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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 intensity of his artistry and his distinctive communicative abilities, creating a sense of inclusion and warmth among musicians and audiences that is unique among American orchestras.  Celebrating his 16th season as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, this imaginative conductor has been responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous celebrated composers, conductors and performers, and enjoys collaborations with composers and musicians of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. As Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs, including the Aspen Conducting Academy

The Atlanta School of Composers reflects Spano’s commitment to American contemporary music. He has led ASO performances at Carnegie Hall, 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, along with Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.  His opera performances include 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.  

Mr. Spano begins the 2016-17 season with “cloth field: an art place of life,” a conceptual collaboration between Spano and choreographer Lauri Stallings, involving dancers and sculptural elements with an original score composed by Mr. Spano in 2014 for the Atlanta-based dance troupe, glo. In addition to his leadership of the ASO, Spano has recently returned to his early love of composing. His most recent works include Sonata: Four Elements for piano, premiered by Spano in August at the Aspen Music Festival, as well as a new song cycle, both to be recorded for release on the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s ASO Media label. An avid interpreter of opera and oratorio, Mr. Spano conducts John Adams’s Nixon in China at Houston Grand Opera, Christopher Theofanidis’s  Creation/Creator at the Kennedy Center’s 2017 Shift Festival, featuring the ASO and ASO Chorus, and conducts and records Orfeo with the ASO and ASO Chamber Chorus.

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, Robert Spano has won six Grammy Awards with the Atlanta Symphony. Spano is on faculty at Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University and Oberlin. Maestro Spano is one of two classical musicians inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and lives in Atlanta.

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