Since its beginning in 1911, the San Francisco Symphony has been known for innovative programs that offer a spectrum of traditional repertory and new music. Today, the Orchestra’s artistic vitality, recordings, and groundbreaking multimedia educational projects carry its impact throughout American musical life.
“At a time when America’s major orchestras are struggling to define their missions and maintain audiences, the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas is an exception.”
– The New York Times
The San Francisco Symphony has grown in stature and acclaim under a succession of such distinguished music directors as Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz, the legendary Pierre Monteux, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, and Herbert Blomstedt. Current Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) assumed the post in 1995. Together, he and the San Francisco Symphony have formed a musical partnership hailed as “one of the most inspiring and successful in the country.” Now in his 23rd season, MTT is the longest-serving music director in the San Francisco Symphony’s history, and the longest-tenured music director at any major American orchestra. Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra have been praised by the critics for their musicianship, for their innovative programming, for bringing the works of American composers to the fore, and for bringing new audiences into Davies Symphony Hall.
“In most places, and certainly in London, the presence of many of the (American Mavericks Festival) composers – from Charles Ives to John Adams to Steve Reich – would have emptied halls. But the audiences in San Francisco have been large, varied, attentive, and enthusiastic. Something quite special, perhaps even revolutionary, is going on.”
– The Times (London)
The San Francisco Symphony has toured extensively to Europe, Asia and throughout the United States. It has won some of the world’s most prestigious recording awards, including fifteen Grammy Awards, Japan’s Record Academy Award, France’s Grand Prix du Disque, Germany’s ECHO Klassik, Britain’s Gramophone Award, and International Music Critic’s Awards (ICMA.)
“The San Francisco Symphony, led since 1995 by the brilliant and musically restless Michael Tilson Thomas, gave the kind of performance that proves yet again that the best is the enemy of the better.”
– The Washington Post
With the launch of the San Francisco Symphony’s own SFS Media label in 2001, Michael Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra recorded all of Mahler’s symphonies and songs for voice and orchestra. SFS Media records and releases audio and visual material reflecting the Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas’ commitment to showcasing music by maverick composers as well as core classical masterworks. With a slate of recordings and releases of music by Harrison, Cowell, Varese, Bernstein, Beethoven, Ives and Copland, the Orchestra’s recordings continue to reflect the broad range of programming that has been a hallmark of the MTT/SFS partnership. In the 2017–2018 season, SFS Media released its first digital-only album with Alan Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra, as well a premium edition two-disc recording of the complete symphonies of Robert Schumann.
SFS Media also releases documentary and live performance videos such as MTT and the SFS’s national public television series and multimedia project Keeping Score, designed to make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds, now available as digital downloads and on DVD and Blu-ray. Keeping Score includes an innovative website, www.keepingscore.org, live performance audio CDs, a radio broadcast series, and an education program for K-12 schools.
“Can every conductor be Michael Tilson Thomas? Obviously not! But every conductor can learn from him the value of bringing a sense of adventure back to the concert hall.”
– The Toronto Star
Highlights of the 2020 San Francisco Symphony Radio Series Include:
- SFS 20-01, (releasing 3/23/20): Michael Tilson Thomas conducts and legendary actress and dancer Leslie Caron narrates Stravinsky’s Perséphone with tenor Nicholas Phan, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus and the Pacific Boychoir. The program also includes the always-popular Firebird.
- SFS 20-06, (releasing 4/27/20): Renowned conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in a concert of tone poetry, including Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos, R. Strauss’ iconic Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, and Sibelius’ Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op. 22.
- SFS 20-10, (releasing 5/25/20): Pianist Hélène Grimaud is the featured soloist as James Gaffigan conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58. Also on the program are Wagner’s Good Friday Spell from Parsifal, Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D major K.297(300a) “Paris,” and Barber’s Symphony No. 1, Op. 9.
- And more! See the full season listings for more details.