Born in 1943 in the Latvian capital of Riga, Mariss Jansons grew up in the Soviet Union as the son of conductor Arvids Jansons. He studied violin, viola and piano and graduated with honors from the Leningrad Conservatory with a degree in conducting. Studies in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan followed. In 1971, Mariss Jansons emerged as a prize winner from the conducting competition of the Herbert von Karajan Foundation in Berlin. He was greatly influenced by the legendary Russian conductor Evgeny Mravinsky, who brought Mariss Jansons to the Leningrad Philharmonic as his assistant in 1971.
Mariss Jansons remained closely associated with the Leningrad Philharmonic, today's St. Petersburg Philharmonic, until 1999 as regular conductor and led the orchestra during this period on tours around the world. From 1979 - 2000, Jansons set new standards as Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, which he shaped into a top international orchestra. In addition, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1992 - 1997) and Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1997 - 2004). With his two orchestras in Oslo and Pittsburgh, Mariss Jansons went on several tours to the most international music centers as well as making regular visits to the festivals in Salzburg, Lucerne, the London Proms, etc.
Mariss Jansons has been the Chief Conductor of the Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks since 2003. In 2004, he became the Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebow Orchestra in Amsterdam. In addition, he has successfully collaborated with major orchestras around the world.
Of particular significance are his collaborations with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. Jansons has conducted these orchestras regularly in Vienna and Berlin as well as on tour throughout Europe, the United States and Japan. With these and other orchestras, he is a regular guest artist at the Salzburg Festival.
Mariss Jansons has been awarded a number of international prizes and accolades. Among many others, he is an honorary member of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, and in Russia has holds the honorary title: "People's Artist of Russia".
In Norway in 1986, he was awarded the top-ranking "Medal of St. Hallvard", the highest award presented by of the City of Oslo; in 1998, the "Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit"; and in 1994, the "Commander with Star" - the highest award presented to a foreigner. In 1995, he received the Latvian Award of Merit for Music and in 2003 the Hans von Bülow Medal from the Berlin Philharmonic.
In 2007, the city of Vienna presented him with the "Golden Cross of Honor for Services to the Federal State of Vienna". In 2009, the Austrian Culture Ministry on behalf of Federal Austrian President Heinz Fischer awarded him the "Austrian Cross of Honor for Scholarship and Art".
Besides his conducting duties, Mariss Jansons has served for almost 30 years, from 1971 until 2000, as professor of conducting at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He holds honorary doctorates from the music academies in Oslo (2003), Riga (2006) and the Royal Academy of Music in London (1999).