It has been devastating news for the musical community that Mariss Jansons is no longer with us. There have been many beautiful tributes written about him since his passing in early December (here’s one) and while it’s hard to put into words what he meant to me, personally, I will try.
It was working with Mariss Jansons in 2002 at the Salzburg Festival with the IOIA Orchestra that taught me to be unrelenting in the quality of work that you expect from yourself and from others around you. At the end of each break of every rehearsal and performance, he would be completely drained and his shirt would be soaked through. All parts had his personal markings. It didn’t matter the repertoire — the concert I helped prepare and assist was Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloë Suite №2, Brahms’s Double Concerto, and Zemlinsky’s Sinfonietta, he was masterful and totally committed. He gave me as much of his time as possible and was always very warm and thoughtful. I also watched him in rehearsal with the Vienna Philharmonic in selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Strauss’s Don Quixote.
At the end of the summer, after meeting a group of young musicians in IOIA that remain my closest friends to this day, I was ready to move to Vienna! At a lunch to celebrate the end of the festival, I sat next to Mo. Jansons and told him my plans. He asked if I had any opportunities in Vienna (I said, no) and then asked if I had any opportunities when I returned to NYC, and I told him that I had two weeks of education concerts the following November with the NJSO, but not much else. He contemplated this information and then told me something that I didn’t want to hear, but was absolutely true. He said that I should always follow the opportunities given to me and go back to NYC and see where this would lead me. His advice charted my career at that very moment.
He then invited me to watch his rehearsals in Vienna the following week in the Musikverein (Stravinsky’s Firebird) with the VPO. I have spoken many times about sitting in that hall for the first time, by myself, hearing that glorious orchestra and conductor work on getting just the right sound at the beginning of finale, but it wouldn’t have happened without his invitation and caring soul. RIP