(ATLANTA, GA; Jan 23, 2018) Robert Spano has announced plans to conclude his distinguished tenure as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in June 2021. The 2020-21 season will mark his 20th year at the orchestra’s helm, making him one of the longest-tenured music directors of a major U.S. orchestra. Spano is one of only four music directors to lead the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in the course of its 75-year history. Following the 2020-21 season, he will assume the title of Conductor Laureate of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and will continue to conduct the orchestra on a regular basis. The 2019–20 season will mark the ASO’s 75th anniversary season, which will be celebrated with special projects and events.
Robert Spano, Music Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, said: “To end an intense artistic relationship is never an easy decision to contemplate, especially one as fruitful and inspiring as the one I have enjoyed as Music Director of this outstanding American orchestra. Twenty years is a good benchmark to balance the long-term commitment I have made to the ASO with the necessity of looking towards its future as well as my own. Accordingly, I have decided to complete my tenure as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2020-21 season. I believe that together, many shared goals and dreams have been achieved. After these many years of great personal and artistic fulfillment, this is an institution that I deeply love: our devoted board members, our committed staff, our enthusiastic audiences, our talented youth orchestra, our magnificent chorus, and of course, all these extraordinary musicians who constitute the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I look forward to many return visits in the years ahead.”
Musical, artistic and administrative leadership
Spano’s thoughtful leadership and clear artistic vision have had a significant impact on the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its audiences. More than 40% of the current members of the ASO joined the orchestra under his directorship. He has mentored numerous assistant conductors including Alexander Mickelthwate (Music Director of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic), Mei-Ann Chen (Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta and Conductor Laureate of the Memphis Symphony), Laura Jackson (Music Director of the Reno Philharmonic), Joseph Young (Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Artistic Director of Ensembles and Chair of the Conducting Faculty at the Peabody Conservatory), as well as current Assistant Conductor and Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, Stephen Mulligan. Spano also served as an Emory University Distinguished Artist in Residence for a three-year term from 2010-12.
In addition to shaping the current sound of the orchestra, Spano was a key contributor to the ASO’s recent financial turnaround. After two work stoppages in 2012 and 2014, he helped bring resolution by co-chairing the Musicians’ Endowment Campaign together with ASO Board Member John White. The campaign raised more than $27 million to fund eleven restored positions in the orchestra in perpetuity, exceeding the $25 million goal and finishing two years ahead of schedule. The orchestra has reported a budget surplus for three consecutive seasons.
Jennifer Barlament, Executive Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, said: “It is a tremendous privilege to work with Robert Spano, one of the preeminent minds in American music. His masterful grasp of the orchestral idiom, of what it takes to bring the music to life, and of what it takes to engage the community in the adventure of new music make him one of the most significant voices in the orchestral world. In addition, his sense of humanity, humility and generosity make him an inspiring collaborator. His impact on this institution and this city cannot be overstated and will continue for generations to come.”
Daniel Laufer, Associate Principal Cello, and Paul Murphy, Associate Principal Viola of the ASO, said: “We are forever grateful to Robert for his unwavering leadership as our Music Director, his passionate music making, and his staunch advocacy for our orchestra, which we know is so dear to his heart. We are very fortunate that Robert will have led the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for 20 years. Among many wonderful achievements, Robert has demonstrated to the orchestra and to our community that the music of living composers, when nurtured by extraordinary talent like Robert, can be a truly exhilarating experience for all. We look forward to many magnificent performances over the next three years as we celebrate our 75th anniversary and Robert’s tenure.”
Commissions, touring and recording
Spano’s two-decade partnership with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has yielded many significant milestones and accomplishments, including a long and fruitful relationship with Carnegie Hall, with nine performances at the venue over the past 17 years as well as tours to the Kennedy Center and the Ojai, Savannah, and Amelia Island Music Festivals.
Under Spano’s leadership the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra developed an international reputation, by prolifically commissioning, performing, touring, and recording new works. A composer himself, Spano has championed and shaped the careers of several celebrated American composers, including Jennifer Higdon, Michael Gandolfi, and Christopher Theofanidis, who are all part of the ASO’s Atlanta School of Composers. During his tenure, the orchestra has performed approximately 28 ASO commissions; 13 ASO co-commissions; 49 world premieres; and 32 Atlanta and U.S. premieres. In 2016, in recognition of Spano’s extraordinary commitment to contemporary composers, he was awarded the American Composers Forum’s Champion of New Music Award.
Many of the ASO commissions and premieres conducted by Spano were recorded on the Telarc and ASO Media labels. Of the 20 recordings led by Spano, six received Grammy Awards, a significant legacy and contribution to the ASO’s Grammy Award-winning catalog. Among his most notable recordings are Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, Christopher Theofanidis’s The Here and Now, Puccini’s La bohème, Sibelius’s Kullervo and Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7, John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, and Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony.
Howard Palefsky, Board Chair, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, said: “Under Robert Spano’s leadership, the worldwide artistic reputation of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has risen to new heights. Although he will leave his post as Music Director after the 2020-21 season, I know his vision, passion, and creativity will serve as a catalyst, continuing to strengthen the orchestra over time. We look forward to announcing the ASO’s plans to honor Robert’s tremendous legacy to the ASO, Atlanta, and the classical music community.”
A committee will be formed to begin the search for Maestro Spano’s successor. In the meantime, the season continues with many concerts under his leadership, and the ASO looks forward to announcing its 74th season in mid-March.