Profiles of Orchestra Members:
Order a CD of Kent Nagano's
(with Gidon Kremer)
Maestro Kent Nagano
Kent Nagano has been Music Director and Conductor of the Berkeley
Symphony since 1978. During that time he has elevated the Orchestra
to national recognition for its performances of the music of Olivier
Messiaen (on two occasions attended by the composer) and for its
championing of contemporary music through an acclaimed series of
world, U.S. and West Coast premieres.
In the fall of 2000, he assumed the position of Music Director of the
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and in fall 2001 he began as Principal
Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Opera. He has been Associate Principal
Guest Conductor of the London Symphony since 1990, was Music Director and
Principal Conductor of England´s famed Hallé Orchestra (Manchester) from
1991 to 2000 and Music Director of the Opéra de Lyon from 1989 to 1998.
Maestro Nagano's ever increasing
guest conducting appearances include successful debuts with the
Paris Opera, La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco
Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago
Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the
Berlin Philharmonic, the Salzburg Festival and many other orchestras
and opera companies. He has also served as Music Director of California's
prestigious Ojai Festival for two consecutive seasons (succeeding
Pierre Boulez) and recently returned there for a third season as
With a repertoire of more than 60 standard operas,
Nagano has distinguished himself by leading highly unusual works.
He has introduced Messiaen's first and only opera, St. François
d'Assise, in a number of music centers, including London (where
a section was televised) and Amsterdam (where it was recorded).
More recently, he revived it to great acclaim at the 1998 Salzburg
Festival, conducting the Hallé Orchestra. He also conducted the
world premieres of John Adams' Death of Klinghoffer and Debussy's
unperformed opera Rodriguez et Chimene (to celebrate the opening
of the renovated Lyon opera house), and recorded both of these works,
winning the Grand Prix du Disque for the latter recording. In 1997
he gave the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's White House Cantata
(posthumously issued) with the London Symphony and performed and
recorded Benjamin Britten's original and neglected four-act version
of Billy Budd with the Hallé Orchestra. Other significant milestones
include his performance and recording of the original version of
Mahler's Das klagende Lied with the Hall» Orchestra and performances
of Darius Milhaud's Christoph Colomb and Adams' Nixon in China.
Both the Lyon Opera and the Hallé Orchestra have toured extensively
throughout the world under Nagano's leadership, including a Bay
Area series of opera and ballet performances by the Lyon Opera and
a series of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl by the Hallé Orchestra.
For a career that burst upon the international scene little over
ten years ago, Kent Nagano has made an astonishing number of recordings,
which have garnered rave reviews and many awards. For EMI/Virgin
Classics he has recorded Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, Richard
Strauss' Salomé (in the French version), Poulenc's Dialogues of
the Carmelites, Busoni's Turandot/Arlecchino, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah
and the original version of Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, all with
the Lyon Opera.
Today Nagano is exclusively with Time Warner/Erato
Records, and for this label he has recorded Berlioz' Damnation of
Faust; Britten's Phaedra/The Rescue of Penelope; the afore-mentioned
Rodrigue et Chimene; Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress; Offenbach's
The Tales of Hoffmann; John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer; and
Massenet's Werther, all with the Lyon Opera; and, independently
from Lyon, Puccini's La Boheme. With the London Symphony he has
recorded two CDs of Ravel compositions, the complete Daphnis et
Chloe and, on another disc, Valse Nobles, La Valse, Rapsodie Espagnol
and Menuet Antique. Also for Time Warner/Erato he has recorded Milhaud's
Cello Concertos with Mstislav Rostropovich and the London Symphony;
VarÀse's complete orchestral works with the Orchestre National de
France; and John Adams' Violin Concerto with Gidon Kramer and the
London Symphony. With the Hallé Orchestra he has recorded a CD including
Prokofiev's Violin Concerto no. 2 and Shostakovich's Violin Concerto
no. 1, with Vadim Repin as soloist; the original, rarely performed,
four-act version of Britten's Billy Budd; and the never performed
original version of Mahler's Das klagende Lied. On a loan-out basis
to D.G.G. he recorded the 1998 Salzburg Festival production of Messiaen's
St. François d'Assise, and his last recording with the Lyon Opera
forces, Peter Eötvös' opera Three Sisters and Leonard Bernstein's
White House Cantata.
The son of Japanese-American Nisei immigrants,
Kent Nagano was born on a farm in Morro Bay, California and was
trained in both Japanese and Western traditions. He was playing
piano by the age of four and by the time he entered high school
was proficient on the viola and clarinet. He was awarded a B.A.
with highest honors in both sociology and music from the University
of California at Santa Cruz, which recently honored him with their
Alumni Achievement Award. He received an M.A. in music from San
Francisco State University and in 1994 received that school's Alumni
Achievement of the Year Award, together with astronaut Sally Ride.
While continuing his studies in piano, voice, viola and musicology,
he served as an assistant to Laszlo Varga at San Francisco State,
Calvin Simmons at the Oakland Symphony and Sarah Caldwell at the
Opera Company of Boston.
In 1984, Nagano received worldwide recognition
after successfully conducting the Boston Symphony in a performance
of Mahler's Symphony no. 9 on one day's notice without rehearsal
and without having previously conducted the work. Subsequently he
was named one of two co-winners of the first Seaver/NEA Conductors
Award, a $75,000 cash prize that he used to pursue further conducting
studies with Seiji Ozawa, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein, Bernard
Haitink and Claudio Abbado.
Kent Nagano has received numerous honors
for his recordings and for his work in France and England. In 1993
he was named an "Officer" in the Order of Arts and Letters, France's
second highest civilian honor. That same year he was also awarded
the prestigious Grand Prize in the Interpretation of Contemporary
French Music by the French Society of Authors, Composers and Music
Editors (SACEM). In 1992 he was chosen "Personality of the Year"
by a major syndicate of French newspapers and magazines and was
also nominated for an International Classical Music Award in England
as "Conductor of the Year." He has won two Grammy Awards (for Susannah
and Peter and the Wolf) in addition to several Grammy Nominations.
Other honors have included the Edison Award, several Gramophone
magazine awards and the Grand Prix du Disque for both Rodrigue et
Chimene and La Damnation de Faust.
Some Recent Reviews
"The international game of musical chairs is something Nagano
can play well. Last January he was appointed music director of the
German Symphony Orchestra in Berlin, the former Radio Symphony Orchestra
known to music collectors as RIAS. He has what amounts to an open
invitation to return to conduct at the Salzburg Festival, with triumphs
in the past two festivals that include productions of Olivier Messiaen's
Saint Francois d'Assise and Ferruccio Busoni's Doktor
Faust. His growing discography, already an impressive panorama
of some of the century's most exciting music, boasts Grammy and
Gramophone awards and promises forthcoming projects like Messiaen's
Turangalila Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic."
"Maestro's Musical Chairs"
San Francisco Chronicle
NOVEMBER 7, 1999
THE SF CHRONICLE'S COVER STORY ON KENT NAGANO
"A new recording of 'St. Francois' under Kent Nagano at Salzburg
is radiant and often thrilling . . . The orchestral performance
in the new recording, by the Hallé Orchestra under the direction
of Mr. Nagano, is strong and often thrilling. Mr. Nagano has known
this score since it was being written, and through his command of
tempo and sonority he makes it sound out full and clear. One hears
Messiaen's exultant embrace of all kinds of chords, timbres and
textures: an embrace so contrary to the confinement and reduction
that other composers have recently felt necessary to express the
spiritual life. . . . Now there is a permanent record of Messiaen's
vision in all its splendor."
"Messiaen's Excursion Into Rapturous Opera"
The New York Times
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1999