With the passing of Latvian conductor, Mariss Jansons, the world of classical music has lost a towering figure. Maestro Jansons passed away at his home in St Petersburg at the age of 76 on 30th November.
Born in Riga – the son of conductor Arvīds Jansons – he studied in St Petersburg, assisting Yevgeny Mravinsky at the Leningrad Philharmonic, before entering the city’s Conservatory where he studied piano and conducting. He worked with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna, and with Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg.
Mariss Jansons held a number of eminent roles over his lifetime – the most recent having been Chief Conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for more than a decade from 2003, together with that of Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam from 2004 to 2015. He was only the sixth conductor to hold this role, and became the Orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus after his departure.
In 1979, Maestro Jansons was appointed Music Director of the Oslo Philharmonic – a position he held until 2000 – and from 1997 to 2004, he was Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Maestro Jansons also made numerous appearances as an international guest conductor. He was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic in 1997, and was a regular guest of ensembles such as the Berlin and Vienna philharmonic orchestras, and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Mariss Jansons was a prolific recording artist, on labels such as Chandos – for whom he recorded the Tchaikovsky symphonies with the Oslo Philharmonic – and focused mainly on the Russian repertoire in his EMI recordings. He also recorded on the Royal Concertgebouw’s own label and released a number of recordings during his time at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Among the numerous honours bestowed on Maestro Jansons were the Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, memberships of the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Society of Music Friends in Vienna, the Order of the Three Stars (Latvia’s highest honour), the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art, the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, and honorary membership of the Berlin Philharmonic.
He won a Gramophone Award in 2004 – for the Grieg and Schumann piano concertos with Leif Ove Andsnes and the Berlin Philharmonic – and he was named Conductor of the Year by Opernwelt in 2011 for his performances at Dutch National Opera of Tchaikovsky’s Evgeny Onegin with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The following year he and Jan Raes, Managing Director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, received the IJ-Prize of the City of Amsterdam, and in 2013, Mariss Jansons won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, became a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, and was awarded the Grand Merit Cross with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Earlier this year, Maestro Jansons was further honoured with the Herbert von Karajan Prize at the Salzburg Easter Festival, and given the Opus Klassik Lifetime Achievement award.
This truly inspirational conductor will be sadly missed.
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