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, Roberto Carnevale 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 2008/09 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.
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
In the UK, Nelsons's 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 2008/09 season, with an initial contract for three 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 three years, through the 2013/14 season. In August 2012, the CBSO announced the extension of his CBSO contract formally through the 2014/15 season, and then for subsequent seasons on the basis of an annual rolling renewal. In October 2013, the CBSO announced the conclusion of Nelsons's tenure as music director after the end of the 2014/15 season.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
In the US, 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 the 2014/15 season. His initial contract was for 5 years and stipulated 8 to 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 in the 2013/14 season. In August 2015, the BSO announced the extension of Nelsons's contract as music director through the 2021/22 season with a new contract, for eight years, that replaced the initial five-year contract, and also contained an evergreen clause for automatic renewal. In October 2020, the BSO announced a further extension of Nelsons' contract as music director through August 2025, with an evergreen clause for automatic renewal.
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Nelsons first guest-conducted the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 2011. In September 2015, the orchestra announced the appointment of Nelsons as its next Gewandhauskapellmeister, effective with the 2017–2018 season, with an initial contract of 5 seasons. In October 2020, the orchestra announced the most recent extension of his contract as Gewandhauskapellmeister through 31 July 2027.
With the CBSO, Nelsons has recorded music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and Igor Stravinsky for the Orfeo label. Separately from the CBSO, Nelsons has also recorded for the BR-Klassik label and for the label of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Nelsons has also recorded commercially with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon, where their album Under Stalin's Shadow, of the Symphony No 10 of Shostakovich, received a 2015 Grammy Award for best orchestral performance. This DG album is part of an intended long-term contract between the Boston Symphony, Nelsons and DG, as extended in May 2016. In 2019 DG published Complete Beethoven symphonies with Andris Nelsons and Vienna Philharmonic (Wiener Philharmoniker).
In December 2019 and January 2020, Nelsons conducted for the first time the Vienna New Year's Concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, where he performed the trumpet solo in the Postillon-Galopp of Hans Christian Lumbye, the first conductor to perform a solo in the Vienna New Year's Concert who is not a violinist. The recording of this concert was released commercially on Sony Classical.
Nelsons was formerly married to the Latvian soprano Kristīne Opolais. They met during Nelsons's 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. The couple announced their divorce on 27 March 2018. Nelsons remarried in April 2019, to the former Alice Heidler.
- Mark Kanny (8 October 2008). "Conductor savors ties with Jansons". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
- Richard Morrison (18 December 2009). "Andris Nelsons's rapid rise to the top". The Times. Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
- Geoffrey Norris (13 September 2008). "Andris Nelsons: 'I've wanted to conduct since I was five'". The Daily 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.[permanent dead link]
- 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.[permanent dead link]
- 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". The 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". The 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 3 August 2015.
- "Boston Symphony Orchestra And Andris Nelsons Announce Three-Year Extension of Mr. Nelsons' Contract As BSO Music Director Through August 2025, With An Evergreen Clause In Place Reflecting A Mutual Intent For A Long-Term Commitment Well Beyond The Years Of The New Contract Extension" (PDF) (Press release). Boston Symphony Orchestra. 5 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
- "Andris Nelsons soll 21. Gewandhauskapellmeister werden" (PDF) (Press release). Stadt Leipzig & Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. 9 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.[permanent dead link]
- Michael Cooper (9 September 2015). "Andris Nelsons Named Music Director of Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- 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.
- Erica Jeal (20 August 2015). "Nelsons: Shostakovich Symphony No 10 CD review – genuinely catacylsmic". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- Steve Smith (15 February 2016). "Andris Nelsons, BSO, Seiji Ozawa win Grammy Awards". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
- "Shostakovich Under Stalin's Shadow: Symphonies 5, 8, and 9" (Press release). Boston Symphony Orchestra. 2 May 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- Ender, Stefan (1 January 2019). "Andris Nelsons: Ein jovialer Genießer für die Philharmoniker". Der Standard (in German). Vienna. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
- Ljubisa Tosic (1 January 2020). "Neujahrskonzert: Mit Nelsons klatschend ins neue Jahr". Der Standard. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
- 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. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- Gay, Malcolm; Shanahan, Mark (27 March 2018). "BSO music director Andris Nelsons and Kristine Opolais have divorced". Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
- Zoë Madonna (6 November 2019). "BSO music director Andris Nelsons remarried in Germany this spring". Boston Globe. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Andris Nelsons.|
- Official website
- Andris Nelsons agency page at Konzertdirektion Schmid
- CBSO page on Nelsons announcement, 2007
- Interview with and biography of Andris Nelsons, 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 Guardian, 5 June 2010
| Music Director, Latvian National Opera
| Chief Conductor, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie