Art Strieber

MTT Reflects on Upcoming San Francisco Symphonys’ Homage to Rilke

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in two multi-faceted programs this January at Davies Symphony Hall. On January 9–12, Artist-in-Residence mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny are featured in the world premiere performances of Michael Tilson Thomas’ song cycle Meditations on Rilke, a musical setting of lyric poems by German modernist Rainer Maria Rilke, alongside selections from Mahler’s setting of German folk poems Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

(We interviewed Ms. Cooke recently late last year.)

According to Tilson Thomas these Meditations on Rilke are reflections of the many moods the poems suggest.

“The motives and harmonies of these pieces have been with me for years, decades,” he says. “This approach to music as a kind of lifelong journal, or confessional companion, was what my father, and as I now have learned, my grandfather, and even my great grandfather, experienced.”

Meditations on Rilke is based on motives that recur, recombine, and morph differently in each song.” Rounding out the program, MTT conducts the SFS in Berlioz’s Overture to Benvenuto Cellini and Ravel’s captivating La Valse.