Mariss Jansons in 2015
Mariss Ivars Georgs Jansons
14 January 1943
|Died||30 November 2019[a] (aged 76)|
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Mariss Ivars Georgs Jansons (14 January 1943 – 30 November/1 December 2019[a]) was a Latvian conductor. During his lifetime, Jansons was often cited as one of the world's top living conductors. He was best known for his interpretations of Mahler, Strauss and Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.
Born in Riga, Latvia, Jansons moved to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1956, where he studied conducting, and he received further training in Austria. He achieved prominence with the Oslo Philharmonic, where he served as music director from 1979 to 2000. He also directed the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2004, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 2003 until his death, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from 2004 to 2015.
Jansons was born in Riga, Latvia—then under German occupation during the Second World War—to Iraida Jansons, the diva of the Riga Opera, and Arvīds Jansons, conductor of the opera orchestra. Iraida, who was Jewish, gave birth to her son in hiding after being smuggled out of the Riga Ghetto, where her father and brother were murdered by the Nazis. As a child, Jansons first studied violin with his father.
In 1956, Arvīds was appointed assistant conductor to Yevgeny Mravinsky at the Leningrad Philharmonic. Jansons joined his father in Leningrad, where he began to study conducting, and soon entered the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1968, Herbert von Karajan visited the Soviet Union, and he singled out Jansons and Dmitri Kitayenko from a group of young conductors. Karajan offered Jansons the opportunity to study with him in Berlin, but the Soviet authorities blocked the offer. In 1969, Jansons continued his training with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna, and then in Salzburg with Karajan. In 1971, Jansons won the second prize at the "Herbert von Karajan" International Conducting Competition. Karajan invited Jansons to be his assistant with the Berlin Philharmonic, but the Soviet authorities blocked Jansons from ever hearing about the offer.
In 1973, 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. 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 worked as a guest conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra and 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.
In April 1996, Jansons nearly died from a severe heart attack while conducting the final pages of La bohème in Oslo. He recuperated in Switzerland. Later, surgeons in Pittsburgh fitted an implanted defibrillator in his chest to give his heart an electric jolt if it failed. (Jansons's father had died at a 1984 concert, conducting the Hallé Orchestra.) Jansons stated that he suffered from jet lag, and this was one reason that he left his American position.
At the start of the 2003/04 season, Jansons began his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO), for an initial contract of three years. His commitment with the BRSO was for ten 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 April 2011, he extended his BRSO contract to August 2015 in Munich. In June 2013, the BRSO further extended Jansons's contract through August 2018. In May 2015, the BRSO announced another extension of Jansons's contract through 2021. In July 2018, the orchestra announced a further extension of the maestro's contract through 2024. He regularly campaigned for the construction of a new concert hall for the orchestra.
In October 2002, Jansons was named the sixth Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) of Amsterdam, effective 1 September 2004, succeeding Riccardo Chailly. His initial Amsterdam contract was for three years, and his commitment in Amsterdam was for twelve weeks per season. In April 2014, the orchestra announced the scheduled conclusion of Jansons's tenure as Chief Conductor after the 2014–2015 season. He conducted his final concert as chief conductor of the RCO on 20 March 2015, in the presence of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima.
In 2006, Jansons conducted the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert for the first time. Also in January 2006, he was awarded MIDEM's Artist of the Year Award in Cannes. In October 2007, Jansons (who was Lutheran) conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for Pope Benedict XVI and 7,000 other listeners in the papal audience hall (Auditorio Paul VI). Jansons conducted the Vienna New Year's Concert for the second time in 2012. The concert was televised worldwide in seventy-three countries. He conducted the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert for a third time in 2016. The New Year's Concert 2016 was broadcast in over 90 countries around the world and was seen by 50 million television viewers.
Jansons was married twice. He and his first wife, Ira, had a daughter, Ilona, who became a pianist at the Mariinsky Theatre. The marriage ended during his tenure in Oslo. Jansons and his second wife Irina (née Outchitel), a former speech therapist, had a home in Saint Petersburg, where Jansons kept his collection of scores. He held both Latvian and Russian citizenship.
Jansons was awarded various international honours for his achievements, including Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit from King Harald of Norway and memberships in the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of Music Friends) in Vienna. He was awarded the St. Hallvard Medal in 1986. In May 2006, he was awarded the Order of the Three Stars (2nd class or Grand Commander), Latvia's highest state honour. He was awarded the Bavarian Order of Merit in 2007 and in 2010, the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art. In 2008, Jansons received the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art.
Jansons' recording of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 with Sergey Aleksashkin (bass) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance at the 2006 Grammy Awards.
In January 2006 he was awarded a Midem, a Cannes Classical Award as Artist of the Year. In 2007 he was honoured by the German Phono Academy with the Echo Klassik as Conductor of the Year. In 2011, he was awarded the same title by the German journal Opernwelt.
Jansons won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2013. On 31 March 2013 Jansons was awarded a medal of honour "For the Merits before St. Petersburg". On 4 October 2013, Jansons received the Grand Merit Cross with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In a press release dated 23 November 2017, the Royal Philharmonic Society announced that Mariss Jansons had been awarded the RPS Gold Medal – one of the highest honors in the world of classical music. The medal itself was presented to Jansons by the world-renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida during a concert with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks) in the evening of 24 November 2017 in London's Barbican Hall. Mariss Jansons was the 104th recipient of the RPS Gold Medal.
Jansons is credited on over 190 orchestral recordings.
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