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released March 14, 2005 | RCA Red Seal

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Symphonic Music - Released January 1, 1999 | RCA Red Seal

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Secular Vocal Music - Released June 19, 2020 | SFS Media

Hi-Res Booklet
This 2020 release was Michael Tilson Thomas' final album as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. That he chose to present his own music suggests that he considers it underexposed, and he makes a good case. The two works were written 30 years apart, and although they share a common use of tonality, ranging from conventional to atonal, they are entirely different in most ways. From the Diary of Anne Frank was composed in 1990 for actress Audrey Hepburn in connection with her United Nations work. Frank's words are spoken, in melodrama fashion, over an illustrative orchestral background, and the fine reader here is Isabel Leonard, in an unaffected American accent. Meditations on Rilke was composed in 2019, and it hardly sounds like anything you might imagine from the title. From the opening passage of honky-tonk piano, recalling a small-town sojourn of Rilke's father, the score is startlingly eclectic. The reference point here is the orchestral songs of Mahler, and the cycle suggests a 21st century version of that composer. That sounds odd with poetry by Rilke, which has a certain specific mood, but somehow it works, and the cycle has a pleasing quality of being jam-packed with ideas. The San Francisco Symphony plays with total commitment to the occasion, and this release might easily stimulate interest in Tilson Thomas' other music. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released November 10, 2017 | SFS Media

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With neither an orchestra nor a conductor particularly known for mainstream Romantic repertory, the four symphonies of Robert Schumann might seem an odd choice for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra's house label; house labels tend toward warhorses, and the Schumann symphonies have never quite been those. As it happens, this is a very strong set, made of live recordings whose vigorous final applause attests to the degree to which Tilson Thomas' broad, sweeping readings connected with SFSO audiences. The orchestra's string section does notable work here in the long Motorik passages that have defeated many a lesser ensemble; for listeners of a certain age, these recordings may bring to mind the Schumann symphonies of George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra years ago. Tilson Thomas's precision, too, and the balance he catches in the movements' harmonic development bring Szell to mind. His textures give the lie to the perception that Schumann's orchestration in these works was unimaginative; subtle woodwind shades in the fields of strings are everywhere in these readings. There are many places you might begin sampling, but one is the extremely punchy Scherzo of the Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61. This is an excellent accomplishment for Tilson Thomas as he nears the end of his San Francisco tenure. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 30, 1992 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released February 5, 2002 | RCA Red Seal

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Classical - Released September 12, 2000 | RCA Red Seal

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Classical - Released October 1, 1991 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released January 11, 1994 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released August 5, 1997 | RCA Red Seal

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Classical - Released February 5, 2002 | RCA Red Seal