MARISS JANSONS was born in Riga to the conductor Arvīds Jansons and the singer Iraida Jansons. In 1956 he moved to Leningrad where his father worked ad assistant at the Lenngrad Philharmonic. Mariss Jansons entered the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied violin, piano and conducting. In 1969 he continued his training in Vienna with Hans Swarowsky and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan.
In 1973, Jansons was appointed Associate Conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (now St.Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra). In 1979, he was appointed music director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he performed, recorded and toured extensively. In 1992, Jansons was named principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked as a guest conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1997, Mariss Jansons became the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His initial contract was for three years, but his subsequent contract renewals were evergreen contracts that required yearly renewal. In June 2002, he announced that he would leave the orchestra in 2004.
At the start of the 2003-2004 season, Jansons began his tenure as chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, for an initial contract of 3 years. In July 2007, he further extended his contract with the BRSO to August 2012.
In October 2002, Mariss Jansons was named the sixth chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, effective 1 September 2004, succeeding Riccardo Chailly.
In 2006, he conducted the Vienna New Year's Concert. Also in January 2006, he was awarded MIDEM's Artist of the Year Award in Cannes. In 2006, he was awarded Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance (Shostakovich's Symphony No.13 with bass Sergey Aleksashin and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus).
In October 2007, Mariss Jansons conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for Pope Benedict XVI and 7000 other listeners in the papal audience hall. The concert was televised worldwide in many countries.
He has received the Latvian Three Stars Order and was appointed Commander with Star of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit (the highest Norwegian honor ever given to a person not of Norwegian descent, for his services to Norway as director of the Oslo Philharmonic) by King Harald V of Norway in 1995. He was given honorary membership in Britain's Royal Academy of Music in 1999 and in Vienna's Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 2001.