Robert Spano ( // SPAN-oh; born 7 May 1961, Conneaut, Ohio) is an American conductor and pianist. He is currently music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO), music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, and music director-designate of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
Spano grew up in a musical family in Elkhart, Indiana.His father, Tony Spano, was a flute-builder and instrument-repairman as well as a clarinetist. Spano began making music early, studying piano, flute and violin. By the age of 14, he conducted a composition of his own with the local orchestra.
After graduating from Elkhart Central High School, he studied at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he earned a degree in piano performance, while also pursuing the violin and composition and studying conducting with Robert Baustian.After Oberlin, he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his mentors included Max Rudolf.
In 1985, Spano left Curtis to take his first professional position, director of orchestral activities at Bowling Green State University.In 1989, he returned to Oberlin, now as a faculty member, leading the Opera Theater program. He has maintained at least an official affiliation with Oberlin ever since.
In 1990, Spano was named as an assistant conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.After leaving this post in 1993, he has been a regular guest conductor with the Boston Symphony and a teacher at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summertime. At Tanglewood, he headed the conductor training program from 1998 to 2002, and directed the Festival of Contemporary Music in 2003 and 2004. He has made appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman.
In 1995, Spano's first music directorship was announced, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic.He began his tenure in the fall of 1996. Over the next few years, despite multiple financial crises, Spano, the orchestra, and executive director Joseph Horowitz developed programs organized around intellectual, dramatic, or historical themes, with occasional incorporation of visual elements. In 2002, Spano announced his intention to step down from the Brooklyn post at the end of the 2003–2004 season, remaining as an advisor, and then principal guest conductor, until 2007.
In February 2000, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Spano as its next music director, effective in 2001.The ASO has reported increased ticket sales and donations during Spano's tenure. The ASO has extended Spano's contract as music director multiple times, and he is scheduled to conclude his ASO music directorship at the close of the 2020–2021 season.
During his ASO tenure, Spano has developed working relationships with contemporary composers such as Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Michael Gandolfi, and Adam Schoenberg, under the rubric of the "Atlanta School of Composers".Spano and the ASO have regularly recorded for Telarc, and more recently for Deutsche Grammophon, including compositions from the "Atlanta School of Composers".
Alongside conducting, Spano remains active as a pianist, performing frequently as a chamber musician. He also continues to compose his own music, though only in his time off from his performing career.Spano's work in opera has included conducting Seattle in cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen , in 2005 and in 2009. He made his guest-conducting debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 19 October 2018, with the United States premiere of Nico Muhly's opera Marnie . including the final performance on 10 November 2018, which was part of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series.
In March 2019, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) announced the appointment of Spano as its new principal guest conductor, with immediate effect, with a contract through the 2022–2023 season, simultaneously with his debut as a guest conductor with the orchestra.In February 2021, the FWSO announced the appointment of Spano as its next music director, effective with the 2022–2023 season, with an initial contract of three years. He is scheduled to transition from principal guest conductor to music direcor-designate of the FWSO on 1 April 2021.
Spano was recognized with the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award in 1994.He has also received honorary degrees from Bowling Green State University and the Curtis Institute of Music, and his recordings have won several Grammy Awards (see below). He was awarded the Ditson Conductor's Award in 2008. Musical America named Spano as its Conductor of the Year in 2008.
All recordings feature Spano conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its Chorus lead by Norman Mackenzie (as appropriate). Additional featured soloists are noted.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) is an American orchestra based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Robert Spano has been its music director since 2001. The ASO's main concert venue is Atlanta Symphony Hall in the Woodruff Arts Center.
Robert Lawson Shaw was an American conductor most famous for his work with his namesake Chorale, with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. He was known for drawing public attention to choral music through his wide-ranging influence and mentoring of younger conductors, the high standard of his recordings, his support for racial integration in his choruses, and his support for modern music, winning many awards throughout his career.
Jennifer Elaine Higdon is an American composer of classical music. She has received many awards, including the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her Violin Concerto and three Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, in 2010, 2018, and 2020. She was elected a Member of the American Philosophical Society in 2019. She has been a professor of composition at the Curtis Institute of Music since 1994.
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The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, commonly known as the ASYO, is an organization featuring Atlanta's young instrumentalists, created in 1974. Each May, about 300 middle to high school instrumentalists go through one or more auditions for places in the ASYO. Only about 100 will be selected to participate in the season.
Michael James Gandolfi is an American composer of contemporary classical music. He chairs the composition department at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC).
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Elizabeth Koch is an oboist and principal oboe of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She joined the ASO in the fall of 2007, and was granted tenure January 2009. She is a native of Buffalo, New York. Her teachers were Richard Woodhams and Daniel Stolper. She was a student at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Interlochen Arts Academy.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) is an American symphony orchestra based in Fort Worth, Texas. The orchestra is resident at the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall. In addition to its symphonic and pops concert series, the FWSO also collaborates with the Fort Worth Opera, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Southwestern Seminary Master Chorale. and the Children's Education Program of Bass Performance Hall. The FWSO also presents the Concerts In The Garden summer music festival at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
Norman Mackenzie is the multiple Grammy Award winning director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus. Mackenzie holds The Frannie and Bill Graves Chair as Director of Choruses for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He has won Grammy Awards for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performances of Vaughn William's A Sea Symphony, Berlioz' Requiem, and others including with Robert Spano conducting. He has received numerous other Grammy nominations for his choruses.
The Atlanta School of Composers is a group of contemporary classical music composers championed by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and conductor Robert Spano through performances, recordings, and commissions. Members of the group include Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Osvaldo Golijov, and Michael Gandolfi, with Adam Schoenberg added in June 2010. Works from the group including the following:
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City Scape is an orchestral piece composed by Jennifer Higdon in 2002 and commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It premiered November 14, 2002 under the direction and dedicated to Robert Spano. City Scape calls for a concerto grosso, in which 35 instruments are used; yet many of these instruments have featured solos that are scattered throughout the piece. The piece lasts a total of 31 minutes.
List of recordings of Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem, Op. 45 (1868).
The Concerto for Orchestra is an orchestral composition in five movements by the American composer Jennifer Higdon. The work was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra with contributions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Philadelphia Music Project, and Peter Benoliel. It was premiered at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia June 12, 2002, with conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch leading the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Loco is an orchestral composition in one movement by the American composer Jennifer Higdon. The work was commissioned by the Ravinia Festival of Highland Park, Illinois to commemorate the Ravinia train as part of the Train Commission Project. It was first performed on July 31, 2004 at the Ravinia Festival by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Symphony is an orchestral composition in four movements by the American composer Christopher Theofanidis. It was commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which premiered the work under the conductor Robert Spano in April 2009. The piece is dedicated to Robert Spano "in admiration and friendship."
Creation/Creator is an oratorio for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass, chorus, and orchestra by the American composer Christopher Theofanidis. The work was commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and was first performed on April 23, 2015 by the soprano Jessica Rivera, mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, tenor Thomas Cooley, baritone Nmon Ford, bass Evan Boyer, the actors Steven Cole and Shannon Eubanks, and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Orchestra under the conductor Robert Spano.
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Dennis Russell Davies
| Music Director, Brooklyn Philharmonic |
| Music Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra |