Nelsons was born in Riga. His mother founded the first early music ensemble in Latvia, and his father was a choral conductor, cellist, and teacher. At age five, his mother and stepfather (a choir conductor) took him to a performance of Wagner's Tannhäuser, which Nelsons refers to as a profoundly formative experience: "...it had a hypnotic effect on me. I was overwhelmed by the music. I cried when Tannhäuser died. I still think this was the biggest thing that happened in my childhood."
As a youth, Nelsons studied piano, and took up the trumpet at age 12. He also sang bass-baritone, with a special interest in early music, in his mother's ensemble. He studied for one summer at the Dartington International Summer School with Evelyn Tubb. He served as a trumpeter with the orchestra of the Latvian National Opera.
Nelsons studied conducting with Alexander Titov in Saint Petersburg, Russia and participated in conducting master classes with Neeme Järvi and Jorma Panula. He came to the attention of Mariss Jansons when he emergency-substituted with the Oslo Philharmonic in their trumpet section during an orchestra tour. Nelsons counts Jansons as a mentor, and has been a conducting student with him since 2002.
In 2003, Nelsons became principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera. He concluded his tenure there after four years in 2007. In 2006, Nelsons became chief conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie of Herford, Germany, a post he held until the end of the 2008/2009 season. His first conducting appearance at the Metropolitan Opera was in October 2009 a production of Turandot. In July 2010, Nelsons made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival, conducting a new production of Wagner's Lohengrin at the opening performance of the festival.
In the UK, Nelsons' early work included studio concerts with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, and his first BBC Philharmonic concert at the Bridgewater Hall was in November 2007. In October 2007, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) named Nelsons as its 12th principal conductor and music director, effective with the 2008–2009 season, with an initial contract for 3 years. The appointment was unusual in that Nelsons had conducted the CBSO only in a private concert and in a recording session, without a public concert engagement, prior to being named to the post. His first public conducting appearance with the CBSO was on 11 November 2007 in a matinee concert, and his first subscription concert appearance with the CBSO was in March 2008. In July 2009, Nelsons extended his CBSO contract for an additional 3 years, through the 2013–2014 season. In August 2012, the CBSO announced the extension of his CBSO contract formally through the 2014–2015 season, and then for subsequent seasons on the basis of an annual rolling renewal. In October 2013, the CBSO announced the conclusion of Nelsons' tenure as music director after the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season.
In the USA, Nelsons made his first guest-conducting appearance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in March 2011, as an emergency substitute for James Levine at Carnegie Hall. He subsequently guest-conducted the BSO at the Tanglewood Music Festival in July 2012, and made his first appearance with the BSO at Symphony Hall, Boston in January 2013. In May 2013, the BSO named Nelsons as its 15th music director, effective with the 2014–2015 season. His initial contract was for 5 years, with 8–10 weeks of scheduled appearances in the first year of the contract, and 12 weeks in subsequent years. Nelsons held the title of Music Director Designate for the 2013–2014 season. In August 2015, the BSO announced the extension of Nelsons' contract as music director through the 2021-2022 season, with a new contract of 8 years to replace the initial 5-year contract, and which also contains an evergreen clause for automatic renewal.
With the CBSO, Nelsons has recorded music of Peter Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and Igor Stravinsky for the Orfeo label. Separately from the CBSO, Nelsons has also recorded for the BR-Klassik label.
Nelsons is married to the Latvian soprano Kristīne Opolais. They met during Nelsons' tenure at Latvian National Opera, when she was a member of the Latvian National Opera chorus, and later became a solo singer with the company. The couple married in 2011. Their daughter, Adriana Anna, was born on 28 December 2011.
- Mark Kanny (8 October 2008). "Conductor savors ties with Jansons". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
- Richard Morrison (18 December 2009). "Andris Nelsons's rapid rise to the top". The Times. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
- Geoffrey Norris (13 September 2008). "Andris Nelsons: 'I've wanted to conduct since I was five'". Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
- Terry Grimley (8 October 2007). "Andris takes the CBSO helm". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Charlotte Higgins (9 October 2007). "Young Latvian steps up to lead City of Birmingham orchestra". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Geoffrey Norris (26 November 2007). "The young ones seize the baton". Telegraph. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Anthony Tommasini (29 October 2009). "He's Come to Melt the Heart of an Ice Princess". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- George Loomis (21 April 2010). "Young Conductor at the Forefront of His Field". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
- Tim Ashley (13 November 2007). "BBCPO/Nelsons". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Rian Evans (13 November 2007). "CBSO/Nelsons". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- Andrew Clements (7 March 2008). "CBSO/Nelsons, Symphony Hall, Birmingham". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2008.
- Terry Grimley (24 July 2009). "CBSO's Andris Nelsons to stay for three more years after record season". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
- "Andris Nelsons renews contract with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra" (PDF) (Press release). City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Ben Hurst (24 August 2012). "Andris Nelsons extends contract with CBSO". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "The search begins for the new Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra" (PDF) (Press release). City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. 2 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Graeme Brown (2 October 2013). "CBSO music director Andris Nelsons to stand down at end of contract". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- James R. Oestreich (19 March 2011). "A Fresh Face Confronts a Seasoned Mahler". New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- James R. Oestreich (16 July 2012). "Tanglewood Tries Out a New Face: Andris Nelsons Conducts Boston Symphony at Tanglewood". New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Boston Symphony Orchestra Appoints Andris Nelsons As Its 15th Music Director Since Its Founding in 1881" (Press release). Boston Symphony Orchestra. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Geoff Edgers (16 May 2013). "Andris Nelsons named new music director of BSO". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Boston Symphony Orchestra And Andris Nelsons Announce Extension of Mr. Nelsons' Contract As BSO Music Director Through 2022!" (Press release). Boston Symphony Orchestra. 3 August 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
- Christopher Morley (24 June 2009). "First love rekindled for Andris Nelsons and CBSO". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
- Tim Ashley (9 February 2012). "Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini; Symphony No 4". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- Andrew Clements (5 February 2010). "Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Rosenkavalier Suite, City of Birmingham SO, Nelsons". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- Tim Ashley (13 May 2010). "Stravinsky: The Firebird; Symphony of Psalms". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
- Andrew Clements (4 April 2013). "Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No 9; A Hero's Song – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- Christopher Morley (23 October 2008). "Kristine Opolais takes double role in La bohème". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- Christopher Morley (17 June 2011). "Orchestral manoeuvres for Andris Nelsons". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- Official website
- Andris Nelsons at Konzertdirektion Schmid
- CBSO page on Nelsons announcement, 2007
- Andris Nelsons on the Bayreuth Festival website
- Andris Nelsons on the Lucerne Festival website
- Interview with and biography of Andris Nelsons in cosmopolis.ch
- Lohengrin Cast 2010, Bayreuth Festival
- Susan Hall, "Meeting Conductor Andris Nelsons". Berkshire Fine Arts, 17 March 2011
- Antonio Olmos, Ben Kape, and Christian Bennett, "Watch conductor Andris Nelsons rehearse with the CBSO". The Observer, 5 June 2010
|Music Director, Latvian National Opera
|Chief Conductor, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie