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. In September 2015, he took up the position of General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra. Since 2006 he has been appointed Honorary Conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and has been Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) since September 2006. Further, in September 2013 he became Principal Guest Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
Aware of the important tradition of the Hamburg State Opera and the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, Kent Nagano, together with Artistic Director Georges Delnon, develops a unique and recognizable profile for Hamburg as a city of music between the careful cultivation of a broad repertoire and a bold passion for the new.
Highlights of Kent Nagano’s previous seasons in Hamburg were the premiere of Berlioz‘ Les Troyens, the world premiere of Hosokawa’s Stilles Meer, Messiaen’s Turangalîla with the Hamburg Ballett John Neumeier, the premieres of Wagner’s Parsifal and Beethoven’s Fidelio, 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, the premieres of Berg’s Lulu and Strauss’ Frau ohne Schatten 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.
Kent Nagano will go on a Europe tour with the OSM in March 2019, with concerts in Berlin, Vienna, Munich, etc.
In January 2019 he toured through Spain with the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra. At the Hamburg State Opera Kent Nagano conducts the premieres of Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethes Faust and George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence as well as performances of the entire Ring by Wagner in autumn 2018.
In July 2018, Kent Nagano conducted Krzysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion with the OSM on the occasion of the Salzburg Festival opening concert. In August 2018 he stood at the rostrum of Vienna Philharmonic, conducting the new production of Hans Werner Henze’s The Bassarids at the Salzburg Festival.
Kent Nagano started season 2018/19 with an OSM tour into arctic Quebec.
A milestone in 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 premier 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. 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, Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise, and concert series featuring the works of Dutilleux (2010 to 2011) and Boulez (2011 to 2012). Nagano has taken the orchestra on a coast-to-coast tour of Canada and also to tours to Japan, South Korea, Europe and South America. Their last tour was in spring 2016 through the US, with stops in Washington, Boston and New York. 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 was recorded and released by Decca. Danse Macabre followed as second production with Decca, with works by Dukas, Dvořák, Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Saint-Saens and Ives in October 2016. In June 2018, A quiet place by Leonard Bernstein were released also with Decca as third mutual production.
As a much sought after guest conductor, Nagano has worked with most of the world’s finest orchestras, just as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, WDR Symphony Orchestra, Concerto Köln, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rom and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. From 2014 to 2016 he led his own festival as part of the AUDI Sommerkonzerte, called Vorsprung-Festival. He has an ongoing relationship with Decca and Sony Classical and has also recorded for Analekta, Erato, FARAO Classics, Teldec, Pentatone, Deutsche Grammophon and Harmonia Mundi, winning Grammy awards for his recordings of Busoni’s Doktor Faust 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.
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, 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. In January 2014, Kent Nagano returned to the Bayerische Staatsoper to conduct a revival of Widmann’s Babylon.
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 to 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. 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 (Staatsoper Berlin), Rimsky Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel (Châtelet, Paris), Hindemith’s Cardillac (Opéra national de Paris), Les 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).
Born in California, Nagano maintains close connections with his home state and was Music Director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra from 1978 to 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 to 1998) and Music Director of the Hallé Orchestra (1991 to 2000).
Since 2005 Kent Nagano is honorary doctorate of McGill University in Montréal and since May 2018 of San Francisco State University.