In his distinguished career, Robert Spano has conducted the greatest orchestras of North America, including those in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Abroad he has led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala (Milan), Czech Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Sinfonie Orchestra, BBC Scottish and BBC Symphony Orchestras, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, and Oslo Philharmonic, among others.
Equally accomplished as an operatic conductor, he has appeared with the opera companies of Chicago and Houston, as well as at the Santa Fe Opera, Royal Opera at Covent Garden and 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 Ring cycles in 2009.
The 2009-2010 season marks the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 65th Anniversary Season. In celebration of this milestone, and his ongoing commitment to nurture and champion new works, Robert Spano leads the Orchestra in five world premieres, three of which are ASO commissions. In October 2009 Spano conducts pianist-composer Dejan Lazic in the premiere of the latter's new piano arrangement of the Brahms Violin Concerto, and Chinese composer Angel Lam's Awakening from a Disappearing Garden for Cello and Orchestra, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. This work, a Carnegie Hall commission, will be reprised for a New York premiere at Carnegie Hall in November, along with Stravinsky's opera Le Rossignol, as part of their festival, Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: Celebrating Chinese Culture.
Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra also present the premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-musician Wynton Marsalis's American Symphony, a co-commission with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the composer's first work written exclusively for symphony orchestra. Robert Spano continues his passionate advocacy of the Atlanta School of Composers this year by leading the Orchestra in two world premieres commissioned by the ASO: Jennifer Higdon's concerto written for the new music ensemble eighth blackbird and orchestra, and Mr. Gandolfi's new work for orchestra and chorus. Both commissions will also be recorded. Mr. Spano also conducts Suite from Youth Without Youth, the latest work by another member of the Atlanta School of Composers, Osvaldo Golijov. In June 2009 the ASO and Maestro Spano host the League of American Orchestras' 65th National Conference, and he leads the ASO in performances of Ms. Higdon's and Mr. Gandolfi's world premieres mentioned above, as well as Christopher Theofanidis' new symphony, which received its world premiere in March 2009.
In addition to his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra engagements during the 2009-2010 season, Robert Spano leads such esteemed ensembles as the Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Seattle, Saint Louis and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, BBC Symphony Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, giving the UK premiere of Jukka Tiensuu's False Memories. He participates in the Aspen Music Festival and conducts Verdi's Otello at the Cincinnati Opera.
With a discography of 12 critically acclaimed recordings for Telarc and Deutsche Grammophon recorded over six years, Robert Spano has garnered six Grammy Awards. Under his 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 won three Grammy Awards and garnered raves, as did Rainbow Body, a disc featuring works by American composers Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Jennifer Higdon, and Christopher Theofanidis. 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 work commissioned by the ASO inspired by the legend of Paul Revere, with thematic references to the bravery of firefighters on September 11, 2001. The disc also includes an ASO-commissioned work by Christopher Theofanidis based on texts by Persian poet Rumi. Recordings of Sibellius's Kullervo and music of Vaughan Williams's were released in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The Vaughan Williams disc was named CD of the month in the September 2007 Gramophone. In 2004 Deutsche Grammophon announced a dynamic new partnership between Osvaldo Golijov the ASO and Chorus and Robert Spano that has so far produced two discs, one featuring the composer's Three Songs and Oceana, and the chamber opera Ainadamar, which received two 2006 Grammy Awards for "Best Contemporary Composition" and "Best Opera Recording."
2008 saw the release of three more recordings: Michael Gandolfi's The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Brahms's Requiem and a live concert recording of Puccini's La Bohème-the first American recording of the opera since 1956-about which Opera News wrote: "The maestro is an experienced opera conductor as well, and he allows his singers a degree of freedom for the purpose of expression. The orchestra plays beautifully for him." Both La Bohème and The Garden of Cosmic Speculation were nominated for Grammy Awards in 2009 ("Best Engineered Album, Classical" and "Best Classical Contemporary Composition," respectively).
Since Robert Spano's arrival at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra has reported increased single ticket and subscription sales while the number of its donors has risen by more than 40 percent. In addition to standard repertoire, 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 city.
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 eight-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 The Death of Klinghoffer, world premieres by Michael Hersch, Bright Sheng, Phillip Glass, and Christopher Theofanidis, 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 Conducting Fellowship Program at the Tanglewood Music Center from 1998-2002, and is a professor of conducting at the Oberlin Conservatory. In January of 2007, Spano brought the Oberlin Student Orchestra to Carnegie Hall with a critically acclaimed performance of music by Jennifer Higdon, Mozart, and Bartók. He was Music Director of the 2006 Ojai Festival and has appeared frequently at the Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals. He is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory, and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music and Emory University. In May 2009 Spano was awarded Columbia University's Ditson Conductor's Award for the advancement of American music.
An accomplished pianist, Robert Spano performs chamber music with many of his colleagues from the Atlanta 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. In 2004 at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Mr. Spano performed "under water," a work for solo piano he composed based on Debussy's Engulfed Cathedral. The New York Times praised it as "a cohesive and often lovely solo piano work." 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. Mr. Spano was named Musical America's 2008 Conductor of the Year. Robert Spano makes his home in Atlanta.