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Boston Symphony Orchestra (1970)
On 22 October 1969, Michael Tilson Thomas replaced William Steinberg midway through a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert at Philharmonic Hall in New York. Steinberg, the orchestra's newly appointed music director, fell ill while conducting Brahms's Second Symphony, and the twenty-four-year-old, newly appointed assistant conductor was asked to step in after the interval to lead a complicated new double concerto by Robert Starer and Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel. 'A tall, thin young man came on stage with an air of immense confidence and authority, and showed that his confidence was not misplaced,' Harold C. Schonberg wrote in The New York Times the following day. It was 'his golden opportunity,' Schonberg declared. 'Mr. Thomas knows his business, and we shall be hearing from him again.' There's no doubt that the publicity generated by such a high-profile, unscheduled New York debut gave a significant boost to Thomas's career. Yet, in a brief interview that appeared in the Times a few days later, Allen Hughes noted that Thomas was 'by no means a wide-eyed unknown getting his first big chance'. Indeed, even in New York, he had already established a reputation as 'a conductor of complicated avant-garde music' – or at least that's how he was described in a review of a Town Hall recital he had given with cellist Laurence Lesser a few months earlier. Even at this relatively tender age, Thomas had worked closely with a diverse array of some of the brightest musical lights of the age, including Stravinsky, Copland, Boulez and Heifetz.