Robert Spano headed to Aspen

James Inverne
Sunday, March 13, 2011

After a difficult period in its history, arguably America's most respected classical music festival has named a new music director. The Aspen Music Festival and School has appointed 49 year-old Robert Spano, who also runs the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, to the post.

The move follows a turbulent period that saw the previous music director, David ZInman, leave after disagreements with the festival's president, Alan Fletcher. But Spano seems to tick some important Aspen boxes – not least as a teacher (Spano has a long-standing affiliation with the Oberlin Conservatory, and the school aspect of Aspen is central to everything they do). Like his predecessor, Spano is also a noted orchestra builder and has a high profile thanks to recordings as well as his live work.

Many important composers as well as singers and instrumentalists have passed through Aspen's school – most of them now regularly return as festival performers – and here too Spano will have scored; he has made a point of championing contemporary composers such as Jennifer Higdon and Osvaldo Golijov. Spano is the fourth music director in the festival's history, following Zinman, Lawrence Foster and Jorge Mester.

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