Conductor: Robert Spano
Robert Spano is recognized internationally as one of the brightest and most imaginative conductors of his generation. Now in his sixth season as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, he has enriched and expanded its repertoire through his characteristically innovative programming and elevated the ensemble to new levels of international prominence and acclaim.
In his distinguished career, Robert Spano has also conducted the greatest orchestras of North America, including those in Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Saint Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Minnesota, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Montreal. Overseas he has led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala (Milan), Czech Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Sinfonie Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, New Japan Philharmonic (Tokyo), and Tonhalle Orchester (Zurich).
Equally accomplished as an operatic conductor, he has appeared with the opera companies of Chicago, Houston and Santa Fe, as well as the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and the Welsh National Opera. In August 2005 he conducted an internationally renowned cast in three cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Seattle Opera, drawing raves from The Seattle Times: “Loud roars of approval greeted each act when conductor Robert Spano entered the orchestra pit, where he continues to work magic…” This success led to his immediate re-engagement to lead the company’s next Ring cycles in 2009.
As the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s reputation continues to bloom under his stewardship, Robert Spano leads them in a six-city Florida tour, including Miami, West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Gainesville and Orlando in a program of works by Theofanides, Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff. The Atlanta Symphony and Atlanta Symphony Chorus perform three concerts at the Miami Performing Arts Center comprising Jennifer Higdon’s Dooryard Bloom and Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s 2006-2007 schedule at home under its music director opens with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and presents other Beethoven works, such as the “Emperor” Concerto with pianist André Watts and the “Pastoral” Symphony. Robert Spano also conducts Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 with Garrick Ohlsson, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 with Emmanuel Ax, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Bach’s St. John Passion, Orff’s Carmina burana, Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3, “Song of the Night,” Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste, and Christopher Theofanides’ Rainbow Body (recorded by the ASO on the Telarc label).
Also this season, Robert Spano guest conducts the New World Symphony in Miami, where his program will include the world premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s expanded version of Impressions from The Garden of Cosmic Speculation and Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra. Additional engagements include performances with the Boston, Houston and Saint Louis Symphonies, and internationally, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and the celebrated BBC Proms at London’s Barbican Centre in the UK premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s La Passion de Simone.
Last season garnered an unprecedented series of triumphs for Robert Spano and his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They were featured prominently in New York, performing Golijov’s La Pasión Según San Marcos on Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series and in Carnegie Hall for Verdi’s Requiem. The ensemble was in residence at the 2006 Ojai Festival in Los Angeles: “the excellent Atlanta Symphony…under its likable music director, Robert Spano, proudly put a happy face (even a smiley one) on new music,” (Los Angeles Times) playing a concert version of Golijov’s chamber opera Ainadamar and Oceana, as well as music by de Falla, Luciano Berio and John Adams.
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.” Their disc of Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony, recorded in Telarc’s new Super Audio Compact Disc format (SACD) and distinguished by a Grammy Award, garnered raves, such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s: “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 American composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Jennifer Higdon, and Christopher Theofanides. A 2004 disc of Jennifer Higdon works received multiple Grammy nominations, including “Best Classical Album,” and the recording of Berlioz’s Requiem, the fifth with the ASO for Telarc, received a 2005 Grammy Award for “Best Choral Album.”
In October 2005 Telarc released 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 texts by Persian poet Rumi and Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony. In 2004, Deutsche Grammophon announced a dynamic new partnership between Osvaldo Golijov and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, led by Robert Spano. Current recording projects include the composer’s Three Songs, Oceana, and the recently released chamber opera Ainadamar.
Since Roberts Spano’s arrival at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the ASO has reported increased single ticket and subscription sales while the number of its donors has risen by more than 40 percent. He regularly programs and performs music of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as world premieres of ASO-commissioned works. He maintains a strong community presence by appearing in recitals and chamber music performances with ASO musicians throughout the Atlanta community.
Robert Spano 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 critical acclaim. During his nine-year tenure he brought the ensemble to international attention through thematic programming and special projects, including Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face, John Adams’s Nixon in China and Death of Klinghoffer, world premieres by Michael Hersch, Bright Sheng, Phillip Glass, and Christopher Theofanides, and more than 40 New York premieres. “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)
In addition to his demanding performance schedule, Robert Spano is a strong advocate for 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. In January of 2007, Spano brings the Oberlin Student Orchestra to Carnegie Hall with a performance of music by Jennifer Higdon, Mozart, and Bartók. He also appears frequently at the Aspen Music Festival.
An accomplished pianist, Robert Spano performs chamber music with many of his colleagues from the Boston Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Oberlin Conservatory. Born in 1961 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. He 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. Robert Spano makes his home in Atlanta.
“He seems the most comprehensively gifted American conductor to emerge since James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas and Leonard Slatkin.” The Boston Globe
“[Robert Spano is] a phenomenon: he pulls together the most intellectually and emotionally gripping orchestral concerts in New York.” The New Yorker
Read the August 21, 2006 Article in The New Yorker
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