Kent Nagano and the DSO
In the fall of 2000, the American Kent Nagano became the DSO’s fifth principal conductor. With unusual combinations of romantic and contemporary programmes, he made contemporary music a top priority. He took the Berlin audience by storm, leading the orchestra to opera guest performances that attracted a lot of attention in Baden-Baden, Salzburg and Paris. Upon his departure in 2006, the DSO appointed him their conductor laureate.
The Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera has since then regularly returned to his Berlin orchestra. The recording of Kaija Saariaho’s opera ‘L’amour de loin’ was awarded a Grammy in 2011.
Kent Nagano has been General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra since September 2015. From 2006 to 2020, he was Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and was appointed Conductor Emeritus in February 2021. In 2006 he was appointed Honorary Conductor of the DSO Berlin and in 2019 of Concerto Köln.
Highlights in Hamburg were the premiere of Berlioz’ Les Troyens, the world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s Stilles Meer, Messiaen’s Turangalîla with the Hamburg Ballet and John Neumeier, the “Philharmonische Akademie” – a project in the tradition of musical academies of the 18th/19th century –, the South America Tour with the Philharmoniker Hamburg, the world premiere of Jörg Widmann’s oratorio ARCHE, composed on the occasion of the inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie in January 2017, and the premieres of Alban Berg’s Lulu and Strauss‘ Frau ohne Schatten.
A milestone in Kent Nagano’s collaboration with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal was the inauguration of the orchestra’s new concert hall La Maison Symphonique in September 2011. In October 2016, he conducted the world premiere of José Evangelista’s Accelerando, commissioned by the orchestra on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Montréal’s metro. In November of the same year he conducted a semi-staged production of the St Matthew Passion. Further highlights with the orchestra include 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 and Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise.
As a much sought-after guest conductor, Kent Nagano has worked with the world’s leading international orchestras, including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, the NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Ensemble Modern.
Nagano has worked with labels such as Decca, Sony Classical, FARAO Classics and Analekta for many years, but has also recorded with BIS, Berlin Classics, Erato, Teldec, Pentatone, Deutsche Grammophon and Harmonia Mundi. He was awarded Grammys for his recordings of Busoni’s Doktor Faust with Opéra National de Lyon, Prokofjew’s Peter and the Wolf with the Russian National Orchestra and Saariaho’s L’amour de Loin with the DSO Berlin.
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.
A very important period in Nagano’s career was his time as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the DSO Berlin, from 2000 to 2006. He performed Schönberg’s Moses und Aron with the orchestra and took them to the Salzburg Festival as well as to the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Recordings with the DSO Berlin for harmonia mundi include repertoire as diverse as Bernstein’s Mass, Bruckner’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 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’ Symphony No.4 and Schönberg’s Variationen für Orchester Op.31.