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San Francisco Symphony

Venue Date Time Price
Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre
$980, $750, $600, $450, $300

"There aren’t many musical sure bets these days as sure as a Mahler symphony from Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony." San Francisco Chronicle

"Mr. Thomas’s performance had all the Mahlerian grandeur you could want." The New York Times

"Wang seems to have everything: speed, flexibility, pianist thunder, and interpretive nuance."   The New York Times


8 November 2012 (Thu)


Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor


(Piano Solo: Yuja Wang)


Symphony No. 2 in E Minor

(Latecomers will miss the concerto and only be admitted until the interval.)


9 November 2012 (Fri)


The Family of the Court (from Pacifika Rondo)


Music 1957


Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor


About the Programme

A Leading US Orchestra and a Sensational Pianist
The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) celebrated its centenary in 2011.  Regarded as one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, the SFS enjoys a reputation as an adventurous and inspiring symphony orchestra, particularly under the leadership of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), who has held this position since 1995.  Under MTT’s leadership, the SFS has given numerous concerts locally and abroad, and made highly acclaimed recordings on the SFS Media label, including a Grammy award-winning Mahler cycle.  MTT’s innovative programming is well known, with exciting programmes like these at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall.  On 8 November, the Orchestra performs Rachmaninov’s deeply romantic Second Symphony, and will be joined by young piano sensation Yuja Wang in Prokofiev’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 2.  On 9 November, MTT and the Orchestra take the stage in Mahler’s immensely moving Fifth Symphony, a work of which their interpretation has been much heralded worldwide.  Music of maverick American composers Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison completes the not-to-be-missed closing concert.

About the Performers

San Francisco Symphony

Music Director/Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas
Piano: Yuja Wang (On 8 Nov only)

San Francisco Symphony

(SFS), widely considered to be among the most artistically adventurous and innovative arts institutions in the United States, celebrated its Centennial season in 2011-12. The Orchestra was established by a group of San Francisco citizens, music-lovers, and musicians in the wake of the 1906 earthquake, and played its first concert on 8 December, 1911. Almost immediately, the Symphony revitalized the city’s cultural life. The Orchestra has grown in stature and acclaim under a succession of distinguished music directors: American composer Henry Hadley, Alfred Hertz (who had led the American premieres of Parsifal, Salome, and Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera), Basil Cameron, Issay Dobrowen, the legendary Pierre Monteux (who introduced the world to Le Sacre du printemps and Petrushka), Enrique Jordá, Josef Krips, Seiji Ozawa, Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt (now Conductor Laureate), and current Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT). Led by Tilson Thomas, now in his 18th season as Music Director, the SFS presents more than 220 concerts annually for an audience of nearly 600,000 in its home of Davies Symphony Hall and through national and international tours.

Since Tilson Thomas assumed his post as the SFS’s 11th Music Director in September 1995, he and the San Francisco Symphony have formed a musical partnership hailed as one of the most inspiring and successful in the country. His tenure with the Orchestra has been praised for outstanding musicianship, innovative programming, highlighting the works of American composers, and bringing new audiences to classical music. In addition, the orchestra has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in music education and the use of multimedia, television, technology, and the web to make classical music available worldwide to as many people as possible.

In its Centennial season, the orchestra reprised its acclaimed American Mavericks Festival of music by pioneering modern American composers, featuring the world premieres of four commissioned works in two weeks of concerts at Davies Symphony Hall and on a two-week national tour, including four performances at Carnegie Hall. Its annual Project San Francisco residencies focus on artists and composers in a variety of musical settings, and in 2012-13 spotlights Renée Fleming and András Schiff. The San Francisco Symphony regularly mounts special weeklong semi-staged productions with multimedia, hosted and curated by MTT, and in 2012-13 presents specially staged performances of Grieg’s Peer Gynt and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the first concert performances by an orchestra of the complete music from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra will also dedicate several weeks to explorations of the music of Beethoven and Stravinsky.

Since 1996, when Tilson Thomas led the Orchestra on the first of their more than a dozen national tours together, they have continued an ambitious yearly touring schedule that takes them to Europe, Asia and throughout the United States. In addition to the 2012 two-week national American Mavericks tour, in 2011 they made a three-week tour of Europe, culminating in Vienna performances of three Mahler symphonies to commemorate the anniversaries of the composer’s birth and death. Recent touring highlights also include a three-week 2007 European tour that featured two televised appearances at the BBC Proms in London and concerts at several other major European festivals, and a 2006 Asian tour that included the Orchestra’s first appearances in mainland China. This season, their two-week November 2012 tour of Asia with pianist Yuja Wang takes the Orchestra to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, and Macao.

The Orchestra’s recording series on SFS Media continues to reflect the artistic identity of its programming, including its commitment to performing the work of American maverick composers alongside that of the core classical masterworks. The San Francisco Symphony has recently recorded Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 5 and 7 and Piano Concerto No. 4, with Emanuel Ax; John Adams’s Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine; Charles Ives’s A Concord Symphony; and Copland’s Organ Symphony with Paul Jacobs. In the 2012-13 season, the Orchestra releases recordings from its Centennial season performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and works from the American Mavericks Festival by Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, and Edgard Varèse. The music of John Adams will be recorded live in concert for release on SFS Media. Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra have recorded all nine of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies and the Adagio from the unfinished Tenth Symphony, and the composer’s works for voices, chorus, and orchestra for SFS Media. Their 2009 recording with the SFS Chorus of Mahler’s sweeping Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand, and the Adagio from Symphony No. 10 won three Grammy Awards, including Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance. Other significant recordings include scenes from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, a collection of Stravinsky ballets, a Gershwin collection, and Charles Ives: An American Journey, among others. In addition to fourteen Grammy Awards, seven of them for the Mahler cycle, the SFS has won some of the world’s most prestigious recording awards, including Japan’s Record Academy Award and France’s Grand Prix du Disque.

Tilson Thomas and the SFS launched the national Keeping Score PBS television series and multimedia project in 2006, to help make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds. The project, an unprecedented undertaking among orchestras, is anchored by eight composer documentaries, hosted by Tilson Thomas, and eight live concert films, and includes www.keepingscore.org, an innovative website to explore and learn about music; a national radio series; documentary and live performance DVD and CDs; and an education program for K-12 schools to further teaching through the arts by integrating classical music into core subjects. To date, more than nine million people have seen the Keeping Score television series, and the Peabody Award-winning radio series has been broadcast on almost 100 stations nationally.

The San Francisco Symphony provides the most extensive education programs offered by any American orchestra today. In 1988, the Symphony established Adventures in Music (AIM), a free, comprehensive music education program that reaches every first- through fifth-grade child in the San Francisco Unified School District. The SFS Instrument Training and Support program reaches students in all San Francisco public middle and high schools with instrumental music programs, providing coaching by professional musicians. The Symphony expanded its educational offerings in 2011-12 with Community of Music Makers, a program that supports amateur choral singers and instrumental musicians with professional coaching, rehearsals, and other learning opportunities. Launching in 2012-13 is a revitalized children’s music education website, www.sfskids.org, developed in conjunction with the UC Irvine Center for Computer Games and Virtual Worlds. The SFS also offers opportunities to hear and learn about great music through its programs Concerts for Kids, Music for Families, the internationally-acclaimed SFS Youth Orchestra, and annual free and community concerts.


Michael Tilson Thomas

Music Director/Conductor

Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) assumed his post as the San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) 11th Music Director in September 1995, consolidating a strong relationship with the Orchestra that began some two decades earlier. He made his San Francisco Symphony conducting debut in 1974 at 29, leading the Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 9.

Tilson Thomas celebrates his 18th season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony during the Orchestra’s 2012-13 season. He and the Orchestra have been praised for innovative programming, enhancing the orchestral concert experience with multimedia and creative staging, for showcasing the works of American composers, and attracting new audiences for orchestral music, both at Davies Symphony Hall and through the Orchestra’s extensive media projects. In 2012, Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony presented a landmark two-week American Mavericks Festival, a celebration of America’s maverick musical heritage of the 20th century, and toured nationally with all American Mavericks repertoire, including four concerts at Carnegie Hall. The initial American Mavericks Festival, which MTT and the Orchestra mounted in 2000, was a landmark 12-concert festival that established the orchestra’s reputation as a standard bearer for American music. MTT has led the Orchestra in internationally acclaimed explorations of the music of Mahler, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Wagner, and Weill. Semi-staged productions have included Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, Debussy’s Le martyre de Saint Sebastian, Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera-ballet Mlada, and The Thomashefskys, celebrating MTT’s grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, pioneers of the American Yiddish theater.

Michael Tilson Thomas’s acclaimed recordings have won numerous international awards, including 11 Grammys for San Francisco Symphony recordings of Mahler’s Symphonies 3, 6, 7, 8, and the Adagio from Symphony No. 10, scenes from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and a collection of three Stravinsky ballet scores – Le Sacres du printemps, The Firebird, and Perséphone. For the San Francisco Symphony’s own SFS Media label, Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra recorded all of Mahler’s symphonies and his works for voices, chorus and orchestra. Most recently, he and the Orchestra recorded and released John Adams’ Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine; Ives’ A Concord Symphony, arranged by Henry Brant; Copland’s Organ Symphony with Paul Jacobs; and Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 and his Piano Concerto No. 4 with Emanuel Ax. Tilson Thomas’s recordings also include pioneering work with the music of American composers Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage and George and Ira Gershwin.

Since 1996, Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra have made more than two dozen national and international tours together. They continue to tour every year and perform regularly in Europe and throughout the United States. They return to Asia in November 2012, performing 10 concerts in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Macao and Tokyo.

Acclaimed interpreters of Mahler’s music, Tilson Thomas and the SFS performed his symphonies in 2011 in some of Europe’s leading music capitals for the anniversaries of the composer’s birth and death, including the centerpiece: a rare four-concert engagement at the famed Vienna Konzerthaus. MTT and the Orchestra opened Carnegie Hall’s 2008-09 season with a gala tribute to Leonard Bernstein that was filmed for national broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances and released by SFS Media on DVD. Other recent touring highlights, in addition to the two-week American Mavericks tour of the United States in 2012, include the Orchestra’s 2006 inaugural visit to mainland China, where they performed in Shanghai and opened the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and a 2007 tour of summer festivals including the London Proms and festivals of Edinburgh, Rheingau, Berlin and Lucerne. A Los Angeles native, Tilson Thomas began his formal studies at the University of Southern California, where he studied piano with John Crown and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl. At 19, he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. He worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen and Copland on premieres of their works at Los Angeles’s famed Monday Evening Concerts. During this period he was also pianist and conductor for Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz.

In 1969, at age 24, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, Tilson Thomas was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Ten days later he made his New York debut with the Boston Symphony, gaining international recognition when he replaced Music Director William Steinberg mid-concert at Lincoln Center. He was later appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the BSO, where he remained until 1974. He led the television broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic’s famed Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977. He has also served as Chief Conductor and Director of the Ojai Festival, Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has toured the world with the London Symphony Orchestra, of which he became Principal Conductor in 1988 and now serves as Principal Guest Conductor. Until 2000 he was Co-Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Festival, which he and Leonard Bernstein inaugurated in Sapporo, Japan, in 1990. His guest conducting engagements include frequent appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.

Tilson Thomas is noted for his commitment to music education and young people. He founded the New World Symphony in Miami, a national training orchestra for the most gifted graduates of America’s conservatories, and continues as Artistic Director. A newly-built Frank Gehry venue, the New World Center, conceived as a laboratory for the way music is taught, performed and experienced, opened in Miami Beach in 2011. As Artistic Director of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, MTT led the globally-sourced ensemble in both its first concert in 2009 at Carnegie Hall and the new group of musicians who performed at the Sydney Opera House in 2011. That event was the most popular live YouTube concert, with 33 million viewers.

MTT and the SFS created the acclaimed national Keeping Score PBS television series and multimedia project, unprecedented among American orchestras. Designed to make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds, Keeping Score is anchored by eight composer documentaries and eight live concert films, viewed by more than nine million Americans on national PBS television and DVD; an interactive website to explore and learn about music, www.keepingscore.org; and a Peabody Award-winning national radio series with episodes hosted by MTT. Its education program for K-12 schools furthers teaching through the arts by integrating classical music into core subjects. Keeping Score composers include Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Copland, Ives, Berlioz, Shostakovich and Mahler.

Acclaimed for his work as a composer, MTT has given world premieres of many of his works with the San Francisco Symphony. In 1999, MTT conducted the SFS in the first orchestral version of Three Songs to Poems by Walt Whitman, and in 2001, Renée Fleming and the SFS premiered his song cycle Poems of Emily Dickinson. In 2002, Tilson Thomas led the SFS in the world premiere of his contrabassoon concerto Urban Legend, with SFS contrabassoonist Steven Braunstein as soloist. In 2005, MTT and the SFS performed Tilson Thomas’s Island Music, dedicated to the memory of Lou Harrison. In 1991, Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony performed From the Diary of Anne Frank, composed by Tilson Thomas and commissioned by UNICEF. His composition Shówa/Shoáh was written in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Tilson Thomas’s many honors include the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the government of the United States, presented by President Barack Obama in February 2010. He has also been recognized with Columbia University’s Ditson Award for services to American Music and the President’s Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was named 1995 Conductor of the Year by Musical America. Tilson Thomas was a Carnegie Hall Perspectives Artist from 2003 to 2005. In 2006, he was recognized with Gramophone’s Artist of the Year award, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres of France.


Yuja Wang


Twenty-five year old Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is widely recognized for playing that combines the spontaneity and fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. Regularly lauded for her controlled, prodigious technique, Wang’s has been praised for her authority over the most complex technical demands of the repertoire, the depth of her musical insight, as well as her fresh interpretations and graceful, charismatic stage presence. Following her San Francisco recital debut the San Francisco Chronicle wrote “The arrival of Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang on the musical scene is an exhilarating and unnerving development. To listen to her in action is to re-examine whatever assumptions you may have had about how well the piano can actually be played,” and The Washington Post called Wang’s Kennedy Center recital debut “jaw-dropping.”

Wang is an exclusive recording artist for Deutsche Grammophon. Her debut recording, Sonatas & Etudes, released in the spring of 2009, “suggests a combination of blazing technique and a rare instinct for poetry” wrote Gramophone magazine, which named Wang the Classic FM Gramophone Awards 2009 Young Artist of the Year. For her second recording, Transformation, Wang received an Echo Award 2011 as “Young Artist of the Year”.  Wang next collaborated with Maestro Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to record her first concerto album featuring Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor which was nominated for a Grammy as “Best Classical Instrumental Solo.”   Her most recent record, Fantasia, is a collection of encore pieces by Albéniz, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin and others.

In the few short years since her 2005 debut with the National Arts Center Orchestra led by Pinchas Zukerman, for which the Canadian press reported “a star is born,” Wang has already performed with many of the world’s prestigious orchestras including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New World Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, in the United States, and abroad with the Tonhalle Orchestra, China Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Gulbenkian Orchestra, London Philharmonic, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo and Orchestra Mozart, among others. In 2006 Yuja made her New York Philharmonic debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival and performed with the orchestra the following season under Lorin Maazel during the Philharmonic’s Japan/Korea visit.  In 2008, Wang toured the United States with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields led by Sir Neville Marriner and in 2009 she performed as a soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra led by Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall.  She performed with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado in Beijing, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Spain and in London, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

Wang has given recitals in major cities throughout Asia, Europe and North America, is a dedicated performer of chamber music, and makes regular appearances at summer festivals including the Aspen and Verbier festivals. In March 2011, Wang performed in a three-concert chamber series at the Salle Pleyel in Paris with principal players from the Berlin Philharmonic.  She has also worked with many of the world’s esteemed conductors including Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Charles Dutoit, Daniele Gatti, Valerie Gergiev, Manfred Honeck, Pietari Inkinen, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Sir Roger Norrington, Antonio Pappano, Yuri Temirkanov, Michael Tilson-Thomas and Pinchas Zukerman. 

As her career continues to blossom, each season Wang makes a number of important debuts, both with major orchestras and in recital. In the 2010-11, season, she performed with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Gatti, Orchestre de Paris conducted by Juraj Valčuha, RAI Torino led by Mikko Franck, and Orquesta Nacional España and Berlin Staatskapelle, each conducted by Inkinen.  Wang also made recital debuts in Madrid and Tokyo.  In the 2011-2012 season Yuja performs with the Israel Philharmonic, La Scala, London Symphony, NDR Symphony and Santa Cecilia in Europe, and the American orchestras of New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.  She made her Carnegie Hall recital debut (Stern Hall) in October 2011. 

Born in Beijing in 1987, Wang began studying piano at age six, with her earliest public performances taking place in China, Australia and Germany, and went on to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing under Ling Yuan and Zhou Guangren.  From 1999 to 2001 she participated in the Morningside Music Bridge summer program at Calgary’s Mount Royal College, an artistic and cultural exchange program between Canada and China, and began studying with Hung-kuan Chen and Tema Blackstone at the Mount Royal College Conservatory. In 2002, when Wang was 15, she won Aspen Music Festival’s concerto competition.  She then moved to the United States to study with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she graduated in 2008. In 2006, Wang received the Gilmore Young Artist Award.  In 2010, she was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.  Wang is a Steinway Artist.



Tickets available from 13 September onwards at all URBTIX outlets, on Internet and by Credit Card Telephone Booking.

On the first counter booking day: 13 September, each patron can purchase up to a maximum of 10 tickets of the concert per transaction.

Half-price tickets available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients (Limited tickets for full-time students and CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis).

Programme Length
Running time of each performance is about 2 hours with an intermission of 20 minutes.

Audience are strongly advised to arrive punctually.  No latecomers will be admitted until the interval or a suitable break in the programme.


Programme Enquiries: 2268 7321
Ticketing Enquiries: 2734 9009            
Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999
Internet Booking: www.urbtix.hk 

The presenter reserves the right to change the programme and substitute artists should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.

Seating Plan

Concert Sponsors

Programme Notes

8 Nov
9 Nov

Pre-concert Talks

Masterpieces of Russian Music (the first decade of the 20th century)
Speaker: Savio Lau
Editor of Music Section, HiFi Review

8 November 2012 (Thu) 6:45pm
Level 4 Foyer, 4/F, Auditoria Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

De Olde Worlde and The Brave New World
Speaker: Li Chi-man
Lecturer of Hong Kong Music Institute

9 November 2012 (Fri) 6:45pm
AC2, 4/F, Administration Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

(Conducted in Cantonese)
Free admission on a first-come-first-served basis.


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