Michael TIlson Thomas at Charles Ives’ grave during filming of the Keeping Score Ives episode. (Oliver Theil)
Virus Antidotes: Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas conjures composers on their native soil, leads masterworks in concert.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
Some years ago, when I was in San Francisco at a national gathering of music critics, I had the delightful and eye-opening experience of listening to conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, personally introduce an episode of his landmark educational series called “Keeping Score.” This elaborately produced video, shot on locations in Austria, offered remarkably insightful – and culturally textured – observations on Gustav Mahler and how he got to be the composer he was.
Michael Tilson Thomas at his piano during filming of Keeping Score
Tilson Thomas would go on to create a total of nine such episodes, each devoted to a composer and each capped by a full-length concert performance of the representative work at hand. Now, most happily in these trying times, the San Francisco Symphony just announced plans to release all nine parts of “Keeping Score” for unlimited free streaming on the orchestra’s YouTube channel.
Beginning March 19, episodes will be released in batches each week through April 8.
Through nine one-hour documentaries, Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony trace the lives of eight influential composers from around the world. Tilson Thomas explores the motivations and influences behind major classical works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Copland, Stravinsky, Berlioz, Ives, Shostakovich – and Mahler, to whose life and work two segments are devoted. Each episode is accompanied by a one-hour concert program by the San Francisco Symphony. Read the full story »