Mariss Jansons, Biography
Mariss Jansons (Latvia, born 14 January 1943) is a conductor who has been awarded a vast number of international honors. From 2004 until 2015 he was the chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, which is considered one of the world’s leading orchestras. In 2006, his recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. In 2007, Jansons was honored with the Echo Klassik as Conductor of the Year. He won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2013.
Childhood and Youth
Mariss Jansons is the son of conductor Arvīds Jansons and the singer Iraida who was of Jewish descent. She gave birth to Mariss in hiding in Riga, Latvia, after being smuggled out of the Riga Ghetto, where Iraida's father and brother were murdered by the Nazis.
In 1946, when Mariss was 3, his father Arvid Jansons won second prize in a national competition and was chosen by Yevgeny Mravinsky to be his assistant at the Leningrad Philharmonic. During his childhood, Jansons first studied violin with his father. When the family joined Arvid Jansons in Leningrad in 1956, 13 years old Mariss Jansons entered the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied piano and conducting, although his father urged him to continue playing violin. In 1969, at age 26, he continued his training in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan.
Adult Life and Career
In 1973, at age 30, Jansons was appointed Associate Conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (now the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra).
In 1979, he was appointed music director of the Oslo Philharmonic, with which he performed, recorded and toured extensively. In April 1996 in Oslo, Jansons aged 53, nearly died while conducting the final pages of La bohème, after a heart attack. 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, Manchester, England. Jansons resigned his Oslo position in 2000 after disputes with the city over the acoustics of the Oslo Concert Hall.
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 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. In June 2002, he announced his departure from the orchestra in 2004, mainly due to suffering from jet lag.
At the start of the 2003/2004 season, Jansons began his tenure as chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO), with a commitment with the BRSO is for 10 weeks per season. Jansons’ contract was continuously extended and in May 2015, the BRSO announced a further extension through 2021. He has regularly campaigned for the construction of a new concert hall for the orchestra.
Since September 2004, Jansons was the sixth chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) of Amsterdam, succeeding Riccardo Chailly. His commitment in Amsterdam was for 12 weeks per season. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is considered one of the world's leading orchestras. In April 2014, the orchestra announced the scheduled conclusion of Jansons' tenure as chief conductor after the 2014-2015 season. At age 72, he conducted his final concert as chief conductor of the RCO on March 20, 2015, in the presence of Queen Maxima. Daniele Gatti was appointed as the seventh chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
In October 2007, Jansons, who himself is Lutheran, conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for Pope Benedict XVI and 7000 other listeners in the papal audience hall (Auditorio Paul VI). Jansons conducted the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert in 2006 and in 2012. The concert was televised worldwide in seventy-three countries.
Jansons has been married twice. He and his first wife, Ira, had a daughter, Ilona, a pianist who 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 Saint Petersburg, where Jansons keeps his collection of scores.
Photo: "Mariss jansons" by Ericoides - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons