Mariss Jansons, 75

January 12, 2018 by norman lebrecht


The gentlest, least political of conductors will reach an age he never expected to see this weekend.

Mariss’s father, Arvid, died at 70 of a heart attack while conducting in Britain.

Mariss suffered a near-death experience of the same disease in Oslo in 1996, when he was 53.

Since then, he has gone on to direct the Pittsburgh Symphony, Concertgebouw and Bavarian Radio.

He is the supreme master of the perfect encore.

Alone among conductors, he hasn’t an enemy in the world.

Happy birthday, dear Mariss.


And an incredible Mahlerian.

Comments (36)

  1. Olassus says:

    It’s two days away.

    1. erich says:

      exactly…and anyone really knowing Mariss should know that he is superstitious and would not wish to be congratulated beforehand!!!

  2. dorset Richard says:

    Not to mention that he and his jewish mother had to hide for 18 months in Nazi occupied Riga.

  3. Petros Linardos says:

    Here is a most beautiful Mendelssohn 3rd symphony conducted by Mariss Jansons:

    He totally won me over with this performance. Masterful pacing. Don’t get me started nit picking other recordings of this work. Jansons gets it right, and then some.

    1. Olassus says:

      Insufficiently accented and rhythmically defined.

      1. Petros Linardos says:

        We have different opinions. Fair enough.

        What do you think of Konwitchny?

        1. Olassus says:

          Slow meditative, dreamy.

  4. Patrick Gillot says:

    Happy Birthday Maestro with many happy returns!

  5. Ben says:

    His concerts at Carnegie are consistently outstanding….

    1. Sue says:

      He certainly displays FAR less diffidence than Kleiber in that “Radetzky March”!!!

      1. Petros Linardos says:

        Diffidence aside, I am sure that Jansons will agree that Kleiber pulls off a better Radetzky.

        1. Sue says:

          Ah; as he did with practically everything else!! I love this (and need the flimsiest premise to talk about CK!):

          1. Mathias Broucek says:

            But unlike Kleiber fils, Jansons actually gets off his posterior and does, you know, some concerts…

            (Not looking to start an argument, but Kleiber had a rather sad career IMHO)

          2. Petros Linardos says:

            @Sue: your obsession with Carlos Kleiber is unmissable 🙂 I don’t blame you, but his phenomenal talent. I’ve heard women praise his looks too, though that’s irrelevant for me.

            @Matthias: yes, that’s a tragedy. Even Erich Kleiber, whose conducting sounded so similar to his son’s, didn’t only conduct when his fridge was empty.

  6. Sue says:

    A terrific conductor and obviously a wonderful man! Many Happy Returns maestro Jansons.

  7. Elisabeth Matesky says:

    Having greatly admired Mariss Jansons every time I see him conducting with such sweep, a grandeur of sound and with infinite musicality, I’m reassured we
    have amongst us, a True Maestro in the Grand Tradition, who seems not at all
    interested in the ‘politics’ of Music, but has his ‘Eye on the Doughnut & Not on the Hole’! (Quote: my late American Music Educator/ Conductor, Ralph) ~

    Jansons is Noble and elegant, yet possesses animal instincts to portray the Guts
    of “Under” when the Music calls for it … I can think of no other major Baton artist in the rarified League of Mariss Jansons in a core of international Big Leaguer’s to compare excepting Haitinck when just the same age ~ Dare I say it is rare for
    an eloquent & deeply thoughtful Conductor to also possess musical ‘sex appeal’
    without flaunting natural qualities in his DNA in musically respectful fashion …

    As is said, a Good Man and Conductor is hard to find and we must all give Thanks in saluting Mariss Jansons the moment he turns Seventy Five years
    Young, for all his engines are firing splendidly with many many more years to
    come!! (I’d love to hear/watch him conduct Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ with our
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra during his Seventy Fifth Anniversary Year!!) *Are
    you listening, dear Henry Fogel!!??

    Wishing a Musician from his toes up to his ears and heart a phenomenal Year,
    Seventy Five ~

    Happy and Healthy Birthday, Maestro!

    Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago *

    *YouTube Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Classes, USC – Khachaturian, JH-7,
    Elisabeth Matesky (Russian version best quality, Library of Congress Master

    * Profiled Int’l solo performance/recording + Artist Teaching
    career ; musical writing/speaking (the Strad) + Film/ Television movie projects ~

  8. Sue says:

    @Petros and Mathias: I guess it’s quality and not necessarily quantity when it came to Kleiber. In all the reading and research I’ve done (and Alexander Werner tells me his bio isn’t being translated into English!) I cannot account for Kleiber fils being so reluctant – not just on the podium but getting into the marketing and ritual publicity regime that goes with recording contracts. Unlike the warm, agreeable and gregarious Jansons, Kleiber fils was deeply insecure and you’ve only got to look at him taking a bow at that 1992 Neujahrskonzert to see his right foot awkwardly twisted up on its toes – a spontaneous gesture from a person not completely at home with large crowds cheering and clapping!! The body language was the same when conducting “Radetzky” – the shyness is there for all to see. I loved Jansons and the way he got into the spirit of the fun on 1/1 in Vienna!! He’s another fave of mine. And I just love this!!

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      Sue, I also worship Kleiber for his supreme musicality. Don’t get me started about attending his 1985 Boheme at the Vienna State Opera, one of my life’s biggest privileges, and one experience that condemned me to avoid any other recordings (except for some unofficial recordings under CK with substandard sound quality) because I want to preserve something from it in my memory.
      And yet even if we accepted that Kleiber’s cancellations and abstention from work being only about quality, those choices don’t justify unprofessional and inconsiderate behavior. He came across as a jerk, both in Alexander Werner’s book and in several testimonies in the two 2010 videos, especially in I am lost to the world. I am particularly thinking of comments by Wolfgang Sawallisch, Werner Resel and Brigitte Fassbaender.

      1. Sue says:

        In all honesty I have to agree with you. He gets the plaudits and people like Mariss Jansons are considered not quite as good. BUT, having thought about this for some time I recently had a ‘light bulb’ moment that may or may not interest you. I follow the work of Dr. Jordan Peterson – a first class lecturer in Clinical Psychology, His lectures at UT, Canada, are put onto U-Tube so I regularly attend his ‘classes’!! Just recently I watched his talk on IQ. Professor Peterson talked about how important it is to be in the kind of profession that suits your IQ – and he listed some of these according to the ‘percentile’. Importantly, he talked about other necessary attributes which guarantee success like “agreeableness” and “conscientiousness”. He said many people with high IQs lack some of those traits “and we don’t know why”. I thought about CK. He was high in IQ but (comparatively) low on conscientiousness and ‘agreeableness’ (with recording companies) and also HIGH on neuroticism. I belief if you put all those traits together it begins to explain why Kleiber behaved as he did and the consequences for music.

        And I’m envious that you saw Kleiber conducting. How wonderful for you!!

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          You are sharing some interesting insights. Thank you.

          I can’t help thinking that in his neurotic perfectionism, CK acted very selfishly, and left a very small legacy, however precious. Compare him, for instance, to his contemporary Claudio Abbado, whose best work. I find as good as it gets. Abbado’s legacy goes well beyond his best 15 recordings, or even the BPO, LSO or Scala. In working with youth orchestras for most of his life, he has left his mark on musicians now playing at countless orchestras all over the world.

          A comparable argument can be made for today’s birthday child, who has also had long bonds with important orchestras. Happy birthday, Mariss Jansons.

          1. Sue says:

            Abbado was love by all, in spades, and he’s very much missed. I’ve always admired Jansons. Hugely.

  9. Rob says:

    He did an incredible Heldenleben at the Proms in 1999 with the Pittsburgh Symph. But the BBC won’t air it because of complications with royalties.

    1. Mathias Broucek says:

      Sony has a Kleiber Heldenleben in its vaults. He refused to allow its release 🙁

      1. Hilary says:

        Maybe for good reason.
        His ‘ Das Lied Von der Erde’ is unexceptional . Even a great conductor like Kleiber has his blind -spots.

        1. Sue says:

          If Kleiber has ‘blind spots’ oh how I’ll love those blind spots!! (Apologies to George Cukor, Donald Ogden Stewart, Sidney Buckman and Philip Barry!!!).

        2. Petros Linardos says:

          I never warmed up to Kleiber’s Brahms 2nd, even though I think that his other recordings are second to none.

          1. Elisabeth Matesky says:

            Not wishing to say too much about Carlos Kleiber as we are here to Toast the 75th Birthday of the great Mariss Jansons, I can only mention C. Kleiber made
            his Conducting debut with our Chicago Symphony Orchestra in either the late ’80’s or early ’90’s which I attended as a guest of the General Manager of the CSO, sitting in his Box with some notable musicians of high stature.

            Upon concluding his performance of the Brahms Second Symphony, one ‘stellar’
            musician when asked to comment on C.Kleiber’s conducting & musicality in the context of the Brahms Second Symphony w/the fully loaded Chicago Symphony Orchestra, after some quiet thought replied, “Brahms Lost ~ ” C. Kleiber was not
            re engaged and, to my knowledge, has not returned to guest conduct the CSO, of which I’ve been a member ~

            Having known “children” of famed musician – parents, I would say Carlos Kleiber
            had to have felt beyond normal pressure to prevail in Chicago, which honoured his great Conductor father without reservation. This is a brutally tough Mountain
            to conquer, both psychologically and musically to say the least … A CSO violinist
            mentioned when passing after the concert, “which Brahms Symphony did we play tonight?” That was uncalled for & a comment of his person rather than that of CK, to be sure ~ (I didn’t like it one bit.)

            Again, this Subject is focused on the musical regality of Mariss Jansons who is a
            Special Musician and lover of people and all Music he brings to his audiences! I
            propose an International Tosst to Mariss Jansons on his Silver Day of Birth at 75!!!

            May Mariss Jansons prevail well into his 90’s as did Stokowski, Toscanini and a
            few other Giants – Karajan, who made it to 87 (?) & Sir Georg Solti, nearly there!

            Delighted to be a part of this, I Thank You All ~

            Elisabeth Matesky *

            *Great Violn Mentor’s, Heifetz (86) & Nathan Milstein (89) – NM was really born
            on December 31st, 1903, but needed ‘edited’ D.O.B. papers to leave Bolshevik
            Russia to Berlin where he joined his ‘musical brother’, Vladimir Horowitz, + “Pal”
            ‘Cellist, Gregor Piatigorsky!! They then relocated to Paris & is said, ‘The rest is

    2. Elisabeth Matesky says:

      Having been bruised by the BBC, my heart goes out to Mariss Jansons & the Pittsburgh Symphony for an “incredible Heldenleben” given at the BBC Proms
      in 1999 … I wonder if the ‘due to royalties’ is a ‘public face’ or there may be much
      more behind this?? ‘Something’ tells me there is a story behind this as I trust the
      integrity of Mariss Jansons ~

      Thank you, Rob, for advising all here of a great Jansons/Pittsburgh Heldenleben
      which may have been pulled for a variety of not so happy reasons ~

      Leaving off for now, let us Toast Mariss Jansons on his actual Birthday 75!!

      Sending all here musical greetings from afar ~

      Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

      1. Rob says:

        This was my first time promming, I reached the front right. Bo Skovhus was supposed to sing Mahler’s Wayfarer songs but was indisposed so Jane Irwin stepped in.

        The Pittsburgh brass were astonishing in Heldenleben. A small group of German tourists in front of me were crying at the end! The BBC have the tape of that concert in their archive. I requested it to be heard again but they came back with the royalties reason, which doesn’t seem to make sense.

        1. Elisabeth Matesky says:

          Dear Rob ~

          As a well informed Head Editor (London Sunday Mirror) explained to me re a very ‘bruised’ experience with BBC London TV, “the BBC is comprised of no more than Five powerful ‘inside’ people, who wield power when something has gone very awry …’ This was quite awhile ago, yet perhaps it may still be a trade mantra of “Business as usual” ??

          Not wishing to bare false witness, perhaps ‘things’ have mellowed ~ One hopes so as I truly admire so much of what BBC Radio & Television do.This is for sure!

          There must be many reasons for the refusal to re air … After years of my internal suffering over a grave injustice, I came to a Scriptural Quote in The Good Book from Ecclesiastees, (which paraphrasing it as I’m no Biblical scholar but a great admirer of Scripture) essentially counsels, ‘Why shouldest Thou die before One’s time ~ searching for that which is so deep & un searchable that no one can not know … ‘ Profound words and loving counsel which has greatly helped my long distress diminish …

          With musical greetings to you from America ~

          Elisabeth (Matesky)

  10. simonelvladtepes says:

    With few exceptions (Shostakovich 7th) I find his work insipid and boring. An overrated conductor.

  11. Mr. Schwa says:

    I have never heard or seen him conduct , so I cannot offer an opinion.

  12. Sue says:

    @ Elizabeth Matesky: thank you for that interesting anecdote about CK and the CSO. And yet, despite the comments, the conductor’s peers (50 of them) voted him the greatest conductor (not sure of the exact parameters). This poll was conducted by a British music magazine and participants were happy to nominate CK. So, not everyone felt the same as the CSO.

  13. Francis Asissy says:

    I know a conductor who dislikes him, a fellow classmate, no doubt envious of his greater success, despite differences in talent. So it goes.

  14. Elisabeth Matesky says:

    @Sue ~ I truly regret quoting only 2 musicians’ comments re Carlos Kleiber’s
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducting debut and offer sincere apologies to Norman Lebrecht for my mistaken judgement for I never implied nor suggested the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra felt as the musician/Conductor sitting in the Box of then Manager of the CSO, comment. Absolutely Not! The other quip from only 1 CSO Violinist was, as written, nasty and totally uncalled for. It’s my fault for ever writing about comments re Carlos Kleiber, as anything so snide
    shouldn’t be repeated.

    Please do Not attribute 2 comments to the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra which is not the case nor representative of all 106 members of our CSO players.
    Shaken, I will defer writing of any comments in an almost vitriolic vein re CK or any other respected and established musicians …

    We are here to Toast the Seventy Fifth Year of the Birth of Mariss Jansons, and I would (once again) like to propose an International Salute to
    a great Conductor and wonderfully rare Man of integrity who infuses his love and
    panoramic musicality into all Music he conducts for audiences he wishes sharing
    his own Joy with ~ Maestro Mariss Jansons!!

    A Healthy and Happy Seventy Fifth, Maestro, from Chicago, USA!!!!

    Elisabeth Matesky *

    *And may you have many many more!!!!!

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