Music lovers and members of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra were mourning the death over the weekend of former conductor Mariss Jansons. He led the orchestra to international fame but left Norway bitter over Norwegian politicians’ failure to build a new concert house.
“He was one of the leading conductors in the world, no doubt about that,” Ingrid Røynesdal, chief executive of the Philharmonic, told newspaper Aftenposten on Monday. Jansons, a native of Latvia, died at his home in St Petersburg after years of heart trouble. He was 76.
“He’d had problems with his heart for many years, and there have been several episodes, but they (doctors) managed to save him every time,” Røynesdal said. “Not this time.”
It’s been 17 years since Jansons was the Oslo Philharmonic’s most important man, noted Aftenposten. Many feel his name lives on in the walls of the Oslo Konserthus (Oslo Concert Hall), even though he complained that it has poor accoustics and he fought hard for a new venue. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Jansons never forgave politicians who didn’t provide the city’s, and arguably the country’s, leading orchestra with better working conditions.
Jansons admitted as much himself in an interview with NRK in 2017: “When I left in 2002, I was in very bad humour. My relations with the politicians and the country were destroyed, and I still feel that way. I fought for better working conditions and places to practice without being heard.”
Røynesdal is now fighting that same battle, campaigning for a new concert house to be built at Filipstad on Oslo’s western waterfront. Others have proposed building a new and much better orchestra hall on top of the existing building at Vika in downtown Oslo. Debate is likely to continue.
There’s little debate over Jansons’ own role in developing the Oslo Philharmonic into an internationally acclaimed orchestra. “Jansons was conductor for 22 years and lifted the orchestra up to an international level,” Røynesdal said. “He was enormously important for the Oslo Philharmonic and for the development of Norwegian music.”
Røynesdal said the orchestra will be honouring Jansons’ contributions as it celebrates its own 100th anniversary this year. “Mariss Jansons made Norway bigger,” she wrote in the orchestra’s own online tribute to Jansons Monday.