Performance Saturday, October 27, 2012 | 7:30 PM

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Copland’s stirring tribute to rural America and the bullish spirit of its settlers kicks off the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s only New York appearance this season. Two powerful works for chorus and soloists follow: Bernstein’s tuneful Chichester Psalms, which echo the rhythmic freshness of West Side Story, and Walton’s oratorio about the fall of a Babylonian king. There’s no one better to lead all this than Robert Spano, who captures the drama in everything he conducts.


  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
    Robert Spano, Music Director and Conductor
  • John Holiday, Countertenor
  • Brett Polegato, Baritone
  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus
    Norman Mackenzie, Director of Choruses


  • COPLAND Appalachian Spring
  • BERNSTEIN Chichester Psalms
  • WALTON Belshazzar's Feast



    Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

    Currently in its 68th season, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra consistently affirms its position as one of America's leading orchestras and serves as the cornerstone for artistic development and music education in the Southeast.

    During its 32-year history with Telarc, the orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus recorded more than 100 albums, and their recordings have won 27 Grammy Awards. The orchestra continues to record regularly on its new in-house label, ASO Media.

    The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs more than 200 concerts each year for a combined audience of more than a half-million. A recognized leader and supporter of contemporary American music, the orchestra received the 2007 award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. With the opening of the 12,000-seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park ( in May 2008, the orchestra became the first US ensemble to annually perform and present in its concert hall and in two amphitheaters. In summer 2008, the orchestra celebrated 35 years at legendary Chastain Park Amphitheater, the award-winning 6,500 seat venue in Atlanta, during its annual Delta Classic Chastain concert series (

    Robert Spano

    Recognized as one of the brightest and most imaginative conductors of his generation, Robert Spano is currently in his 12th season as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and has elevated the ensemble to new levels of international prominence.

    Under Mr. Spano's artistic leadership, the orchestra and its audiences have explored a creative mix of programming, including Theater of a Concert performances, which utilize different formats, settings, and enhancements for the musical performance experience. The Atlanta School of Composers reflects Mr. Spano's and the orchestra's commitment to nurturing and championing music through multi-year partnerships that define a new generation of American composers. Since 2001, Mr. Spano and the orchestra have performed more than 100 concerts containing contemporary works. By the end of the 2012-2013 season, they will have performed 16 ASO-commissioned world premieres and 14 additional world premieres, including 10 fanfares performed in the 2010-2011 season in honor of the 10th anniversary of the artistic partnership between Mr. Spano and Donald Runnicles and 10 years of the Atlanta School of Composers.

    Mr. Spano's discography with the orchestra numbers 19 recordings, six of which have won Grammy Awards. He has led the orchestra in performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and at the Ravinia, Ojai, and Savannah music festivals.

    As music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, Mr. Spano oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs, including Aspen's American Academy of Conducting. Dedicated to pedagogy and multidisciplinary studies, he has lectured on "Community" for TEDx and recently completed a three-year residency at Emory University. In its 165-year history, Emory has honored only seven other individuals with such expansive residencies, including the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, and author Salman Rushdie.

    Musical America's Conductor of the Year in 2008, Mr. Spano is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University, and Oberlin, as well as Columbia University's Ditson Conductor's Award for the advancement of American music.

    Mr. Spano's guest engagements include performances with the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, San Francisco Symphony, the Boston and Chicago symphony orchestras, and the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, as well as Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony, and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He has conducted at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Welsh National Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago; and Houston Grand Opera, as well as the 2005 and 2009 Ring cycles at Seattle Opera.

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    John Holiday

    In the 2012-2013 season, John Holiday covers Nireno in Giulio Cesare under Harry Bicket at the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Holiday made his Portland Opera debut in Phillip Glass's Galileo Galilei in the 2011-2012 season, and will reprise his roles in the same work at the Cincinnati Opera in summer 2013.

    Recent highlights include Handel's Messiah with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and Purcell's Come, Ye Sons of Art with the Chorus of Westerly (Rhode Island). Mr. Holiday performed in a benefit concert at the Dallas Opera after winning first place in the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition; in addition, he was an apprentice artist at Santa Fe Opera, where he covered the role of Corrado in Peter Sellars's production of Vivaldi's Griselda and was seen as the Refugee in Flight for the Apprentice Scenes Program. Additionally, he performed Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare in at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, and was a soloist with Bourbon Baroque in Louisville.

    Other career highlights include an invitation by Pope John Paul II to sing as soloist for High Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in 2002. In addition to the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, Mr. Holiday recently won first prize at the Sullivan Foundation competition (2012) and fifth place in the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition (2011). In 2007, he was the first-place winner in his district at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. From 2004 to 2006, Mr. Holiday was a first-place winner of the TEXOMA region of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Mr. Holiday also excels in jazz music, having opened for Grammy Award winner Jason Mraz in concert. He earned his bachelor's degree in voice performance at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and his master's degree from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music.

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  • Brett Polegato

    Brett Polegato's artistic sensibility has earned him the highest praise from audiences and critics alike. He appears regularly on the world's most distinguished stages, including Lincoln Center, Teatro alla Scala, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Opéra national de Paris, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Teatro Real, Roy Thomson Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. He cans also be heard as soloist in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Grammy Award-winning recording of Vaughan Williams's A Sea Symphony the under the baton of Robert Spano.

    In the 2011-2012 season, Mr. Polegato returned to Russia to star in a new production of Così fan tutte at the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre with conductor Teodor Currentzis. In October, he participated in the Aldeburgh Connection's Clair de lune concert celebrating the music of Gabriel Fauré, and in February joined the group for its 30th Anniversary Gala Concert. Last winter, he appeared with both the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra for performances and a recording of Handel's Messiah. In January, Mr. Polegato sang Starbuck opposite the Ahab of Ben Heppner in Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick for Calgary Opera; in the spring, he made his debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andris Nelsons, singing Kurwenal in concert performances of Tristan und Isolde in Birmingham and Paris. In March, he appeared with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his Orchestre Métropolitain at the new concert hall in Montreal in a performance and recording of Zemlinsky's Lyrische Symphonie, and subsequently performed Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs and Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem in Winnipeg. Mr. Polegato concluded the season with performances of Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with the Seattle Opera.


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  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus

    Acclaimed for its beauty, precision, and expressive qualities, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus has been an important part of the orchestra's programming since its founding in 1970 by Robert Shaw. It is composed entirely of volunteers who meet weekly for rehearsals and perform with the ASO several times each season. Both the symphonic-sized ASO Chorus and the smaller Chamber Chorus are featured on the majority of the ASO's recordings, and have won 14 Grammy Awards (nine for Best Choral Performance, four for Best Classical Recording, and one for Best Opera Recording).

    The ASO choruses made their Carnegie Hall debut in 1976, and have returned to perform there on many subsequent occasions, most recently with the ASO in October 2010 and Robert Spano for Janáček's Glagolitic Mass. The chorus performed at the Kennedy Center for President-elect Jimmy Carter's Inaugural Concert in 1977, and in 1988, it accompanied the orchestra on its first European tour. It has appeared with the ASO for several televised concerts, including the 1996 Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games, broadcast worldwide. Under the leadership of music directors Robert Shaw and Robert Spano, the ASO Chorus has been involved in the creation and shaping of 11 commissioned choral works, eight of which have been recorded.

    The choruses have twice been a special guest at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago: In June 2003, the ASOC opened the festival with Robert Spano and the ASO in a critically acclaimed performance of John Adams's El Niño, and in 2006, the Chamber Chorus performed in Osvaldo Golijov's opera Ainadamar. The chorus has traveled to Germany three times to perform with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Philharmonie: in December 2003 for Britten's War Requiem, in May 2008 for Berlioz's Requiem,  and in December 2009 for Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem.

    Norman Mackenzie's abilities as musical collaborator, conductor, and concert organist have brought him international recognition. As director of choruses for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 2000 and holder of its endowed Frannie and Bill Graves Chair, he was chosen to help carry forward the creative vision of legendary founding conductor Robert Shaw to a new generation of music lovers. During his tenure, the chorus has made numerous tours and won Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance. At the ASO, he prepares the choruses for all concerts and recordings, works closely with Robert Spano on the commissioning and realization of new choral-orchestral works, and conducts annual holiday concerts. Mr. Mackenzie also serves as director of music and fine arts for Atlanta's Trinity Presbyterian Church, and pursues an active recital and guest-conducting schedule.

    In his 14-year association with Shaw, Mr. Mackenzie was keyboardist for the ASO, principal accompanist for the ASO choruses, and ultimately assistant choral conductor. In addition, he was musical assistant and accompanist for the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers, the Robert Shaw Institute Summer Choral Festivals in France and the US, and Carnegie Hall's famed Robert Shaw Choral Workshop program. He was choral clinician for the first three workshops after Shaw's passing, and partnered with Robert Spano for the 2011 workshop that featured the Berlioz Requiem.


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Copland's Appalachian Spring

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra | Robert Spano, Conductor

At a Glance


AARON COPLAND  Appalachian Spring Suite

Appalachian Spring was a collaboration with the legendary dancer-choreographer Martha Graham. The ballet depicts a young couple in the early 19th century, starting their life together in the hills of Pennsylvania. Copland's incorporation of the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" is one of the most beautiful and unforgettable moments in American concert music.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN  Chichester Psalms

Bernstein composed his Chichester Psalms while on sabbatical from his position as music director of the New York Philharmonic. During the sabbatical, Bernstein experimented with 12-tone music and avant-garde techniques, but, as he recalled, "after about six months of work I threw it all away. It just wasn't my music. It wasn't honest. The end result was the CHICHESTER PSALMS ..." Bernstein described the piece as "the most accessible, B-flat-majorish tonal piece I've ever written. If one is trying to find optimism versus pessimism in my music, the closest musical equivalent is tonality versus non-tonality."

WILLIAM WALTON  Belshazzar's Feast

Belshazzar's Feast originated as a BBC commission. What began as a work for reduced forces grew into a composition for vocal soloist and large chorus and orchestra. The work depicts an episode from the Book of Daniel. During a feast, the Babylonian King Belshazzar witnesses a hand appear and write on the wall the prophecy of his demise. After the triumphant 1931 world premiere, one writer described Belshazzar's Feast as "a clear case of red-hot conception instinctively finding the right and equally red-hot means of expression."

Program Notes
$10 student rush tickets available in the balcony, center balcony, dress circle, and parquet.
This concert and the Choral Classics series are made possible, in part, by an endowment fund for choral music established by S. Donald Sussman in memory of Judith Arron and Robert Shaw.
This performance is part of Choral Classics.