Mariss Jansons ranks among the outstanding podium personalities of our time. His orchestral work is recognized not only because of his busy touring activities but also because of television and radio broadcasts world-wide, also documented by a sizable number of recordings.
Mariss Jansons has been the Chief Conductor of the Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks since 2003. After several exceptionally successful seasons, his contract was prolonged until 2018. In 2004 he became the chief conductor of the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam so at present he holds both prestigious positions of a chief conductor at both orchestras.
Mariss Jansons succeeds Eugen Jochum, Rafael Kubelík, Sir Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel as the fifth Chief Conductor of these two eminent ensembles. In 2004, Mariss Jansons also assumed the post of Chief Conductor of the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam as the sixth Chief Conductor succeeding Willem Kes, Willem Mengelberg, Eduard van Beinum, Bernard Haitink and Riccardo Chailly.
Born in 1943 in the Latvian capital of Riga, Mariss Jansons grew up in the Soviet Union as the son of conductor Arvids Jansons. He studied violin, viola and piano and graduated with honors from the Leningrad Conservatory with a degree in conducting. Studies in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan followed. In 1971, Mariss Jansons emerged as a prize winner from the conducting competition of the Herbert von Karajan Foundation in Berlin.
He was decisively influenced by the legendary Russian conductor Evgeny Mravinsky, who brought Mariss Jansons to the Leningrad Philharmonic as his assistant in 1971. Thereafter Mariss Jansons was closely associated with this orchestra, today’s St. Petersburg Philharmonic, until 1999 as regular conductor and led the orchestra during this period on tours world-wide.
Besides his conducting duties, Mariss Jansons has served for almost 30 years, from 1971 until 2000, as professor of conducting at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He holds honorary doctorates from the music academies in Oslo (2003), Riga (2006) and the Royal Academy of Music in London (1999).
From 1979 to 2000 Mariss Jansons set standards as Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, which he shaped into a top international orchestra. Besides this he was Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1992 1997) and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1997 2004). With his two orchestras in Oslo and Pittsburgh Mariss Jansons went on several tours to the most important music centers of the world as well as making regular visits to the festivals in Salzburg, Lucerne, the London Proms, etc.
Beyond this he has successfully collaborated with all the major orchestras of the world, among them the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich and the Dresden Staatskapelle.
Of particular significance are his collaborations with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. Jansons has conducted these orchestras regularly in Vienna and Berlin as well as on tour throughout Europe, the United States and Japan. With these two and other orchestras he is a regular guest artist at the Salzburg Festival.
As Chief Conductor, Mariss Jansons has led a number of concerts with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks at home and abroad, enthusiastically received by audiences and highly praised by the press. Jansons and the orchestra make regular guest appearances in the most important musical capitals of the world: New York, London, Tokyo, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Zurich and Brussels, among other cities, as well as at such festivals as Salzburg, Lucerne, the London Proms, the Edinburgh Festival, the Berlin Festival and others. The Symphonieorchester und Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Mariss Jansons’s direction are annually invited to serve as Orchestra in Residence at the Easter Festival in Lucerne.
In 2007 Mariss Jansons joined forces with the Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks to give a concert for Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
In the autumn of 2005 Jansons and the orchestra undertook their first joint Japan-China tour and were singled out by the Japanese press for the “Best Concerts of the Season”. In 2006 and 2009, Mariss Jansons gave several triumphantly successful concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Regular guest appearances have likewise taken Jansons with the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest to the leading music centers and the most prestigious festivals such as the ones in Salzburg, Lucerne, the Proms in London, Edinburgh and the Berlin Festival. The guest concerts during the Japan tour in 2004 were hailed as the “Best Concerts of the Season” in Japan.
Mariss Jansons places considerable significance on his work with young musicians. He has conducted the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra on its Europe wide tour and worked with the Attersee Institute Orchestra, with which he appeared at the Salzburg Festival. In Munich he gives regular concerts with various Bavarian youth orchestras and the Academy of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
Mariss Jansons was the Artistic Director of the Masterpiece Competition for Contemporary Music in London.
Mariss Jansons’s discography comprises recordings for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, SONY, BMG, Chandos and Simax with works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Berlioz, Bartók, Britten, Dukas, Dvorák, Grieg, Haydn, Henze, Honegger, Mahler, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Respighi, Saint Saëns, Shostakovich, Schönberg, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Strauss, Shchedrin, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Webern and Weill. Many of his recordings have received prestigious international prizes. The first grand success was the Tchaikovsky cycle with the Oslo Philharmonic for Chandos, a reference recording, which has now reached cult status.
The recording of Schostakovich’s Seventh Symphony with the Leningrad Philharmonic won the 1999 Edison Prize, the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Michael Rudy and the same orchestra won the Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque in 1991. Mariss Jansons’s recording of Dvorák’s Fifth Symphony with the Oslo Philharmonic was singled out with the Penguin Award, and his interpretations of Gustav Mahler’s First and Ninth Symphonies with the same orchestra (2003) and Mahler’s Sixth with the London Symphony Orchestra (2004) were awarded the »Toblacher Komponierhäuschen« in special recognition of the best Mahler interpretations of our time.
In 2005 Mariss Jansons concluded his complete recording of the Shostakovich symphonies for EMI Classics, in which several different top orchestras took part. The cycle was completed by the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. The recording of the Symphony No. 4 was awarded a number of prizes, among them the Diapason d’Or and the Prize of the German Recording Critics. The Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8 received the German ECHO Klassik Prize in 2006 for the best symphonic recording (1999 and 2002). In 2005 the recording of the Symphony No. 13 was awarded a Grammy for the best orchestral performance, as well as the 2006 ECHO Klassik Prize for the best for best symphonic recording. In 2006, to mark the composer’s 100th birthday a box with all the symphonies was released. This complete recording was honored with the Annual Prize of the German Recording Critics, the Annual Prize from Le Monde de la Musique, as well as the prizes for Recording of the Year and Best Symphonic Recording at the 2007 MIDEM in Cannes.
In 2008, there followed the ECHO Klassik for the best symphonic recording of the 20th/21st centuries. Mariss Jansons also received the “Prize from the German Recording Critics” several times (1994, ’95, ’97, ’99, 2002, ’05)
Under the title “Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks Live” SONY BMG released seven CD’s with live concert recordings with works by Bartók, Britten, Haydn, Ravel, Schönberg, Shchedrin, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Wagner and Webern.
The “BR-Klassik” label, founded in 2008, has thus far released CD’s and DVD’s with the Symphonieorchester und Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Mariss Jansons featuring works by Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Haydn, Schönberg, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.
The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under the direction of Mariss Jansons received the 2010 ECHO Klassik as “Ensemble of the Year” for their recording of the Seventh Symphony by Bruckner.
The Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest’s own label has a wide repertoire of CD’s and DVD’s, with works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Dvorák, Henze, Honegger, Mahler, Mussorgsky, Poulenc, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich. Sibelius, Strauss, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. The DVD recording of Shostakovich’s opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” alone won the following prizes following its release in 2006: Diapason d’Or de l’Année (2007), Prize of the German Recording Critics (2007 Best List), 10 de Classica Repertoire (2006), ffff télérama (2007) CHOC du Monde de la Musique (2007), Caecilia Prijs (2007), Grand Prix du Disque Lyrique, Edison (2007). Likewise in 2007, the recording of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony with the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest won the Prize of the British BBC Music Magazine and the Edison Prize in the Netherlands, while the recorded performance of Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique” received the Dutch Luister Prize.
Mariss Jansons has been awarded a number of international prizes and accolades. He is an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, and in Russia has holds the honorary title: “People’s Artist of Russia”.
In Norway he was awarded the top-ranking “Medal of St. Hallvard”, the highest award presented by of the City of Oslo for his devoted efforts with the Oslo Philharmonic the “Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit” (1998) and “Commander with Star” (1994),– the highest award presented to a foreigner. In 1984 he received the Lindemann Prize from the Norwegian Music Academy, in 1990 the Culture Prize from the City of Oslo, in 1991 he received an award from the Paul Harris Fellowship (Rotary International) as well as the Anders Jahre Culture Prize.
In 1995, he received the Latvian Award of Merit for Music. In 1996 he was “EMI Artist of the Year”. In 2003, Mariss Jansons received the Hans von Bülow Medal from the Berlin Philharmonic. In May of 2004 he was honored by London’s Royal Philharmonic Society as “Conductor of the Year”, in 2006 he was declared “Artist of the Year” at MIDEM, the International Music Trade Fair in Cannes, and the conductor was awarded the “3 Stars” medal, the highest honor presented by the Republic of Latvia. In 2007, the city of Vienna presented him with the “Golden Cross of Honor for Services to the Federal State of Vienna”. Additionally he received the 2007 ECHO Klassik from the German Phono Academy as “Conductor of the Year”. That same year, Bavaria’s Governor Edmund Stoiber presented him with the Bavarian Order of Merit, and the Pro Europa Foundation awarded him the European Conducting Prize. Beyond this, that same year he received the “Baltic Stars” award for the Development and Strengthening of Humanitarian Connections to the nations of the Baltic Region. In 2009 the Austrian Culture Ministry on behalf of Federal Austrian President Heinz Fischer awarded him the “Austrian Cross of Honor for Scholarship and Art”, and the Rumanian State President Traian Basescu appointed him a “Mertul Cultural Cavalier”. In 2010 he received the Bavarian Order of Maximilian for Scholarship and Art.
For outstanding achievement to the town of Amsterdam he was honored with the “IJ Award” in 2012.
In 2006, the French “Monde de la musique” placed the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in second place in the European Ranking, and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks received sixth place. In 2008 a questionnaire from the British magazine “Gramophone” selected the two orchestras conducted by Mariss Jansons among the ten best orchestras of the world. The Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest was in first place and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks came in at sixth place. In 2008 Japanese magazine “Record Geijutsu” likewise selected the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest at 3rd place world-wide, and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks at 4th place. “Focus” magazine in Germany ranked the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in first place in 2009, while selecting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks for 2nd place. In 2010 the Japanese magazine “Mostly Classic” rated the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest at 3rd place and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks at 4th place.
“Opernwelt” magazine selected Mariss Jansons “Conductor of the Year” in 2011 for his production of “Evgeny Onegin” with the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest.
On January 1st, 2006, Mariss Jansons conducted the traditional New Year’s concert of the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time – it was telecast by 60 different networks on every continent and seen by more than 500 million televiewers. His “début” was wildly cheered by press and public, and has been released as a CD and DVD by Deutsche Grammophon. The CD recording reached double platinum and the DVD gold status. In 2012, Mariss Jansons again assumed the direction of this internationally renowned concert. Once again the releases by Sony were extraordinarily successful reaching platinum for the DVD and double platinum for the CD.
January 2013 Mariss Jansons was awarded the “Ernst-von-Siemens-Musikpreis”, one of the world-wide most important and renown awards for music.
On the occasion of his 70th birthday the Bayerischer Rundfunk honoured him with the “Medal of Merits of the Bayerischer Rundfunk”.
For outstanding achievements to his hometown Mariss Jansons received the “Medal of Merit of St. Petersburg” awarded by the Municipality of St. Petersburg on March 31st , 2013.
October 2013 the President of the Federal Republic of Germany bestowed the “German Federal Cross of Merit with Star” on Mariss Jansons for his outstanding services to the German culture. As a conductor of the world’s best orchestras and due to his strong support of contemporary music and young talents he belongs to the great artists of our times.
On 1st November 2013 Mariss Jansons was made a “Knight of the Lion of the Netherlands” for his profound contribution he has made to Dutch musical life and the vitality with which he conveys this with the Concertgebouw Orchestra to the world.
February 2015 the French Ministry for Culture appointed Mariss Jansons as “Comandeur des Arts et des Lettres”, the highest cultural award of the French Republic. In the same month he became the “Conductor of Honour” of the Koniklijk Concertgebjouworkest. For his Life Achievement Mariss Jansons was honoured in March 2015 with the “Latvia Great Music Award”
Born: January 14, 1943 - Riga, Latvia
The Lativian conductor, Mariss Jansons, was born while Riga was under military occupation by the Germans who seized it in 1941, a year after its forcible annexation by the U.S.S.R. His father was Arvīd Jansons (or Yansons) (1914-1984), the leading Latvian conductor to emerge under the Soviet system after the Baltic nation was retaken by the U.S.S.R. in 1945. His mother, the singer Iraida Jansons, who was Jewish, gave birth to him in hiding in Riga, Latvia, after her father and brother were killed in the Riga ghetto. As a child, he first studied violin with his father. In 1946, his father won 2nd prize in a national competition and was chosen by Yevgeny Mravinsky to be his assistant at the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. When his family joined him in 1956, young Jansons entered the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied piano and conducting (where he graduated with honors), although his father urged him to continue playing violin. In 1969 he continued his training in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky and Karl Österreicher, and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan. In 1971, he was a prize-winner at the International Herbert von Karajan Foundation Competition in Berlin. H.v. Karajan had invited Jansons to be his assistant with the Berliner Philharmoniker, but the Soviet authorities blocked Jansons from ever hearing about the offer.
In 1973, Yevgeny Mravinsky, then Music Director of Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (now St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra), invited Mariss Jansons to assist him as Associate Conductor. In 1985 he was promoted to principal conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under music director Yuri Temirkanov. During his tenure there, he conducted the Orchestra on many of its successful tours to Europe, America and Japan. In 1979, Jansons was appointed Music Director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he performed, recorded and toured extensively. Under his leadership it came to international attention as one of the finest and most exciting of major world orchestras. He has brought the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra on tours to all of the major European, American and Japanese music centers. Jansons resigned his Oslo position in 2000 after disputes with the city over the acoustics of the Oslo Konserthus. In 1992, Jansons was named principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked as a guest conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra and has recorded Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 with them for the LSO Live label. In 1997, Jansons became the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His initial contract was for three years, but his subsequent contract renewals were evergreen contracts that required yearly renewal. His relationship with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been widely hailed both nationally and internationally as one of the most successful partnerships in the orchestral world today. During his tenure as music director, led the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall each season and on tours of Japan (five-city, seven-concert tour in 1998), west coast USA cities and an international tour (1999), South America (2001), the Far East (2002) and Europe (1999, 2000, and 2003), all to exceptional acclaim. In June 2002, he announced that he would leave the orchestra in 2004.
In April 1996 in Oslo, Mariss Jansons nearly died while conducting the final pages of La Bohème, after a heart attack. He recuperated in Switzerland. Later, surgeons in Pittsburgh fitted a defibrillator in his chest to give his heart an electric jolt if it fails. (Jansons's father died at a 1984 concert, conducting the Hallé Orchestra.) Jansons has stated that he suffers from jet lag, and this was one reason that he left his American position. At the start of the 2003-2004 season, Jansons began his tenure as chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO), for an initial contract of 3 years. His commitment with the BRSO is for 10 weeks per season. In September 2006, Jansons extended his initial BRSO contract to August 2009. In July 2007, he further extended his contract with the BRSO to August 2012. In October 2002, Jansons was named the sixth chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, effective September 1, 2004, succeeding Riccardo Chailly. His initial Amsterdam contract was for 3 years, and his commitment in Amsterdam is for 12 weeks per season. As of March 2008, no published reports of the continued length Jansons' tenure with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam have been given, although Jansons stated in February 2007 that the next opera production in Amsterdam that he is scheduled to conduct is Georges Bizet's Carmen. Jansons continues to be listed as the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam's Chief Conductor on the orchestra's website for the 2008-2009 season.
Mariss Jansons is recognized as one of the most distinguished musicians of his generation, and is considered one of the leading conductors to emerge from the former Soviet Union. He has become known to audiences worldwide through his acclaimed recordings, concert performances and touring activities, as well as numerous radio and television appearances. He has guest conducted many of the world's major orchestras. In North America, he has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Montreal. His summer engagements have included concerts at the Mann Music Center, and at the Blossom, Ravinia, and Tanglewood festivals. Abroad, he frequently conducts the leading orchestras of Europe, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Symphoniker, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Zürich Tonhälle Orchestra. Since 1995, Jansons has appeared annually at the Salzburg Festival with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Philharmoniker and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
In 2006, Mariss Jansons conducted the Vienna New Year's Concert. Also in January 2006, he was awarded MIDEM's Artist of the Year Award in Cannes. On considering his driving force, in a December 2006 WNYC radio interview, Jansons explained to his host: "I want that every [one] of my concerts should be [an] event, for me, for [the] orchestra and [for the] public." In October 2007, Jansons (who himself is Lutheran) conducted L.v. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester for Pope Benedict XVI and 7000 other listeners in the papal audience hall (Auditorio Paul VI). The concert was televised world-wide in many countries.
Mariss Jansons has recorded on the EMI and Chandos labels. For Chandos Records he led the Oslo orchestra in a complete Tchaikovsky symphony cycle, and led many Dmitri Shostakovich symphonies for EMI. His recordings comprise works by a wide range of composers, including Berlioz, Johannes Brahms, Dvorak, Camille Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner. His reputation is particularly strong as a conductor of great 20th century symphonic classics, including composers such as Béla Bartók, Dukas, Arthur Honegger, G. Mahler, Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninov, Ravel, Ottorino Respighi, D. Shostakovich, Sibelius, Igor Stravinsky, Svendsen, and Weill. In addition to his 30 recordings with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, he has made recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra. Several of His recordings have received international awards, including a 1989 Edison Award for D. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7 with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra; a coveted Dutch Luister Award for Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; a Penguin Award for Dvorak's Symphony No. 5, a 1998 Grand Prix de Disque for A. Honegger's Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3, both with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for D. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 with Sergey Aleksashkin (bass) and the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester & Chorus.
In 995 King Harald V of Norway appointed Mariss Jansons Commander with Star of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit for his work and achievements with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the highest such award available to foreigners. In July 1999 he was appointed Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London, and in June 2001 he was named an Honorary Member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, the highest Viennese musical honour. Jansons has also been awarded the prestigious Norwegian Culture Prize of Anders Jahre and the Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotary International.
Mariss Jansons has been married twice. He and his first wife, Ira, had a daughter, Ilona, a pianist who currently works at the Mariinsky Theatre. The marriage ended during his tenure in Oslo. Jansons and his second wife Irina, a former speech therapist, have a home in St. Petersburg, where Jansons keeps his collection of scores.