Mariss Jansons (1943) is one of the greatest and most well-known conductors of the present day.
In 2018, when he performed in Riga with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra as part of the centenary cycle “Born in Latvia,” Inese Lūsiņa wrote of the concert for newspaper Diena: “The opportunity to listen to Mariss Jansons’ interpretations is a long-awaited celebration. He speaks with sincerity and a deep piety for the composer’s intent and the orchestra’s musicians. His depth of understanding, artistic maturity, knowledge and responsibility are ever present with a creative freedom and high flights of fantasy, while his experience never means routine. The orchestra’s musicians adore Maestro Jansons, and there are many reasons why. However, the main reason seems to be that, never holding back, he inspires and excites with his absolute devotion. The key phrase is ‘joy in music-making’, and this is very unique of Mariss Jansons, whatever he performs. It seems as though music is his elixir of youth, a source of spiritual and physical energy. He lives in music and allows it to blossom in everyone.”
Born in Riga in the family of conductor Arvīds Jansons, Mariss studied the violin, piano and conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory. His studies continued in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky, and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan.
In 1971, Jansons won the “Herbert von Karajan” International Conducting Competition in Berlin. That same year, Yevgeny Mravinsky invited Jansons to be his assistant at the Leningrad Philharmonic. Until 1999, Jansons was the conductor of this orchestra, now the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. He often returns as a Guest Conductor even today.
As Principal Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic from 1979 to 2000, Jansons turned it into a world-class orchestra. At the time he was also Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1992-1997) and the Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1997-2004).
Since 2003, Jansons has been the Principal Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO). From 2004 to 2015 he was Principal Conductor of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He collaborates regularly with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras.
Jansons has performed in practically every world music metropolis and festival with the BRSO and Concertgebouw Orchestra. The BRSO and Jansons perform regularly at the Lucerne Easter Festival as Artists in Residence.
In an interview with Gunda Vaivode for Latvija’s Radio 3 – Klasika, Jansons said: “The ideal is that the listener forgets about his existence and rises to the heavens, to space – then our goal has been fulfilled. But it’s hard for us, the performers – we can’t rise to the cosmos in every concert. But we have to at least try to get there…”
Rising to the highest spheres of musicianship requires talent, education and technique. Jansons mentions these components as the most important for a great conductor to emerge. As well as good taste and an understanding of an orchestra’s psychology and the role and responsibilities of the conductor.
According to Jansons, the responsibility of the conductor doesn’t end with the last bar of the piece. Along with the BRSO, he has been fighting for a new concert hall in Munich for twelve years. And when he left the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for health reasons, he stayed with the Bavarians just for the “concert hall war”. Three years ago, politicians finally came to a decision – the BRSO will have a new home!
Jansons left his post with the Oslo Philharmonic because the city did not support the orchestra’s campaign for a hall with a suitable acoustic. He uses any opportunity to remind Latvian politicians of the importance of a world-class concert hall in Riga to its cultural future.
Jansons is just as dedicated to his work with young people. He has taken the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester on a European tour, has worked with the Attersee Institute Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival, he often conducts various Bavarian youth orchestras in Munich, in addition to the Academy of the Bavarian Symphony Orchestra.
Jansons’ discography numbers several hundred albums with different orchestras. He has made various anthological releases with different orchestras (Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Mahler, Sibelius), and has also recorded all of Shostakovich’s symphonies with various orchestras. His recording of the 13th Symphony won a Grammy award in 2006 in the Best Orchestral Performance category. In 2007, Jansons was named Conductor of the Year at the German ECHO Klassik awards.
Janson’s list of honours and titles includes Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, Latvia’s Order of the Three Stars, the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art and the Grand Merit Cross with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany. Jansons has received the Order of the Netherlands Lion, as well as the highest cultural honour in France – the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
He has also received the most prestigious musical awards of several countries – the Latvian Great Music Award, a Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal (2017) and a Léonie Sonning Music Prize (2018).
On January 14th, 2018, the conductor’s 75th birthday, a variety of tulip by Juris Egle, the Mariss Jansons, was registered in Riga during a formal ceremony.