Kent Nagano

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Kent Nagano.
Photo Credit: Kasa Kara

Kent Nagano was the Music Director of Berkeley Symphony from 1978 to 2009. Under his direction, Berkeley Symphony garnered an international reputation for its adventurous programming, and became known for premiering international composers and showcasing young local talents. Nagano stepped down from his post at Berkeley Symphony after his 30th anniversary season; however, he continues his intimate ties with the orchestra as Conductor Laureate and Artistic Director of Berkeley Akademie Ensemble.

During the 30 years he served as Music Director of Berkeley Symphony, Kent Nagano established an international reputation as a gifted interpreter of both the operatic and symphonic repertoire. His career has been distinguished by his serving as Music Director for major orchestras and opera companies around the world, including Opéra National de Lyon (1988-1998); Hallé Orchestra (1991-2001) in Manchester, England, with which he premiered John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer in Brussels and El Niño in Paris; the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; and the Los Angeles Opera (2000-2006).

Kent Nagano is a regular guest conductor at the Salzburg Festival, where he developed a reputation for reviving lost or forgotten works of major composers. Messiaen’s extraordinary Saint François d’Assise, featuring Hallé Orchestra, soprano Dawn Upshaw, tenor Chris Merritt and bass-baritone José van Dam, was recorded and released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1998. In 2000, he was awarded a Grammy for the recording of Busoni’s neglected Doktor Faust with Opéra National de Lyon. He is currently the Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.

Kent Nagano has recorded for Erato, Teldec, Pentatone and Deutsche Grammophon, as well as Harmonia Mundi, winning Grammy awards for his recordings of Busoni’s Doktor Faust with the Opéra National de Lyon, and Peter and the Wolf with the Russian National Orchestra. The latter features Sophia Loren narrating Peter and the Wolf, and a new piece by Jean-Pascal Beintus, Wolf Tracks, narrated by Bill Clinton, with introductory remarks provided by Mikhail Gorbachev.

A son of second-generation Japanese immigrants, Kent Nagano was born in Berkeley and grew up on a farm in Morro Bay, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Music and Sociology at the University of California- Santa Cruz, and a master’s degree in Music at San Francisco State. He is an avid surfer and driver of performance cars, interests he developed during his youth and continues to enjoy. He is married to concert pianist Mari Kodama and currently spends his time between the Bay Area, Munich, and Montréal.