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San Francisco Symphony's Michael Tilson Thomas Conducts Cleveland Orchestra

Michael Tilson Thomas is one of the most renowned living American conductors and composers.

The music director of the San Francisco Symphony renews his relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra onstage at Severance Hall Thursday night.

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Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in 2018 [Roger Mastroianni / Cleveland Orchestra]

"I think the orchestra and I have a great appreciation of one another because we live in quite different spaces with different kinds of assumptions," Tilson Thomas said.

While the 2019 Kennedy Center honoree sees himself as a big-picture person, he sees the orchestra's musicians as much more detail oriented.

"That's why I love doing projects with the Cleveland Orchestra, because always I learn many things from them," he said. "What's the most fun about being a musician is that every time you make music with different people, even if you're playing a piece that you've all played many times, that somehow there's a chemistry that something different happens."

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Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in 2018 [Roger Mastroianni / Cleveland Orchestra]

At Severance Hall, he will conduct Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique," which the French composer wrote in 1830.

"It is a piece I've known all my life," Tilson Thomas said. "I had the original score in my possession for some days in Paris once. I was able to look at the kind of palimpsest that the score is, all kinds of bars pasted over other bars in various versions. I think he had one score that he used his entire life."

"Symphonie Fantastique" has an infamous history as it's rumoured to have been written by Berlioz while under the influence of opium.

"It will be great fun to be doing 'Symphonie Fantastique' with the Cleveland Orchestra and in some ways contributing to their delinquency," Tilson Thomas joked. "There are certain things about the piece where you just have to say, 'OK! You just have to let this fly and it's absolutely crazy. It doesn't really make sense but never mind that.'"

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Cleveland Orchestra Thursday through Sunday at Severance Hall.

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