Conductor Marek Janowski has forged a solid, mostly European-based career by largely disengaging himself from the fast-track musical life. Disturbed by the dominance of regietheater in Europe, he vacated the opera pit in the early 1990s to concentrate on his symphonic repertory. In the new millennium, he assumed directorships of several orchestras and returned to the operatic repertoire.
Janowski was born in Warsaw on February 18, 1939. After completing his studies, he applied himself to the 19th century regimen that had produced the best-prepared conductors. Serving as a répétiteur in Aachen, Germany, for a year, Janowski moved to a similar position in Cologne for two seasons. In two years at Düsseldorf, beginning in 1964, he was afforded the opportunity to conduct some performances. After returning to Cologne as first Kapellmeister, he was engaged by Rolf Liebermann in Hamburg. Later, during directorships in Freiburg and Dortmund, Janowski appeared as a guest conductor in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. In the late '70s, Janowski began to appear in American theaters, notably the Metropolitan Opera, and in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1984, he accepted the directorship of the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique in Paris (later known as the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France). During his 16 years with the Paris orchestra, Janowski raised performance standards and broadened his repertoire, acquiring considerable fluency in a variety of French works. Aside from four years when he also served as music director for Cologne's Gürzenich-Orchester, Janowski devoted himself to Paris, all the while paring down his opera activities.
Appreciation for certain French composers, such as Messiaen, Roussel, d'Indy, and Dutilleux, informed his programming choices for Monte Carlo. With the Dresden Philharmonic, Janowski's other 2001 appointment, a long-term relationship hinged upon the promised construction of a new concert hall. In 2008, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin offered him the position of artistic director for life, after serving six years in that position; Janowski remained in this position until 2016. He joined the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande as music director in 2005, having filled similar positions with Orchestre Philharmonie de Monte-Carlo (2000-2005) and the Dresden Philharmonic (2001-2003). In 2018, the Dresden Philharmonic announced Janowski's return as chief conductor beginning in 2019.
Janowski's discography holds estimable recordings of Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau, Penderecki's The Devils of Loudon, Wagner's Ring, Euryanthe, Oberon, and Hindemith's Die Harmonie der Welt. In addition to the symphonies of Roussel, his orchestral recordings include Lutoslawski's Concerto for orchestra and Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3. Following his break from conducting opera in the 1990s, Janowski returned to the genre in the 2010s with several recordings of Wagner on the PentaTone Classics label, including a new recording of the composer's Ring Cycle in 2016.