A few years back, we were flipping the channels, and we ended up on a program on PBS. We recognized Michael Tilson-Thomas and at first, we were thinking, hey, it’s our MTT, what is he up to? We stayed a while for the local angle, as we would have had we caught, say, the Warriors on ESPN, or Gavin on a Sunday morning political show, or SFist Jer on Check Please!. But then we got hooked: we had to watch the thing till the end. It was a behind the scene look at how MTT and the orchestra prepare for a Tchaikovksy symphony, and boy was it well made: the piece was placed in a historical context, there were ample excerpts of the orchestra playing, you would get a good feel for the piece, and the things to notice in the score and in its interpretation were highlighted, with MTT or the orchestra members giving a short yet articulate explanation.
Great TV is rare enough that it does not go unnoticed, and MTT and the SF symphony re-upped for a new series of TV shows, which starts tonight on KQED with an episode of Keeping Score about Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, aka MTT goes to Vienna.
We were able to watch the show, and it’s as addictive as the first one. The original show would visit the musicians in their private homes with their family as they rehearse, but this one is more music-centric. Tonight the musicians speak in front of a studio screen. MTT is a congenial host, walking us around in the chambers of a Vienna castle, sitting at a piano to detail his interpretation of the score, or conducting from the Davies symphony hall podium.