Philadelphia Orchestra principal guest conductor Nathalie Stutzmann has been named music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Robert Spano. The French conductor and contralto begins an initial four-year contract next fall to lead the Atlanta Symphony, that orchestra announced Wednesday.

Stutzmann said the new post was born of a quickly formed chemistry with the ensemble and comes with added significance.

“We know with a woman it’s almost impossible to get a music director position, and it means a lot to me to be the one who will help to change things,” said Stutzmann by phone this week. “It shows a great modernity here, something I liked in Philadelphia. It’s the same feeling that no one cared whether I am a woman or not.”

Stutzmann, 56, is only now officially beginning her Philadelphia duties with the start of the current season. Her commitment calls for three weeks of conducting in the main subscription season plus the possibility of more dates at the orchestra’s summer homes in Vail, Colo. and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and on tour.

She said the Atlanta job will not affect her responsibilities in Philadelphia.

“Of course it doesn’t change anything. I am also totally in love with my family in Philadelphia,” she said.

Philadelphia Orchestra president and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky also said nothing would change in terms of Stutzmann’s dates and commitments in Philadelphia. He said he is looking forward to seeing her relationship in Philadelphia grow over the next few years, and that the relationship “just goes from strength to strength every time we see her.”

Her next scheduled appearance in Philadelphia is slated for this December in a program of Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) and the Schubert Symphony No. 9 (“Great”).

Stutzmann has had a career as both singer and conductor, and says that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s strong tradition in choral music was part of the lure for her.

“It has one of the most famous choirs in America. As a singer, it’s a great attraction, of course. There is a lot of repertoire I would like to explore with them.”