Robert Spano & Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Celebrating his fifth season as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano is recognized internationally as one of the brightest and most imaginative conductors of his generation. A gifted musician, Mr. Spano has enriched and expanded the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s repertoire through his characteristically innovative programming and elevated the orchestra to new levels of international prominence. Recent achievements include a 2005 Grammy Award (“Best Choral Album”) for Berlioz’s Requiem and two 2003 Grammy Awards (“Best Classical Album” and “Best Choral Album”) for Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, recorded for Telarc with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Mr. Spano has also served as Director of the prestigious Festival of Contemporary Music at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Music Center in 2003 and 2004, and from 1996 to 2004 was the Music Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, a period marked by significant artistic growth and a critical acclaim.
Robert Spano has conducted nearly every major North American orchestra, including the symphonies of Boston, Chicago, Houston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Louis and Toronto, the Cleveland, Minnesota and Philadelphia Orchestras, Washington’s National Symphony and the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics. An equally accomplished operatic conductor, he has appeared with the opera companies of Chicago, Houston, Seattle and Santa Fe. Overseas he has led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala (Milan), the Czech Philharmonic, the Frankfurt Radio Sinfonie Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic, the New Japan Philharmonic (Tokyo) and the Tonhalle Orchester (Zurich). He has also conducted the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and the Welsh National Opera.
The 2005-2006 season embodies Mr. Spano’s passion for eclectic programming and experimentation and encompasses a broad range of operatic and choral works, world premieres, cornerstones of the classical repertoire and projects that integrate graphic and visual elements into the concert experience. In August 2005 Robert Spano conducts an internationally acclaimed cast in three cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen at the Seattle Opera, directed by Stephen Wadsworth. He then returns to Atlanta to launch his fifth season as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with performances of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony No. 2. As part of his ongoing and fruitful collaboration with composer Osvaldo Golijov, Spano conducts a semi-staged production of Golijov’s chamber opera Ainadamar, based on the life of Federico García Lorca, with libretto by David Henry Hwang and a scenic environment created by architect Santiago Calatrava; he also leads performances in Atlanta of Golijov’s landmark La Pasión Según San Marcos Marco, a work that received its highly acclaimed North American premiere with the Boston Symphony in 2001 under Spano’s baton. Additional Atlanta Symphony season highlights include performances of two choral masterworks with the renowned Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Verdi’s Requiem and Sibelius’s Kullervo; an all-Beethoven program featuring the Fifth Symphony and Third Piano Concerto; the Bach Magnificat and Brahms Second Symphony and a program of John Adams’s Chamber Symphony, Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana and Steve Reich’s Tehillim.
In February and March 2006, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Robert Spano are featured prominently in New York, appearing at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall within a three-week period. On February 20 and 21, Maestro Spano and the Atlanta Symphony will appear on Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series “The Passion of Osvaldo Golijov,” a project showcasing the music of this dynamic young composer, performing La Pasión Según Sa Marcos. The following week (February 21-28), he returns to conduct the New York Philharmonic in a program that includes the world premiere of John Harbison’s Milosz Songs for Soprano and Orchestra with soprano Dawn Upshaw. Less than two weeks later, on March 11, Spano takes the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to Carnegie Hall, its second appearance there in two years, for a performance of the Verdi Requiem. Other important highlights that season include a re- engagement with the Cleveland Orchestra, with whom he leads the world premiere of a new work by Peter Lieberson with mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson; the Chicago Symphony in a program of Bernstein, Gershwin and Vaughan Williams; and the Boston Symphony with works by Saariaho, Beethoven and Sibelius. Mr. Spano also returns to the Pittsburgh Symphony and Aspen Music Festival to conduct Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia directed by Ed Berkeley. Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will serve as the conductor and orchestra in residence for the 2006 Ojai Festival.
Under Robert Spano’s direction, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has made a series of critically acclaimed recordings for the Telarc label. Their first, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, was described in ClassicsToday.com as “the best rendition of the work to come around in years. I can’t imagine a more distinguished or musically appealing first release from this exciting new partnership.” His next recording with the Orchestra, released in July 2002, features the aforementioned Grammy-winning Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, and was recorded in Telarc’s new Super Audio Compact Disc format (SACD). In reviewing the Vaughan Williams disc, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported “Spano's recording of A Sea Symphony is exhilarating, charged with energy, enthusiasm and a youthful, almost reckless sense of daring…[His] clear and bold interpretation personifies the message of exuberant youth.” Also available is the highly praised Rainbow Body, a disc featuring works by 20th and 21st century contemporary American composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Jennifer Higdon and Christopher Theofanidis. A 2004 disc release featuring the music of Jennifer Higdon received multiple Grammy nominations including “Best Classical Album,” and his recording of Berlioz’s Requiem, the fifth with the ASO for Telarc, received a 2005 Grammy Award for “Best Choral Album.” In October of 2005, Telarc releases a new disc featuring David Del Tredici’s Revere, a work commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra based on Paul Revere’s legendary ride, with thematic references to the bravery of firefighters in response to September 11, 2001. The disc also includes a work by Christopher Theofanides based on the poetry of Rumi and Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony. In 2004, Deutsche Grammophon announced a dynamic new partnership between Osvaldo Golijov, Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Current recording projects include the composer’s Three Songs, Oceana and the chamber opera Ainadamar.
Since Spano’s arrival, the orchestra reports increased single ticket and subscription sales while its number of donors has risen more than 40 percent. Mr. Spano maintains a strong community presence by appearing in recitals and chamber music with the ASO musicians throughout the Atlanta community and has reinstated regular performances of 20th-and 21st-century repertoire, as well as world premieres of ASO-commissioned works.
During his nine year tenure with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Mr. Spano brought the ensemble to international attention through thematic programming and special projects including Thomas Ades’s Powder Her Face, John Adams’s Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer, world premieres by Michael Hersh, Bright Sheng, Phillip Glass and Christopher Theofanides and more than 40 New York premiere performances. “Robert Spano’s innovative programming has turned the Brooklyn Philharmonic from a respected ensemble in an outer borough into an essential contributor to the cultural life of greater New York.” (The New York Times).
Despite his demanding performance schedule, Robert Spano remains committed to music education. He was head of the prestigious Conducting Fellowship Program at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1998-2002, has served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute and Bowling Green State University, and is Associate Professor of Conducting at Oberlin Conservatory. He also appears frequently at the Aspen Music Festival.
An accomplished pianist, Robert Spano performs chamber music with many of his colleagues from the Atlanta Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Oberlin Conservatory. Born in Conneaut, Ohio, and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, he grew up in a musical family, composing and playing flute, violin and piano. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied conducting with Robert Baustian, and continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music with the late Max Rudolf. Robert Spano has been featured on CBS’s Late Night with David Letterman, CBS Sunday Morning, A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts and PBS’s City Arts. Mr. Spano makes his home in Atlanta.