The ASO's 2019-20 season, its 75th will be the penultimate valedictory year for music director Robert Spano. (credit: :eff Roffman)

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra unveils its 75th anniversary season

Mark Gresham | 13 MAR 2019 @ Noon *

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has officially announced its 2019-20 season, in which the orchestra will celebrate its 75th anniversary in grand style. It’s the first of two valedictory seasons for ASO music director Robert Spano, revisiting his favorite repertoire as well as soloists he’s cherished during his tenure in Atlanta.

ASO music director Robert Spano (credit: Angela Morris)
ASO music director Robert Spano (credit: Angela Morris)

The 2019-20 season also marks the 250th birth year of Ludwig van Beethoven, another major cause for celebration, including a significant invitation by Carnegie Hall for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to present Beethoven’s Missa solemnis as a high point of their own season-long Beethoven Celebration (April 4), with Atlanta performances taking place at Symphony Hall the week before (March 26, 27).

Additional ASO salutes to Beethoven’s 250th birth year include his Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 7, the Leonore Overture No. 3, the Violin Concerto performed by concertmaster David Coucheron (January 16, 18, 19) and the Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) performed by pianist André Watts (March 19, 21, plus a performance at the Savannah Music Festival on March 28).


The new season’s wide range of programming includes the 24-week Delta Classical Series, Coca-Cola Holiday Concerts, Family Concert Series, Movies in Concert Series, and Delta Atlanta Symphony Hall LIVE. In addition to classical season performances at Symphony Hall, and the Carnegie Hall performance in New York, the ASO has scheduled a variety of concerts across Georgia to reach the larger regional community of classical music lovers.

On the home front, the classical season at Symphony Hall opens and closes with a bang, with a lot of peaks in between. Among the highlights not mentioned above:

Violinist Joshua Bell (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzuco)
Violinist Joshua Bell (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzuco)
  • Opening weekend with violin sensation Joshua Bell performing Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2, sharing the program with Wagner’s prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, with Robert Spano conducting. (September 20,21,22).
  • Robert Spano leads an all-star cast in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”) featuring the combined vocal forces of the mighty Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the Morehouse and Spelman College Glee Clubs, the Gwinnett Young Singers and eight world-class vocal soloists (November 14, 16).
  • Pianist Emanuel Ax (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)
    Pianist Emanuel Ax (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)
  • Pianist Emanuel Ax will perform Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, led by Robert Spano, alongside a pair of world premieres written especially for the ASO (November 21, 23, plus a performance in Athens at University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson Hall on November 24).
  • A pair of “Northern Lights” themed concerts will feature music of Scandinavia with guest conductor Thomas Søndengåtd. They will include violinist Blake Pouliot performing the Violin Concerto of Jean Sibelius (February 20,22) and Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, performed by pianist Håvard Gimse (February 27, 29).
  • Violinist Itzhak Perlman (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)Violinist Itzhak Perlman (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)
    Violinist Itzhak Perlman (credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)
  • A special one-night-only performance by acclaimed violinist Itzhak Perlman with former ASO music director Yoel Levi conducting. Perlman will perform Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The program also includes the Overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (March 11).
  • ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles will lead Carl Orff’s concupiscent choral dynamo, Carmina burana, featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and a trio of guest soloists in four performances at Symphony Hall (April 23, 24, 25, 26).
  • Soprano Tamara Wilson (credit: Cassandra Kay)
    Soprano Tamara Wilson (credit: Cassandra Kay)
  • The classical season will close with the first-ever Atlanta performance of Wagner’s complete Tristan und Isolde, with each of the week’s three concerts at Symphony Hall featuring a single act paired with a piece by either Bach, Schoenberg or Purcell: Act I on June 11, Act II on June 13 and Act III on June 14. Robert Spano will conduct the performances, which will feature a powerhouse cast of operatic soloists that includes Tamara Wilson as Isolde and Simon O’Neill as Tristan in their ASO debuts, Georgia native Jamie Barton as Brangane, Ryan McKinny as Kurwenal (also making his ASO debut), Andrea Mastroni as King Marke and Ric Furman as Melot.

Ten guest conductors will join the ASO during the 2019-20 season: Karina Canellakis, Nicholas Carter, James Gaffigan, Yoel Levi, Nicola Luisotti, Thomas Søndengåtd, Emmanuel Villaume, Edo de Waart, Mark Wigglesworth and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. Four of them, Canellakis, Carter, Villaume and Szeps-Znaider will be making their Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducting debuts.

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Three ASO musicians will be featured as soloists this season. Concertmaster David Coucheron will perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto; principal oboe Elizabeth Koch Tiscione will be soloist for the Oboe Concerto of Ralph Vaughan Williams, principal trumpet Stuart Stephenson will perform Alexander Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto.

The season will feature 14 guest instrumental soloists, four making their ASO debuts: Violinists Joshua Bell, James Ehnes, Leila Josefowicz, Midori, Itzhak Perlman and Blake Pouliot; pianists Ronald Brautigam, Håvard Gimse, Kirill Gerstein, Tengku Irfan, Jorge Federico Rios, Andrew von Doyen and André Watts; plus guitarist Milos Karadaglic.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (credit: Jeff Roffman)
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus (credit: Jeff Roffman)

The full Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus will be featured in three different masterworks, performing Mahier’s Symphony No. 8, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Orff’s Carmina burana, plus its annual holiday tradition of Christmas with the ASO. The ASO Chamber Chorus will sing Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 12(“Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”), Handel’s Messiah and in Act I of Wagner’s Tristan und lsolde.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s 75th season promises to be an unforgettable celebration. The 2019-20 subscription series goes on sale today, March 13, 2019. Visit for more information. ■

*Note: This article first appeared in print in the ASO’s March 2019 Encore program booklet and is republished here with permission of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.