It's been nearly 20 years since I watched Michael Tilson Thomas conduct Mahler's Symphony No. 6, but it's an experience I'll never forget. In particular, the piece contained a finale inspired by death and loss, with a giant hammer smashed upon a giant drum. The whole thing was thundering, and turbulent, and incredibly moving, and I walked out of Davies Symphony Hall that night in a daze at the power of great art. The date was Sept. 12, 2001—one day after 9/11.
For obvious reasons, this performance has gone down in history, and represents a landmark in Michael Tilson Thomas' time at the San Francisco Symphony. That leadership, of 25 years, comes to an end this season. Before he goes, he's bringing back Mahler's Sixth, nicknamed the “Tragic” symphony, for a performance in San Francisco. It's the work that kicked off a series of award-winning recordings of Mahler for the Symphony's own record label, and it now helps bookend Tilson Thomas' run as music director. Witness the powerful piece on Friday, March 6, at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.—Gabe Meline