LONDON 〓 Michael Tilson Thomas tries to leave the stage before playing the last movement in Mahler’s Symphony No. 3


On May 13, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas was about to leave the stage after finishing the fifth movement of a six-movement program at a concert featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. The 79-year-old Tilson Thomas, who has been conducting while battling a malignant brain tumor, resumed conducting again at the urging of those around him and received a huge cheer from the audience when he finished conducting.

He was conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in a concert at the Barbican Center. Tilson Thomas was the orchestra’s principal conductor from 1987 to 1995 and is currently the orchestra’s conductor laureate. He has recently been developing a Mahler symphony cycle and will conduct Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” in October in a concert celebrating his 80th birthday.

According to local reports, Tilson Thomas closed the score after the performance of the fifth movement, spoke to the audience in a friendly manner, and tried to finish the performance. Everyone around him did not understand what had happened for a moment. When Alice Couto, the soloist, and other orchestra members noticed something was wrong and called out to him, Tilson Thomas began conducting again.

Symphony No. 3 is a huge work of about 100 minutes with alto solo in the fourth movement and alto solo, children’s chorus, and female chorus in the fifth movement, performed without intermission. It is the longest of Mahler’s symphonies and was once considered “the longest symphony in the world.” It was a happening as everyone worried about the stamina of Tilson Thomas, who was fighting an illness, but that is why the standing ovation after the performance was so enthusiastic.

PHOTO:Barbican / Mark Allan

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