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Robert Spano

Music Director

Robert Spano - Photo Credit Angela Morriss
Endowed Robert Reid Topping Chair


Conductor, pianist, composer and pedagogue Robert Spano is known worldwide for the depth and intensity of his artistry as well as his unique communicative abilities.  Beginning his 15th season as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, this imaginative conductor is an approachable artist with the innate ability to share his enthusiasm for music with an entire community and concert hall. He has quietly been responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous classically-trained composers and conductors and enjoys collaborations with composers and musicians of all ages and ability. As Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs for 630 students, including Aspen’s American Academy of Conducting.

Under Maestro Spano’s guidance, the ASO and audiences explore a creative programming mix.  The Atlanta School of Composers reflects his commitment to American contemporary music, thus defining a new generation of American composers. He has led ASO performances at Carnegie Hall (2015-2016 marks Spano’s tenth consecutive season as a guest of that prestigious venue), Lincoln Center, and the Ravinia, Ojai and Savannah Music Festivals.  Guest engagements have included orchestras such as the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago and Philadelphia symphony orchestras, as well as Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.  He has conducted for Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera and the 2005 and 2009 Seattle Opera productions of Wagner’s Ring cycles.  

Maestro Spano begins the 2015-16 season conducting the Saito Kinen Orchestra in Japan as part of a gala performance celebrating Seiji Ozawa’s 80th birthday, followed by a concert which features both maestros leading the orchestra in a shared program. He opens the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season with Mahler’s Second Symphony and throughout the year conducts four world premieres by composers Mark Grey, Jonathan Leshnoff and ASO bassist Michael Kurth, plus seven Atlanta premieres. The orchestra honors the centennial anniversary of the legendary Robert Shaw’s birth with performances of Brahms’ Requiem and Leshnoff’s Zohar in Atlanta and at Carnegie Hall in April. Additional guest conducting engagements include the Minnesota Orchestra leading Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 and Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs with mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, the Oregon Symphony with a program including Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor with Joshua Bell, the Utah Symphony featuring Rachmaninoff’s second Piano Concerto with Kirill Gerstein, and the Kansas City Symphony including Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Timotheos Petrin. He has appearances in South America leading the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira in Rio de Janiero and the Orquestra Sinfonica Estado Sao Paulo, and in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony at the Metropolis Festival in May.  Maestro Spano also holds a conductor residency with the Colburn School Orchestra in Los Angeles, CA this winter. As a performer, he joins Wu Han and Alessio Bax for a program of late 19th century/early 20th century piano masterworks as part of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s residency at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Recent highlights include Britten’s War Requiem in Carnegie Hall and Verdi’s Aida in Atlanta, the world premiere of Steven Stucky’s The Classical Style in Ojai and its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall in December 2014. An Aspen highlight was the August 2014 premiere of Spano’s Hölderlin Songs with soprano Susanna Phillips and, in September, Spano joined Atlanta-based dance company glo for four performances of his new solo piano work Tanz III. Last season, Maestro Spano conducted two world premieres with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – Christopher Theofanidis’ Creation/Creator and Michael Gandolfi’s Imaginary Numbers – and joined both the Houston Grand Opera for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Houston Symphony for a Higdon/Chopin program. Guest conducting engagements brought him to Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Copenhagen, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, in addition to a U.S. tour with the Curtis Institute of Music (featuring a Jennifer Higdon world premiere viola concerto) and an engagement with the New England Conservatory Philharmonic.

With a discography of critically-acclaimed recordings for Telarc, Deutsche Grammophon and ASO Media recorded over nine years, Spano has won six Grammy™ Awards with the Atlanta Symphony. An all-Vaughan Williams disc for ASO Media comprising The Lark Ascending, Dona Nobis Pacem and Symphony No. 4 was released September 9.  Robert Spano is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University and Oberlin. Maestro Spano was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2012 and is proud to live in Atlanta.

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