Mariss Jansons was born in Riga in 1943, the son of the conductor Arvīds Jansons. He studied the violin, piano and conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory, graduating with distinction and continuing his studies with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and with Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg. In 1971 he was a prizewinner in the Karajan Foundation’s International Competition for Conductors in Berlin. That same year Evgeny Mravinsky appointed him his assistant with the Leningrad Philharmonic, now the St Petersburg Philharmonic. Mariss Jansons remained closely associated with the St Petersburg Philharmonic as its permanent conductor until 1999. Between 1979 and 2000 he set new standards as principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, turning it into one of the world’s leading orchestras. He was also principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic from 1992 to 1997 and music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2004.
Since 2003 Mariss Jansons has been principal conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. From 2004 until 2015 he was also principal conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, which named him its conductor emeritus in February 2015. Following his farewell concert in March 2015 he was awarded the Silver Medal of Honour of the City of Amsterdam. He also works regularly with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert for the third time in 2016.
Mariss Jansons has been a regular guest conductor at Salzburg Easter Festival concerts, most recently in 2010 for Verdi’s Messa da Requiem.
Mariss Jansons has received numerous nonours and awards. He is an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, of the Royal Academy of Music in London and of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. For his work with the Oslo Philharmonic he was awarded the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. In 2003 he received the Berlin Philharmonic’s Hans von Bülow Medal and the following year was named Conductor of the Year by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London. In 2009 he received the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, in 2010 Bavaria’s Maximilian Order for Science and Art. In 2013 he was presented with the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize as a lifetime achievement award, while Federal President Joachim Gauck awarded him the German Order of Merit. In 2015 he was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, in 2017 the Royal Philharmonic Society awarded him its Gold Medal, and in March 2018 he received the International Léonie Sonning Music Prize.