“Janowski achieves incandescence with his Berlin Radio orchestra”
“From the very beginning, it was obvious that we were witnessing something very significant..., Janowski’s performance of Wagner’s Fliegender Holländer could well set the standard against which contemporary performances of Wagner are measured.”
Marek Janowski has been Artistic Director of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin since 2002 and, during his tenure, has built the orchestra into a world class ensemble. His Wagner opera cycle with the RSB in Berlin’s Philharmonie captivated Berlin audiences, setting a new standard of performance in concertante opera. The cycle was brought to a close with performances of the Ring Cycle in November 2012 and March 2013. The complete cycle of the Wagner operas was recorded live on Pentatone.
Marek Janowski is in demand as a guest conductor throughout the world, working in the USA with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and in Europe with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and NHK Symphony Orchestra. In January 2013, Janowski returned to the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France for the first time since his departure as Music Director in 2000 to conduct two all-Wagner concerts. In February 2015, Marek Janowski will return to the Gürzenich Orchestra for 3 concerts, again for the first time since being Chief Conductor of the orchestra.
Born in 1939 in Warsaw and educated in Germany, Marek Janowski’s artistic path led him from Assistant positions in Aachen, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Hamburg to his appointment as General Music Director in Freiburg im Breisgau (1973-75) and Dortmund (1975-79). Whilst in Dortmund, his reputation grew rapidly and he was invited to conduct in many of Europe’s leading opera houses. There is not one world-renowned opera house where he has not been a regular guest since the late 1970s, from the Metropolitan Opera New York to the Bayerischer Staatsoper Munich; from Chicago and San Francisco to Hamburg; from Vienna and Berlin to Paris.
Marek Janowski stepped back from the opera scene in the 1990s in order to concentrate on the great German symphonic repertoire. He now enjoys an outstanding reputation amongst the premier orchestras of Europe and North America and is recognised for his ability to create orchestras of international standing as well as for his interpretation of the core German repertoire.
Between 1984 and 2000, as Musical Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Marek Janowski took the orchestra to a position of pre-eminence in France, as well as abroad. From 1986 to 1990, in addition to his position in France, Janowski held the title of Chief Conductor of the Gürzenich-Orchester in Cologne and between 1997 and 1999, he was also First Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. From 2000 to 2005 Janowski served as Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and from 2001 to 2003 he also held the position of Chief Conductor with the Dresdner Philharmonie.
Marek Janowski has made many recordings over the past 30 years, including many complete operas and symphonic cycles, many of which have been awarded international prizes. To this day, his recording of Richard Wagner’s complete tetralogy the Ring Cycle with the Staatskapelle Dresden (1980-83) remains one of the most distinguished and musically interesting recordings that has been made of this work. His recent Bruckner cycle with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, recorded for Pentatone has also been accorded high praise and of Bruckner Symphony No.3, Resmusica wrote, “After the extraordinary mixed delirium of the first movement, the inspired Marek Janowski offers a Second movement full of colour. With a grand, magnificent string section, the German conductor offers music of overwhelming emotion. What intensity, what beauty and what magnificent clarity in the continuity of the musical discourse” (Jacques Schmitt). With the final release (Götterdämmerung) in November 2013, Marek Janowski’s Wagner cycle for Pentatone is described by the Guardian as “the most ambitious recording project marking this year's bicentenary”.
Marek Janowski is represented by Jessica Ford at Intermusica, firstname.lastname@example.org
2013-14 season / 621 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
MAREK JANOWSKI, CONDUCTOR
Rundfunk-Symphonieorchester Berlin - Chief Conductor and Artistic Director
Wagner Die Götterdämmerung
“What was so particular and appreciable about the RSB’s Ring Cycle was that Janowski avoided emotional manipulation; he did not endeavour to cast a spell over the audience whatever the cost; he steered well clear of all that is quasi-religious.
Instead, the span of the narrative was maintained throughout the cycle; a steady stream of music and plot facilitated by the wonderfully silvery and elegant Wagner-sound created by this orchestra. By the end, the audience had the sense that they had gained an overview of the entire Ring Cycle.
The main characters in this performance were definitely the RSB and Janowski, who – even by the end of the third act - were greeted by a standing ovation on both evenings.”
Berliner Zeitung, March 2013
“The authoritative Janowski once again served up a full, flexible, golden tone.
He kept the dynamics perfectly structured and under control, creating wonderful moments, and allowing the strings to begin discreetly and swell to their full power. When it came to Siegfried’s Funeral March, the musical centre of the opera, he painted the power of death so darkly, in the sound of the timpani, that the audience were pinned to their seats.”
Tagesspiegel, March 2013
Wagner Das Rheingold
“On Thursday evening, the Philharmonie Berlin saw a storm of applause from an ecstatic audience. Marek Janowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin reached the finishing straight of their Wagner cycle with the prelude to the epic opera cycle The Ring of the Niebelung […]. Marek Janowski did not conduct the Rheingold simply as a suggestive mood, but as a brisk narrative; a thrilling tale. He joined the two and a half hours of music under one long arch, creating exhilarating highlights […], conducting in a manner that was always sensitive to the singers…
All the sections of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin demonstrated breath-taking precision, with rustling, murmuring strings and powerful, flawless winds. Particularly impressive were the men hammering on the anvil, and the six harps, which provided a gentle glittering and twinkling.
At the end, all the performers , without exception, were fêted. … Marek Janowski, and his orchestra were caught up in a storm of solidarity and gratitude, because they had made Wagner and passion the very core of the performance.”
Epoch Times, November 2012
“The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin can now compete with any orchestra in the world, as proved recently by the storms of applause which greeted their performance of Das Rheingold in the Philharmonie. From the gentle entry of the winds at the beginning of the piece, through the wonderfully wan portrayal of the ageing gods, the descent of Wotan and Loges to Niebelheim, which has never before sounded so delicate and eerie, the subtle variation and shading of the individual Leitmotifs, the terrifyingly full yet transparent sound of the forge, to the solo violin portraying Albericht’s delusions of power: never have so many details been discernible in a performance of the Rheingold, and not simply because there were no visuals to distract attention from the music.
Just as in the Rheingold two days ago, the RSB under Marek Janowski was the real star of Die Walküre […]. The close fury of the forces of nature at the beginning of the piece, the delicate blossoming of the sound after Siegmund has drunk the refreshing water, the wonderful ‘cello solo, the radiant and precise wind section at the arrival of the sword Nothung, the emphatic phrasing as Sieglinde’s excitement rises; all these showed the conductor and orchestra to be unparalleled Wagner performers.”
Opera Friends, November 2012
“Wagner is exciting. And even more so when an objective mind like Janowski’s handles the score with passion. What the audience heard at Saturday’s performance of Die Walküre at the Philharmonie was simply breath-taking.”
Frankfurter Rundschau, November 2012
“Superlatives cannot do justice to the wonderful Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and the soloists. Marek Janowski, in absolute control of his massive virtuosic orchestra, maintained his richly-detailed, perfectly paced account over the three acts and sprang into passionate bloom for the young lovers, whipped along the Valkyries with the audible neighing of their mounts, and led the six harpists though the glorious Magic Fire Music conclusion.”
Seen and Heard International, November 2012
Wagner Die Walküre
“His ‘Rheingold’ had already won over the audience on Thursday; but Marek Janowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin achieved a truly great musical performance with Die Walküre on Saturday.
The concert was a powerful yet romantic tour de force, full of life, without for one second sounding affected in any way. The aura of gloom and apocalypse typical of Wagner’s Ring Cycle emanated ominously from the brass section, without paralysing the action. The depictions of the spring night and the magical fire were bathed in light.
The audience responded to this musical storm with an absolute hurricane of applause. This was a rare musical moment.”
Epoch Times, November 2012
“When Janowski holds the baton you can expect a feast of musical expression.”
“Saturday’s performance consisted of four and a half hours of high energy, followed by a standing ovation. You could not imagine a more magnificent or powerful interpretation of Lohengrin.”
Der Tageszeitung, November 2011
“This concert performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin was a triumph, proving that Wagner’s music alone is sufficient to electrify an audience. The standing ovation was unanimous, and lasted a good few minutes... Marek Janowski’s energetic conducting, which moved effortlessly between dreamy poetry and measured drama, offered something for everyone.
...If Janowski and the RSB continue this series with as much enthusiasm, by 2013 they will have created Germany’s most honest and valid tribute to Wagner.”
The Epoch Times, November 2011
“The performance reaped a much sought after standing ovation. This was a Lohengrin that you just couldn’t get enough of. Janowski provided the cast with a secure musical base. He refrained from special effects, staying true to the essence of the piece with earnestness and devotion, safeguarding it in his experienced hands.”
Morgenpost, November 2011
“Janowski’s performance was tender, charming, pulsating and flowing - quite simply, superb.”
Kulturradio, November 2011
“Janowski, a great connoisseur of Wagner’s music, has plumbed the depths of Wagner’s use of acoustic space by placing small choruses and instrumental groups around the Philharmonie in ways which couldn’t be imagined in an opera house.“
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 2011
Wagner Die Meistersinger
“When a performance is truly great, the audience can hardly wait for the end of the act to express their appreciation. Marek Janowski’s concert performance of Wagner’s Meistersinger on Friday evening at the Berlin Philharmonie was exactly this kind of performance. Melancholy and emotional depth both had their place, without being oppressive. After more than four and a half hours of music, the audience went wild with applause for the soloists and choir. A thousand voices shook the Philharmonie with shouts of ‘Bravo!’ for Marek Janowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.”
The Epoch Times, June 2011
“With three opera houses in town already mounting productions of the piece, did we really need another Meistersinger at the Philharmonie? Janowski’s performance of the prologue alone answered the question. The fabulous Radio Symphony Orchestra played with great power, then beguiled us with their sensitivity in the perfectly shaped and expressive E major cantilena.“
Der Tagesspiegel, June 2011
“Where should I begin with my praise? With the captivatingly fluent, brightly shining Morgentraumdeutweisen quintet? With the almost dodecaphonic fight-scene fugue? These radiantly cast Wagner operas in concert which Janowski is performing in Berlin are setting new standards. I can’t thank Janowski enough!“
Frankfurter Allgemeine, June 2011
“Under Janowski, Wagner’s music was in the best and most careful of hands. It was a unique pleasure to listen to Janowski and his orchestra. Rarely does one experience such perfection.”
Berliner Morgenpost, April 2011
“Janowski’s readiness to allow the singers some freedom, instead of subjecting them unquestioningly to his own structure of tempi, gave the performance a certain recitative-like spontaneity.“
Berliner Zeitung, April 2011
“…the maestro was applauded most enthusiastically. As the most important performer of the evening, he had worked with complete restraint throughout, and had done nothing more than inspire the chorus, orchestra and magnificent soloists to the greatest heights of expressiveness. “
The Epoch Times, April 2011
“By the third act, Janowski and his musicians were still performing with full concentration and clear contrasts, keeping the audience’s imagination alive with their music. The singers also gave their best throughout the whole evening. The performance was rewarded with enthusiastic applause and endless cries of ‘bravo’.”
Der Neue Merkur, April 2011
Wagner Der fliegender Holländer
“Janowski released the suggestive power of the music, conducted at a dare-devil speed, and served up ice-cold colours and thundering power – and that’s what it’s all about. His interpretation made the impossible possible: the ghost story could really unfold in the audience’s imagination”
Klassik in Berlin, November 2010
“Janowski’s Der fliegender Holländer was a triumph. It began con brio with the clarity and sharpness of the overture. This was a brilliant feat by the orchestra... the whole performance was underscored with both precision and passion, because Janowski was standing at the helm.”
Der Tagesspiegel, November 2010
“The mantra that Janowski prescribed when he took over the orchestra eight years ago, ‘music is the most important thing’, has proved useful. Today, the RSB has a rejuvenated line-up, it has consolidated its importance in the musical world, and it is once again one of the best orchestras in the country. I can imagine no greater cathartic pleasure than experiencing ‘pure Wagner’ with this omnipotent ensemble.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine, November 2010
“From the very beginning, it was obvious that we were witnessing something very significant... Freed from all the trappings of a stage production, Janowski’s performance of Wagner’s Fliegender Holländer, which the RSB played with exquisite sophistication, could well set the standard against which contemporary performances of Wagner are measured.”
Berliner Zeitung, November 2010
“Richard Wagner was allowed to speak unhindered, both poetically and musically, with no self-important stage business to get in the way. This concert performance showed bar by bar and word by word the overwhelming greatness of Wagner.”
Berliner Morgenpost, November 2010
Weber & Dutilleux with Mireille Delunsch / Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
“Of all of Berlin’s orchestras, it is meanwhile the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester that has the most individual, well-formed and warmest sound. The Berliner Philharmoniker may have more stylistic flexibility or more high-profile soloists, but in its seven years under Marek Janowski, the RSB has achieved a sound quality with an inner vivacity that is reminiscent of the Philharmoniker trained by Karajan in the 1960s. A single chord can sound so beautiful that the music surrounding it is barely needed to flood the depths of one’s physical and psychological fabric with the utmost intensity. The beginning of Friday’s concert at the Konzerthaus with the swelling, deep C of Weber’s “Der Freischütz” Overture, was the best example. And it was just the beginning.”
Berliner Zeitung, October 2009
Shostakovich Suite on Poems of Michelangelo Buonarroti & Bartok Duke Bluebeard’s Castle
“May the man who watches over Berlin’s music scene retain Marek Janowski in the city for a long time to come. He is utterly irreplaceable.”
Berliner Morgenpost, September 2009
Strauss Alpine Symphony
“The music of Richard Strauss is like a drug for conductors. Few of them can resist the temptation to exhaust its effects to the point of losing orchestral control. Luckily, Marek Janowski has outgrown the drug phase. When the head of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester conducts Strauss’ Alpine Symphony at the Philharmonie, it’s not about effects but about clarity, order and inner consequence. Light-footed does Janowski go about his mountain trek, staying close to Richard Strauss’ own recording from 1941.”
Tagesspiegel, June 2009
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (formerly Artistic and Musical Director)
“Without any doubt, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande has developed beautifully since German conductor Marek Janowski took the baton...
All merit goes to Marek Janowski for turning the OSR into the first-rate orchestra is it today.”
Le Temps, June 2012
Russia Tour: Weber Oberon Overture, Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor & Franck Symphony in D minor
“From the first bars there was no doubt that this was going to be a special occasion. The orchestra, playing clearly and flexibly yet accurately, gave a captivating performance and won the audience over instantaneously.
... Even after the second [encore] the audience simply refused to leave the concert hall. Marek Janowski, who had received thundering applause for this great success, finally had to gesture that it was time for the orchestra to rest.”
Kommersant, Saint Petersburg, February 2012
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (formerly Otto Klemperer Guest Conductor Chair)
European Tour: Brahms Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos & Symphony No.4
“… the PSO gave an inspired performance of Brahms' Fourth Symphony that was the equal of any I've heard it give. Janowski's tempos were faster, if only slightly so, than he commanded in Heinz Hall and his phrasing aggressive from the downbeat. The result was a capturing of the large-scale plan of the piece, the tonal continental shifts that contain monumental energy in potent climaxes and great profundity in quieter moments.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 2008
Brahms Symphony No.4
Janowski’s strengths as a conductor are a reminder of Wolfgang Sawallisch, whose tenure as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra was a golden age for that great ensemble. Neither German conductor sells himself to the audience, both are true servants of the music.”
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 2007
Guest conducting reviews
San Francisco Symphony / Brahms & Schumann
“[Marek Janowski] led the Brahms with clarity and poise, supporting the soloists with vigorous orchestral textures but ceding them the spotlight as necessary.
[…] The "Rhenish" Symphony, which occupied the second half, was a marvel of economy and grace. All of Janowski's characteristic gifts as an interpreter, including crisp rhythmic control and sleek orchestral balances, were on display.”
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2013
Cleveland Orchestra with Arabella Steinbacher / Weber, Mendelssohn & Schubert
“Here was a conductor 100-percent engaged, a leader actively involved in the process of making music. Few passages in the lengthy score lacked his direct imprint as Janowski, performing from memory, demanded continual variety of tempo and volume.
The appeal of Janowski's assertive approach was considerable, especially in the short term, injecting already dynamic pages like the concluding Allegro with extra gusto. In the opening Andante, too, the conductor served as an orderly, insightful guide.
…the piece suited Janowski perfectly, lending itself to an energized, dramatic performance and crowning both orchestra and conductor
Cleveland.com, February 2012
San Francisco Symphony / Beethoven & Schumann
“Let's face it, the San Francisco Symphony plays awfully well under just about any circumstances. But something special seems to happen when Marek Janowski comes to town. It happened again on Thursday afternoon, when the Polish German conductor led the orchestra in a phenomenally exciting program of music by Beethoven and Schumann. Even listeners accustomed to near-weekly feats of musical prowess from the local band had to sit up and take notice.
[Janowski’s] effect on the Symphony players was galvanizing. The orchestral sound they offered up was simply huge - muscular, richly colored and impeccably blended - but at the same time it boasted a striking fleetness and rhythmic cohesion.
A preference for brisk tempos is part of his formula, but it's not the whole story. Just as important is the specificity of his long-term vision, and the extraordinary clarity with which he lays it out.”
San Francisco Chronicle, October 2008
Recordings - Wagner with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (Pentatone)
"This Parsifal, whether in its intimate scenes, backstage music or choruses from unseen heights, is blessed with a highly charged atmosphere and sensational, incredibly detailed sound."
BBC Music Magazine Jury Award 2013, BBC Music Magazine, April 2013
Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
“Each of Wagner's three long acts is given a continually engaging shape. Janowski's timings, by the clock, are not quicker than those of most other conductors, but the opera has never seemed so short and light. It's a canny performance, in which careful delineation is made of the moments where the characters are meant to be singing as part of the story.
I've never heard a performance that so consistently and successfully reminds us that Die Meistersinger is meant to be a comedy. And Janowski sets it all up perfectly with an overture of Figaro-like busy-ness.”
Opera News, June 2012
Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
“Janowski's urgency and attention to detail, along with the superlative singing, orchestral playing, choral work and recorded sound, make this a competitive set among modern recordings.”
Chicago Tribune, December 2012
Wagner Das Rheingold
“Superstars – as ever – with its conductor Janowski the radio orchestra’s second recording of Rheingold sounds much more brutal and aggressive than their last recording over thirty years ago. I’m fired up for Die Walküre tomorrow.“
Kultura Extra, November 2012
Wagner Das Rheingold
“Janowski achieves incandescence with his Berlin Radio orchestra.”
The Sunday Times, November 2012
“This recording needs no prep work—it is, hands down, one of the most exciting readings of this piece I have ever heard…”
Audiophile Audition, July 2013
Recordings - Bruckner Symphonies with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (Pentatone)
Bruckner Symphony No.1
“Marek Janowski has nurtured this orchestra to a much higher standard than for many years and in a considerably broader range of repertoire. His way with Bruckner is brisk, energetic and lithe; considerable assets in this particular work in which the composer finds his own symphonic voice, confidently pushing boundaries with all the exhilaration of renewed purpose combined with harmonic and contrapuntal flair.”
Gramophone, August 2012
“Janowski's Scherzo is very high energy, his finale, Beethovenian in its urgency, a fraught but ultimately victorious journey with excellent trumpets and timpani at the end... I like Janowski's Bruckner, its basic honesty and refusal to superimpose 'personality' over the composer's own... Janowski's consistency isample reason to recommend his version.”
Gramophone, July 2012
Bruckner Symphony No.2
“If you need only one Bruckner Second, this outstanding release could be it.”
Audiophile Audition, June 2013
Bruckner Symphony No.3
“Marek Janowski nears completion of his Bruckner symphony series on Pentatone with this fine issue of Symphony No. 3. This is a distinguished series led by a conductor who [...] misses none of the music's grandeur. And it is from an unlikely source—the Suisse Romande Orchestra has become a major orchestra and no longer sounds like French orchestras of the past. SACD sound is excellent, with the orchestra in front.”
Classical CD Review, September 2012
Bruckner Symphony No.3
“After the extraordinary mixed delirium of the first movement, the inspired Marek Janowski offers a Second movement full of colour. With a grand, magnificent string section, the German conductor offers music of overwhelming emotion. What intensity, what beauty and what magnificent clarity in the continuity of the musical discourse.”
Res Musica, October 2012
Bruckner Symphony No.3
“What a terrific surge he achieves into the coda of the first movement but equally how magically he ushers in the moment of recapitulation minutes earlier.
Those special moments of communion that Bruckner achieves with his audience are beautifully identified by Janowski in the slow movement, where the tremulous hush just before the close takes us well into Wagnerian territory.
I shall now investigate the rest of the cycle so far.”
Gramophone, December 2012
Recordings with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (Pentatone)
Brahms Symphony No.4 & Hungarian Dances (selection)
“This is an often romantic, even lush rendering of the Fourth Symphony. Menace and despair loom, but Janowski’s brahms seems determined to keep them at bay. Which adds a brooding tension to the work, a sense of struggling idealism. The Pittsburgh forces play their hearts out, rewarding their conductor with character and feeling. An endlessly absorbing disc.”
Gramophone Magazine, Editor's Choice, March 2009
Brahms Symphony No.2 & 3
“It’s notoriously difficult to bring off this work convincingly, yet by negotiating the music’s dramatic contours with complete naturalness, Janowski and his fabulous Pittsburghers create the impression of profound ease and inevitability. With playing and recording both of luxury class, Janowski’s insightful recordings will appeal even to those normally resistant to Brahms’s music.”
Classic FM, Orchestral Disc of the Month, five stars, March 2008