‘Better one good concert less than one bad concert more’

‘Better one good concert less than one bad concert more’


norman lebrecht

December 02, 2019

This was Mariss Jansons’ motto, received from his father and repeated often.

I took it down 20 years ago and have held it up ever since as an ideal for conductors. Sadly, few apart from Mariss took heed.

… his professional outlook had been fully formed before he left the Russian crucible. “The atmosphere was so pressured,” he relates. “Mravinsky demanded such high standards, everybody was afraid to fall below. There was Richter, Gilels, [David] Oistrakh – such quality.” Unalloyed excellence was to be his benchmark, to which his father added a telling motto. “Mariss,” said Arvid Jansons, “remember: better one good concert less than one bad concert more….”

Read the full article here.

Mariss to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: ‘This is Sviatoslav Richter and my father rehearsing when the Leningrad Philharmonic was at its summer home. It was around 1953. I knew all the artists very well; they were very good friends with my father. It was a family there in the summertime. We all lived for two months in a hotel, so we spent breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Of course I didn’t speak too much because I was quite shy. Since I studied music, it was all so interesting. I was all the time in the musical atmosphere … and I learned intrigue, bad things, things behind the scenes.’



  • conductor says:

    Gergiev should listen to this advice and stop growing his astronomical personal carbon footprint.

  • John Kelly says:

    I first heard Jansons in Leeds in the UK in 1978 when he came with the Leningrad Phil (and their KGB handlers who stood on stage looking out at the audience for the whole first half of the program). Ernest Bradbury, critic in the Yorkshire Post was effusive with praise, and wrote the most enthusiastic review I ever read from that source. I also heard him in Amsterdam in 2007 and went round to see him afterwards. This was very nice because no-one else was there except his wife Irina and Gil Shaham who had played the Bruch. Mariss had just conducted the Alpine Symphony and looked absolutely pale and exhausted. We chatted for about 20 minutes – about the tour to the UK with the KGB and about Carlos Kleiber of whom he was a super-fan. About his father’s concerts with the Halle, many of which I went to. He also remembered as a boy going to the concerts in Leningrad conducted by Stokowski who had been sent as an emissary of the State Dept as a goodwill gesture. (look for those concerts they are on Youtube).

    As Norman so eloquently wrote elsewhere on this blog, Mariss Jansons was a very nice man. No artifice, no pretension, all music all the time.

    He wasn’t averse to tinkering with scores on occasion, and I noticed in the last few bars of the Symphonie Fantastique some adjustments to the brass parts (trumpets) – his father made the same adjustments (he made a recording) – and Mariss was conducting from his Dad’s scores. I suspect he did that a good deal.

    Apparently when Mariss was conductor in Oslo he would drive his Volvo from St Petersburg to Oslo and back. In those days that was a very very long drive (still is).

    RIP dear Mariss, we will never forget your wonderful music making.

    • Tamino says:

      Thank you for these interesting insights.
      He probably took the ferry to Stockholm and drove from there to Oslo?

  • AB says:

    I’m thinking of a certain conductor in St Petersburg who under-rehearses -he could have learned much from Mariss

  • sorin says:

    Lets face it , Jansons was probably an amazing person – but quite a dull conductor.I haven’t seen or heard anything from him that earns an entry to the premier league – He wasn’t Furt , no Karajan , no Nikolaus and no Klemperer and no innovative Boulez – he was always correctly ok , never disappointing….