Kent Nagano is considered one of the outstanding conductors for both operatic and orchestral repertoire. He has been Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) since September 2006 and took up the position of General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra in September 2015. In 2006 he was appointed Honorary Conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and in 2019 of Concerto Köln, the Baroque orchestra which he is involved in with the Wagner Readings.
In October 2019, Kent Nagano and the orchestra will go on an extensive tour through Latin America, including Sao Paolo, Rio de Janiero, Buenos Aires, with violinist Veronika Eberle, finishing at the Chicago Symphony Center on 15 October with the following program: Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff (soloist Denis Matsuev) and Bartok. In January 2020 the orchestra and Kent Nagano host the first ever Schubert Festival in Montreal, featuring all of the composer's symphonies. Other highlights of the 2019/20 season in Montreal include a concert with works by Messiaen and Fauré and a re-invitation of the orchestra and its Music Director to Carnegie Hall in New York. In summer 2020, the Virée Classique / Classical Spree festival, founded by Kent Nagano, goes into its 9th year.
In Hamburg, the 2019/20 season starts with the premiere of Shostakovich's The Nose in a production by Karin Beier at the Hamburg State Opera. In April 2020, the premiere of Strauss' Elektra, staged by Dmitri Tcherniakov, follows, as well as Olivier Messiaen's cult opera Saint François d'Assise at the Hamburg International Music Festival in a scenographic version by Georges Delnon which he especially developed for the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. In October 2019, Kent Nagano tours Japan with the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra and in January 2020 he and the orchestra present the world premiere of Pascal Dusapin's Waves for organ and orchestra at the Elbphilharmonie.
Kent Nagano’s guest appearances in the 2019/20 season include the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in Munich and Berlin, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Olso Philharmonic Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. With Concerto Köln he continues the scientific-artistic project Wagner Readings, with theoretically scientistic approaches as well as historically-informed performance practice of Richard Wagner's Ring.
One of the highlights of Kent Nagano's collaboration with the OSM 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 – a commission by the OSM 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 Matthäus-Passion. In previous years, Nagano and the orchestra performed the complete cycles of Beethoven and Mahler symphonies, Schönberg's Gurrelieder, concert versions of Wagner's Tannhäuser, Tristan and Isolde and Das Rheingold, Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher and Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise. In July 2018, Kent Nagano conducted Krzysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion with the OSM on the occasion of the Salzburg Festival opening concert.
Tours have taken Nagano and the orchestra to Canada, Japan, South Korea, Europe, South America and the USA, with stops in Washington, Boston and New York.
Most recently, he and the orchestra toured Europe in March 2019, including Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Paris and Vienna.
His recordings with the OSM on Sony Classical/Analekta 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 2016, Decca released recording of the North American premiere of L'Aiglon, a rarely performed opera by Honegger and Ibert, conducted by Nagano in March 2015, on CD. Further releases by Decca are Danse Macabre with works by Dukas, Saint-Saens, Ives and others in autumn 2016 and a recording of Bernstein's A quiet place in June 2018 on the occasion of the composer's 100th birthday. In autumn 2019 John Adams' Common tones in simple time & harmony (Decca) and at the end of 2019 the Lukas Passion by Penderecki (BIS) will be released.
Kent Nagano's past 4 years in Hamburg include the premieres of Berlioz‘ Les Troyens, Hosokawa’s Stilles Meer, Messiaen’s Turangalîla with the Hamburg Ballett and John Neumeier, the premieres of Wagner’s Parsifal and Beethoven’s Fidelio, Berg’s Lulu and Strauss’ Frau ohne Schatten and the „Philharmonische Akademie“ – a project in the tradition of musical academies of the 18th/19th century –, as well as the South America Tour with the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra and the world premiere of Jörg Widmann’s oratorio ARCHE – composed on the occasion of the inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie in January 2017. The live recording of this concert was released on CD by ECM in autumn 2018.
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, the Finnish Radio Orchestra, the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2014-2016, he led his own festival as part of the AUDI Sommerkonzerte, called Vorsprung-Festival. Other special projects included productions of Mozart's Idomeneo with Concerto Köln and the Bernstein opera A quiet place with the Ensemble Modern in a new version premiered in Berlin in November 2013.
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 included Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos and The Silent Woman, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites, Messiaen’s Saint François d'Assise, Berg’s Wozzeck, George Benjamin's Written on skin and Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Tours took Nagano and the Bavarian State Orchestra through Europe and Japan. In addition to Bruckner's Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 (Sony), Kent Nagano has released several opera performances with the Bavarian State Orchestra on DVD: Unsuk Chin's opera Alice in Wonderland (2008) and Mussorgsky's Chowanschtschina (2009) with unitel classica/medici arts, Dialogue des Carmélites with Bel Air Classiques (2011) and Lohengrin (2010) with Decca.
Another 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’s Mörike-Lieder, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, 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. To this day he has a close friendship to the orchestra.
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 at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin, Rimsky-Korsakoff's The Golden Cockerel at the Châtelet in Paris, Hindemith's Cardillac and Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites at the Opéra National de Paris as well as Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann and the premiere of Saariaho's L’amour de loin at the Salzburg Festival. Other world premieres he has conducted include Bernstein's A White House Cantata and the operas Three Sisters by Peter Eötvös and The Death of Klinghoffer and El Niño by John Adams.
Nagano has worked with labels such as Decca, Sony Classical, FARAO Classics and Analekta for many years, but he has also recorded CDs 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 Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin.
In October 2019, Kent Nagano and Mari Kodama will expand their joint recordings of Beethoven's works for piano and orchestra with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 0 E-flat Major WoO 4, a nearly unknown youth work of the composer, and his Rondo for Piano and Orchestra WoO 6 with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. The 4-CD edition will be released by the label Berlin Classics.
Born in California, Nagano maintains close connections with his home state and was Music Director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra from 1978-2009. His first major successes came with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1984, when Messiaen appointed him assistant to conductor Seiji Ozawas for the premiere of his opera Saint François d'Assise. 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).
Since 2005 Kent Nagano is honorary doctorate of McGill University in Montréal, since 2006 honorary doctor of the Université de Montréal and since May 2018 of San Francisco State University.