Atlanta Symphony music director Robert Spano and principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles have agreed to extend their contracts through the 2008-09 season, the ASO announced.
The two conductors were named to their positions in February 2000 and began their tenures in September 2001. In 2002, their contracts were extended through the 2006-07 season.
Spano will continue to lead 14 weeks per year; Runnicles will conduct six week per year.
Over the last four years, said ASO president Allison Vulgamore, “the Atlanta Symphony, through Robert and Donald, has created a virtual school of living composers [and] experimental concert presentation environments, and recorded distinctive multi-disc releases annually. It’s an exciting, innovative, and important contribution to the world of music.”
Since Spano and Runnicles arrived, the ASO has released eight CDs—in a time when most American orchestras are recording rarely, if ever—and has won five Grammy Awards. The orchestra has performed and recorded new music by important young composers such as Jennifer Higdon and Osvaldo Golijov; this season, the ASO travels to Lincoln Center to participate in a Golijov festival.
It seems likely that this extension will be Spano's last in Atlanta, if only because he will be offered a position at a top-tier American orchestra before long.
"I am honored to continue the work we have begun together,” Spano said in a statement. "I love the collaborative spirit that exists with the orchestra, chorus, and the entire organization and I look forward to our future with great anticipation."
Donald Runnicles said, “The partnership that I share with Robert, Allison, and the Atlanta Symphony is extremely gratifying and I am happy and excited that our work together will continue.”
Spano was the head of the Conducting Fellowship Program at the Juilliard School from 1998 to 2002, and music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic from 1996-2004. Runnicles has been music director of San Francisco Opera since 1992; he is also principal conductor of New York's Orchestra of St. Luke's and was recently named music director of the Grand Teton Music Festival.