Sunday, October 12, 2008

Michael Tilson-Thomas. His parents were immigrants to the U.S. His parents were performers.

Performers in the Yiddish theatre, big stars in a milieu that was wiped out by the success of Jews in the United States and the murder of Jews in Europe. The milieu his parents shone in is gone.

Michael Tilson-Thomas is a performer, a star conductor, a success in the country he was born in and has always lived in, with much musician travel.

He was something of a piano and conductor prodigy and ended up being a conductor. As a young musical prodigy in LA, he met virtuosi born in Europe, giants.

Virtuosi of this kind we don't really have anymore, Tilson-Thomas thinks, and he has said why in one of his "MTT Files" that I heard on KALW-FM that are probably for sale on line by his current institution, the San Francisco Symphony. Storytelling and thinking aloud with music--the stories, the thinking, the music, all good.

These virtuosi were immigrants. They left the parts of Europe they grew up in as these parts were falling apart, a tough twentieth century for Europe and Europeans. The Europe they grew up in ceased to exist as they left and after they left.

Tilson-Thomas, as a performer, as a leader of performers, and as a child of performers knows that what matters is not being great generally, but being transcendently great right now, in this performance.

How did they keep creating greatness through all these performances?

MTT speculates that part of it was the will to make it all worthwhile, the several countries, the many cities, the hours of practice taken away for regular daily life, the lives gone of people they grew up with, to make up for it now, in this note, in this chord, tonight.