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Robert Spano

Music Director

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


Conductor, pianist, composer and teacher Robert Spano is known worldwide for the intensity of his artistry and distinctive communicative abilities, creating a sense of inclusion and warmth among musicians and audiences that is unique among American orchestras. Beginning his 17th season as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, this highly imaginative conductor is an approachable artist with the innate ability to share his enthusiasm for music with an entire community and concert hall.  A fervent mentor to rising artists, he is responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous celebrated composers, conductors and performers, and enjoys collaborations with composers and musicians of all ages, backgrounds 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 and rising artists.        

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 the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Oregon, Utah and Kansas City Symphonies, and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras. Internationally, Maestro Spano has led the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira, Orquestra Sinfonica Estado Sao Paulo, the Melbourne Symphony in Australia, and the Saito Kinen Orchestra in Japan.  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 Cycle. Spano also holds a conductor residency with the Colburn School Orchestra in Los Angeles.        

Highlights of the 2017-18 season include several world premiere performances, including a new work by prolific composer Bryce Dessner at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor; a tuba concerto by Atlanta School of Composers alumna Jennifer Higdon, performed by Craig Knox and the Pittsburgh Symphony; Melodia, For Piano and Orchestra, by Canadian composer Matthew Ricketts at the Aspen Music Festival; and a new work by the ASO’s own bassist Michael Kurth.  With the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Spano brings local audiences inspired, thoughtful programming, including the beginning of the two-year “LB/LB” celebration commemorating Leonard Bernstein and Ludwig van Beethoven, featuring six Bernstein works and the nine Beethoven Symphonies, and vocal masterpieces including Verdi’s Otello and Bernstein’s Candide. Guest conducting engagements reflect the Spano’s widespread regard as a valued collaborator, with the Kansas City, Baltimore, New World and Pittsburgh Symphonies.  Internationally, Spano performs the Spanish premiere of Jennifer Hidgon’s Concerto for Orchestra with the Galicia Symphony Orchestra, and a program of Shostakovich, Mussorgsky, Liszt and Scriabin in Cardiff with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Mr. Spano’s previous season began 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 recently returned to his early love of composing. His most recent works include Sonata: Four Elements for piano, premiered by Spano in August 2016 at the Aspen Music Festival, and a new song cycle, Hölderlin-Lieder, written for and performed by soprano Jessica Rivera; both works were recorded on the ASO Media label. Spano opened the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season with an all-Tchaikovsky program with guest soloist Joshua Bell.  Later concerts featured pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Pedja Muzijevic and Stephen Hough.  An avid interpreter of opera and oratorio, Mr. Spano conducted John Adams’s Nixon in China at Houston Grand Opera; Christopher Theofanidis’s Creation/Creator at the Kennedy Center’s 2017 Shift Festival, featuring singers Jessica Rivera, Sasha Cooke, Thomas Cooley, Nmon Ford, Vinson Cole and Evan Boyer, and the ASO and ASO Chorus; and conducted and recorded Orfeo with soloists David Daniels, Susanna Phillips, Janai Brugger and the ASO and ASO Chamber Chorus.

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 makes his home in Atlanta.