What is Mariss Jansons’s secret? How does he consistently manage to take his orchestras to a higher level and garner international recognition? In the December 2008 issue of Gramophone, he described his approach as follows: ‘It’s my task to find out the orchestra’s special qualities and preserve them. Then, if through a natural process my own individuality adds something – and theirs to me – that will be fine.’ And fine it most certainly is, a fact that became readily apparent after his appointment as chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra back in 2004.
Music runs in Mariss Jansons’s blood. His father was a conductor and his mother an opera singer. When Jansons was just a boy, the family moved to St Petersburg where he later studied violin and conducting. He continued his studies with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg. In 1973, Jansons was appointed Yevgeny Mravinsky’s assistant with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, which Jansons’s father Arvīds had also conducted. From 1979 to 2000, he served as music director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, bringing it great international acclaim.