About the Performers

About the San Francisco Symphony

Founded in 1911, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) celebrated its Centennial Season in 2011-12 and is widely considered to be among the country’s most artistically adventurous and innovative arts institutions. Under Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), the SFS presents more than 220 concerts and presentations annually for an audience of nearly 600,000 in its home of Davies Symphony Hall and through an active national and international touring program.

Tilson Thomas assumed his post as the SF Symphony’s eleventh Music Director in September 1995 and celebrates his 18th season as Music Director in 2012-13. Together, he and the SFS 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 by critics for outstanding musicianship, innovative programming, highlighting the works of American composers, and bringing new audiences to classical music. 

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony maintain a leading presence among American orchestras around the world through an active touring program, award-winning recordings, and innovative broadcast and education projects. In 1996, MTT led the orchestra on the first of their nearly two dozen national and international tours together to Europe, Asia and throughout the United States, with annual performances at Carnegie Hall.  Recent tour highlights include the March 2012 two-week national U.S. tour of all-American Mavericks music, with Meredith Monk, Jessye Norman, Paul Jacobs, Emanuel Ax, Joan La Barbara, Jeremy Denk, and Mason Bates; a 2011 three-week tour of Europe; a 2007 European tour that featured two televised appearances at the BBC Proms in London, concerts in  Edinburgh, Berlin and Frankfurt, and at several major European festivals, including Lucerne; and their first appearances in mainland China, including opening the Hong Kong Arts Festival, as part of their 2006 Asia tour. They opened Carnegie Hall’s 2008-09 season with a gala tribute to Leonard Bernstein that was filmed and broadcast nationally on Thirteen/WNET New York’s Great Performances on PBS television.

Based in one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the United States, the San Francisco Symphony has a similarly diverse musician roster. Of the 100-plus musicians in the SF Symphony, almost a dozen are Chinese- or Japanese-Americans. The orchestra’s recordings have long been in demand by Japanese music fans and audiophiles, and the Orchestra and Tilson Thomas have a long-lasting relationship with the country. Japan was the Orchestra’s first destination on its first international tour, in 1968. They returned in 1975 under then-Music Director Seiji Ozawa, who led the Orchestra from 1970-1977.  Until 2000, Michael Tilson Thomas was co-Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Festival, which he and Leonard Bernstein inaugurated in Sapporo, Japan in 1990.

The Orchestra’s own SFS Media label showcases the Orchestra’s core classical repertoire alongside lesser-heard contemporary and modern works, especially by American composers. In 2010, Tilson Thomas and the SFS concluded their self-produced Mahler recording project, launched in 2001 and encompassing all of Mahler’s symphonies and works for voice, chorus and orchestra. The Orchestra’s Mahler cycle on SFS Media has been recognized with seven Grammy Awards, including three Grammy Awards for its recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and the Adagio from Symphony No. 10. The Orchestra’s 2011-12 Centennial Season Opening Gala concert was televised on PBS-TV’s Great Performances and released on DVD.

The San Francisco Symphony’s commitment to music education has resulted in the groundbreaking television, radio, multimedia and website project Keeping Score; an award-winning children’s website, www.sfskids.com; and Adventures in Music, a nationally acclaimed in-school music education program in San Francisco schools.  The Keeping Score series has been viewed by over nine million people since its first broadcast in 2006 and has been acclaimed for making classical music accessible to a wider, more diverse audience. 

About Yuja Wang

Born in Beijing in 1987, Yuja Wang began studying piano at age six, with her earliest public performances taking place in China, Australia and Germany. She studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing under Ling Yuan and Zhou Guangren.  From 1999 to 2001 she participated in the Morningside Music 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 she was 15, she won Aspen Music Festival’s concerto competition.  She then moved to the U.S. to study with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she graduated in 2008. In 2006 Yuja received the Gilmore Young Artist Award.  In 2010 she was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. 

Since her 2005 debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra led by Pinchas Zukerman, Yuja Wang has already performed with many of the world’s prestigious orchestras, including, in addition to the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, New World Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Orchestra, and internationally with the Tonhalle Orchestra, China Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Gulbenkian Orchestra, London Philharmonic, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo and Orchestra Mozart, among others. She made her debut with the San Francisco Symphony in 2006 at its annual Chinese New Year concert, and has returned to perform with the Orchestra each year since then, developing a close artistic connection with Michael Tilson Thomas. She performed in Japan and Korea with the New York Philharmonic on its 2006 tour. In 2008 Yuja performed as a soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra led by Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall. 

Her acclaimed recordings include Transformation, for which she received an Echo Award 2011 as Young Artist of the Year. Wang next collaborated with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra to record her first concerto album featuring Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and 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, Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin and others.

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