Robert Spano, conductor, pianist, composer, and teacher, 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 18th 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. As Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 2011, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs for 630 students and rising artists.
Highlights of the 2018-2019 season have included Mr. Spano’s Metropolitan Opera debut, leading the US premiere of Marnie, the second opera by American composer Nico Muhly, with Isabel Leonard, Janis Kelly, Denyce Graves, Iestyn Davies, and Christopher Maltman. With the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, programs include the Music Director’s quintessentially rich, diverse pairings of contemporary works and cherished classics, welcoming seasoned guest artists and many new faces. Opening the season, Kirill Gerstein joined Spano and the Orchestra in a program of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky; further performances with the Orchestra include works by composers as varied as Jennifer Higdon and Berlioz, Michael Gandolfi and Mozart, Christopher Theofanidis and Tchaikovsky, James Oliverio and Beethoven, featuring acclaimed soloists Johannes Moser, Roberto Diaz, Daniel Hope, David Finkel, Wu Han, and Jeremy Denk. Additionally, Spano recently invited Atlanta-based dance troupe GLO to the Symphony Hall stage, with a music and dance collaboration featuring Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. The conductor concludes the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season with Beethoven’s beloved Fidelio, featuring the acclaimed ASO Chorus and starring soprano Christine Goerke. Overseas, Spano’s guest engagements included two compelling programs with works by Jennifer Higdon, John Adams, Barber, Gershwin, Copland, and Dvorak with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; and an all-Mahler program with acclaimed bass-baritone Shenyang with the Hangzhou Philharmonic later this spring. The conductor also appeared with the San Diego Symphony and pianist Jorge Federico Osorio; the Fort Worth Symphony with Jessica Rivera; and will conduct the Nashville Symphony with Simon Trpčeski.
Mr. Spano’s recent concert highlights have included several world premiere performances, including Voy a Dormir, by prolific composer Bryce Dessner at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor; the 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 Miserere by the ASO’s own bassist Michael Kurth. With the Atlanta Symphony, Spano brings local audiences inspired, thoughtful programming, including the conclusion of the two-year “LB/LB” celebration commemorating Leonard Bernstein and Ludwig van Beethoven, featuring six Bernstein works and nine Beethoven Symphonies, and vocal masterpieces including Verdi’s Otello and Bernstein’s Candide. 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 and praised by Oberon’s Grove: “On this latest release, from ASO, we experience Spano as both an imaginative and evocative composer - with a special gift for writing for the voice - and a poetic pianist.”
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 cycles. Spano also holds a conductor residency with the Colburn School Orchestra in Los Angeles.
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.