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Michael Tilson Thomas Withdraws from Several San Francisco Symphony Concerts

Due to health issues, Michael Tilson Thomas has stepped down from two of his three weeks with the San Francisco Symphony in early 2024


American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who turned 79 yesterday, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer in 2021. The diagnosis came a year after his retirement following 25 years as the San Francisco Symphony’s music director.

To focus on his health, it has been decided that Thomas will not conduct the concerts for the weeks of January 18-20 and February 23-25.

The program for January 18-20, featuring pianist Seong-Jin Cho as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, will now be conducted by Ukrainian-born Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska. The program will now include Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, "From the New World."

On Feb. 23-25, SF's Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen will step in to conduct Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” and Brahms’ Violin Concerto with German violinist Julia Fischer — the latter of which the pair performed earlier this month during the Nobel Prize Concert in Stockholm.

Michael Tilson Thomas will still conduct the orchestra from January 25-27 in a program featuring Mahler's Fifth Symphony. SFS recently announced that these will be his final appearances on the organization’s subscription series.

Arnold Schoenberg’s “Five Pieces for Orchestra” was originally scheduled for the program as well, but has been dropped to allow Thomas to concentrate on Mahler — the composer he regularly performed and focused on throughout his career. He made his San Francisco debut in 1974 conducting Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

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