Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Michael Tilson Thomas

It was an awesome night of public television. The same night I first saw Igor Fokin, Great Performances had Keeping Score: MTT on Music/Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. Of course I did not bother with the actual performance of the 4th, since I've heard it so many times, but the documentary was totally enlightening, especially since I consider that I know a good deal about classical music. I guess I didn't know about professional orchestras and performances.

I first remember learning about Michael Tilson Thomas when I was a teenager. He was one of those up and coming young conductors, and kind of cute to boot. Soon after, I learned that he was gay and flamboyantly so. Oh well. My first thought on seeing him in this broadcast was, "Gee, he looks really old, and not so cute!" After doing some research on him after seeing the show, I determined that he was 59, so maybe he wasn't so young after all during my teens. (When I was 14 at Tanglewood, he would have been 36).

The cool things I learned from the show were that the librarian transfers all the notes that the conductor puts into his score onto each individual part. The tympanist prepared his skins in a kiddy pool in a shower. The oboists spends half his time preparing his reeds (they show the process right from the first split of the cylinder into four parts), and the other half practicing, so they only get to practice half as much as the other players. The poor piccolo player really sweats the 21 note 3 second solo. There were also many quotes that hit home like, "Music memory is like smell. When you hear a piece of music, it can take you right back to when you first heard it." So very true, whether it is classical or popular.

And I was really impressed by his beautiful house in San Francisco. Absolutely breathtaking. All the scenes were beautifully shot as well. Oh yes, and all his cool commentary about the music. So fitting that he chose Tchaikovsky, a fellow gay that led a tortured life (as opposed to MTT, who looked pretty darn happy).

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