The highly esteemed conductor Mariss Jansons, who was beloved by his orchestral musicians, has died at the age of 76 from a long-term heart condition. He had suffered a heart attack in 1996 during a performance of La Bohèmefrom which he nearly died, making it necessary for him to be fitted with a defibrillator.
Jansons was born in Riga, Latvia on January 14, 1943 to conductor Arvīds Jansons and soprano Erhaida Jansons. He received his first violin lessons from his father, and in 1957 entered the Leningrad Conservatory where he studied conducting with Nikolai Rabinovich. A Soviet-era exchange program brought him to Austria in 1969, where he continued his training as a conductor with the venerable Hans Swarowsky. Jansons was soon invited by Herbert von Karajan, then at the height of his influence, to be his assistant after winning second prize at his conducting competition in Berlin in 1971. But to Karajan’s fury, authorities in then Soviet-controlled Latvia prevented Jansons from ever hearing of the invitation. He was instead appointed Associate Conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic in 1973, becoming its Associate Principal Conductor in 1985.
Jansons’ first appointment in the...