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Marek Janowski, whose father was Polish, left Poland while still young with his German mother and was brought up in Wuppertal. He studied mathematics and music in Cologne, including conducting with Wolfgang Sawallisch, and was also a conducting student at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena. Having started his professional musical career in 1961 as a répétiteur at Aachen, he moved on after a year to Cologne where he remained for two years; here in addition to coaching he was given the opportunity to conduct occasionally, without rehearsal. Janowski moved to Düsseldorf as second conductor in 1964, and thence back to Cologne as first conductor in 1966, when István Kertész was chief conductor. He made his English debut conducting Hans Werner Henze’s opera Der junge Lord as part of the Cologne Opera’s visit to London in 1969, when it performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. As first conductor at Hamburg from 1969 to 1973 during the last years of Rolf Liebermann’s period as intendant, Janowski scored a notable success with his conducting on record in 1970 of the Hamburg company in Penderecki’s powerful opera Die Teufel von Loudun. Janowski was appointed to his first post as chief conductor in 1973, when he became general music director at Freiburg. After two seasons he moved on to a similar position at Dortmund, remaining there until 1979 and also conducting as a guest in the first-rank German opera houses of Berlin, Munich and Hamburg.

At this point Janowski decided to follow a career as a freelance conductor, and was soon active conducting in the USA, making his American debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1983, followed in 1984 by his Metropolitan Opera debut with Richard Strauss’s Arabella, and later by Wagner in Chicago. In 1980 he conducted the first recording to be made in digital sound of Wagner’s Ring cycle, with the Dresden Staatskapelle, for the Ariola/Eurodisc label. Between 1980 and 1983 Janowski was a guest conductor with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, becoming the orchestra’s chief conductor from 1983 to 1986 and leading it in many memorable performances as well as a notable recording of the complete symphonies of Brahms, which appeared on the ASV label. He was appointed chief conductor of the number two orchestra of French Radio, the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique, in 1984, and remained at its head for fifteen years, during which he noticeably raised its playing standards.

While with this orchestra Janowski also extended his own repertoire to include the music of several major French composers, such as Roussel, Messiaen and Dutilleux, as well as conducting major elements of the Austro-German repertoire, such as the first Bruckner cycle to be performed in France. Between 1986 and 1990 he was also chief conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne, the concert-giving arm of the Cologne Opera. In addition throughout this period he was active as a guest conductor with many of the world’s major orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Dresden Staatskapelle, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia, Philharmonia and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. After leaving the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique Janowski accepted several major posts, notably those of chief conductor of the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra (between 2000 and 2006), of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra (from 2001), of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (from 2002) and of the Suisse Romande Orchestra (from 2005). He was appointed as a guest conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2005.

Marek Janowski is one of the last conductors to have built his career by the traditional method of working his way up through the German opera house system, before branching out into symphonic work. From his earliest appearances it was immediately apparent that he was a conductor of unusual vitality as well as strength, in addition to being completely in tune with the German tradition: all attributes that were to be confirmed by his opera recordings appearing throughout the 1970s and 1980s, such as Weber’s Euryanthe, Richard Strauss’s Die schweigsame Frau, d’Albert’s Tiefland, and Korngold’s Violanta. His long period with the Nouvel Orchestra Philharmonique resulted in a small but distinguished discography that included significant accounts of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, and Britten’s Piano Concerto with Barry Douglas. With the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski he conducted a prizewinning recording of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder that demonstrated his stature as one of the major Strauss conductors of his generation. Arguably Janowski’s greatest years are ahead of him, as his very considerable art matures in the same way as did that of such distinguished predecessors as Günther Wand and Ernest Bour.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Conductors, Naxos 8.558087–90).

Role: Conductor 
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