Michael Tilson Thomas Turns 60

The ageless baton
By Allan Ulrich
Published: December 20 2004 13:44 | Last updated: December 20 2004 13:44
The conductor Michael Tilson Thomas turns 60 this week and, despite a few streaks of silver in his hair, his is a career that does not know the meaning of diminuendo. The erstwhile young firebrand is in hailing distance of becoming a Grand Old Man of American music. He mutters that “60 is the new 40”, as he escorts the visitor to the third floor of his San Francisco home. Here, the mementos of a life in the arts – a framed postcard from Igor Stravinsky; a drawing by the California composer Lou Harrison; photographs of Yiddish theatre idols of an earlier generation – compete with the glorious view of San Francisco Bay.
Tilson Thomas has always seemed a contrarian, confronting prevailing myths about the business of music in an uncaring age. The dithyrambs of economic woe emanating from American orchestral circles are not heard in the corridors of the San Francisco Symphony’s Davies Hall, where MTT (as he is universally known) is marking his tenth season as music director. He presides over an orchestra budgeted at $50m per annum, one that basks in more enthusiasm from the players and the 32,000 subscribers than when he bowed in the post in 1995.
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