The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) is an American orchestra based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Robert Spano has been its music director since 2001 Orchestra was founded in 1945, and played its first concert as the Atlanta Youth Symphony under the direction of Henry Sopkin, a Chicago music educator who remained its conductor until 1966.The organization changed to its current name in 1947, and soon began attracting well known soloists such as Isaac Stern and Glenn Gould. In 1967, with the departure of Sopkin, Robert Shaw (founder of the Robert Shaw Chorale) became the Music Director, and a year later the Orchestra became full-time. In 1970, Shaw founded a choir, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. In 1988, Yoel Levi became Music Director and Principal Conductor. Under him, the Orchestra played at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Levi became Music Director Emeritus in 2000, and was succeeded as Music Director by Robert Spano.
The Orchestra and Chorus made their first recording, a 2-LP Christmas album entitled Nativity, for Turnabout/Vox Records in 1975, conducted by Robert Shaw. This was an album directly based on their annual Christmas concert. A slightly shortened version of the 75-minute album was issued by Vox in the 1990s on compact disc er the title Christmas with Robert Shaw.
In 1978, the ASO became the first American orchestra to make a digital recording intended for commercial release, when it played Igor Stravinsky's Firebird suite and excerpts from Alexander Borodin's opera, Prince Igor for the Telarc label. As of 2009, the orchestra and chorus still record for Telarc, one of the longest continuous associations of an orchestra with a record label. In 2004, the Orchestra initiated an agreement with the Deutsche Grammophon label to record several works by composer Osvaldo Golijov, while continuing its ongoing relationship with Telarc which has resulted in 26 Grammy awards.
One of the Orchestra and Chorus's best-known recordings, of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony conducted by Robert Shaw, was recorded for the now defunct Pro Arte label, and is out of print, though excerpts from the "Ode to Joy" fourth movement may be found in anthologies issued on the Reference Gold and Classical Heritage labels.
Another of the Symphony's recordings now out-of-print because it was recorded for the Pro Arte label is that of Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1, with Peter Serkin as soloist and Robert Shaw conducting. It is one of the few recordings without a chorus that the orchestra made with Shaw.
The Orchestra toured Europe under Yoel Levi in 1991; and with its Chorus, under Robert Shaw, in 1988. In 2006 the Orchestra and its Chamber Chorus, under Robert Spano, served as the resident ensemble for California's Ojai Festival. The full ASO Chorus has thrice visited Berlin, giving three performances on each occasion of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem (2003), Hector Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts (2008), and Johannes Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem (2009) with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles.
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