Kent Nagano is renowned for interpretations of clarity, elegance and intelligence. He is equally at home in music of the classical, romantic and contemporary eras, introducing concert and opera audiences throughout the world to new and rediscovered music and offering fresh insights into established repertoire. Since September 2006 he has been Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, a contract extended until 2020. From the 15/16 season he became, General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Artistic Advisor and Principal Guest Conductor of Gothenburg Symphony a position he has held since September 2013.
A milestone at the helm of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal was the inauguration of the orchestra’s new concert hall La Maison Symphonique in September 2011. With the orchestra he performed the complete cycles of Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, concert versions of Wagner's Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Das Rheingold, Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher, Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise, and concert series featuring the works of Dutilleux (2010-2011) and Boulez (2011-2012). Nagano has taken the orchestra on a country-wide tour of Canada and also to Japan, South Korea, Europe and South America and in March 2016 he took the orchestra on an coast-to-coast tour of the United States. Their recordings together include Mahler’s Orchestral Songs with Christian Gerhaher, Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 4 & 5 and a complete recording of all the Symphonies by Beethoven of which the album “Ideals of the French Revolution” with Symphony No. 5 won a Juno award. In March 2015 Kent Nagano conducted the North American Premiere of L’Aiglon, a rare opera of Honegger and Ibert. This production has been recorded for release by Decca.
As Guest Conductor of Gothenburg Symphony he took the orchestra on a tour to China in April 2015 and later that year he conducted Leonard Bernsteins A Quiet Place both in Dresden and in Dortmund with Ensemble Modern in a new version that had its premiere in Berlin in November 2013. At the Hamburg State Opera Kent Nagano first season began with the performances of Berlioz‘ Les Troyens and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, the world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s Stilles Meer and also Messiaen’s symphony Turangalîla with choreography by John Neumeier. In July 2014 he inaugurated the 3-year Vorsprung festival as part of Audi’s Sommerkonzerte in Ingolstadt and worked with ensembles such as the Czech Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra and Klangwerwaltung.
At the Bayerische Staatsoper, where he was General Music Director from 2006 to 2013, Kent Nagano commissioned new operas such as Babylon by Jörg Widmann, Das Gehege by Wolfgang Rihm and Alice in Wonderland by Unsuk Chin. New productions have included Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Idomeneo, Eugene Onegin, Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Schweigsame Frau, Les Dialogues des Carmélites, St François d’Assise, Wozzeck, George Benjamin’s Written on Skin and Der Ring des Nibelungen. With the Bayerisches Staatsorchester Nagano has toured throughout Europe and in Japan and together they have recorded Bruckner Symphonies No. 4, 7 and 8.
A very important period in Nagano’s career was his time as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, from 2000-2006. He performed Schönberg’s Moses und Aron with the orchestra (in collaboration with Los Angeles Opera), and took them to the Salzburg Festival to perform both Zemlinsky’s Der König Kandaules and Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, as well as to the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden with Parsifal and Lohengrin in productions by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. Recordings with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin for Harmonia Mundi include repertoire as diverse as Bernstein’s Mass, Bruckner’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6, Beethoven’s Christus am Ölberge, Wolf Lieder, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 and Schönberg’s Die Jakobsleiter and Friede auf Erden, as well as Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 and Schönberg’s Variationen für Orchester Op. 31. In June 2006, at the end of his tenure with the orchestra, Kent Nagano was given the title Honorary Conductor by members of the orchestra, only the second recipient of this honour in their 60-year history.
Kent Nagano became the first Music Director of Los Angeles Opera in 2003 having already held the position of Principal Conductor for two years. His work in other opera houses has included Shostakovich’s The Nose (Staatsoper Berlin), Rimsky Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel (Châtelet, Paris), Hindemith’s Cardillac (Opéra national de Paris), Dialogues des Carmélites (Metropolitan Opera) and at the Salzburg Festival Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Zemlinsky’s Der Koenig Kandaules, Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten and the world premiere of Saariaho’s L’amour de loin. Other world premieres include Bernstein’s A White House Cantata and operas by Peter Eötvös (Three Sisters), and John Adams (The Death of Klinghoffer and El Niño).
As a much sought after guest conductor, Nagano has worked with most of the world’s finest orchestras including the Vienna, Berlin and New York Philharmonics, London Symphony, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischer Rundfunk, Chicago Symphony, Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Gewandhaus. He has an ongoing relationship with DECCA and and has also recorded for Sony, Erato, Teldec, Pentatone and Deutsche Grammophon as well as Harmonia Mundi, winning Grammy awards for his recordings of Busoni’s Doktor Faust and Floyd’s Susannah with Opéra National de Lyon, Peter and the Wolf with the Russian National Orchestra and Saariaho’s L’amour de Loin with the Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin.
Born in California, Nagano maintains close connections with his home state and was Music Director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra from 1978-2008. His early professional years were spent in Boston, working in the opera house and as assistant conductor to Seiji Ozawa at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He played a key role in the world premiere of Messiaen’s opera Saint François d’Assise at the request of the composer, who became a mentor and bequeathed his piano to the conductor. Nagano’s success in America led to European appointments: Music Director of Opéra National de Lyon (1988-1998) and Music Director of the Hallé Orchestra (1991-2000).