The Amstel Hotel is totally unsuitable for a good conversation, especially with a musician. The ‘Muzak’ in the background is annoyingly present and the search for a decent space takes up a lot of time. Michael Tilson Thomas – tall, slim, dressed in black jeans and a checkered jacket – doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.
Two days earlier he conducted an extremely exciting concert in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw with music by Berg, Mahler and Brahms. Looking back at the concert I ask him if he did not feel the Brahms started a little too fast?
And was the order of the composers: Berg, Mahler, Brahms not a bit strange?
“Sometimes I do it the other way around”
So there I am! Fortunately, Tilson Thomas is able to laugh at my stupid questions and I decide to start with his ‘roots.’ Boris Thomashefsky, Michael’s grandfather was THE man behind the Jewish theatre. He wrote the lyrics, composed the music and performed it together with his wife Bessie, one of the greatest tragediennes of her time: she was the first Salome in America, in Yiddish!
Boris Tomashevsky & Yiddish Theatre – BBC Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (2013):