Latvian Conductor Jānis Zirnis has Died, Aged 79
Zirnis was Chief Conductor of the Latvian National Opera, and led a number of celebrated Latvian choral ensembles
Born in 1944 in Staicele, Jānis Zirnis trained on the trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, and percussionist as a child. He studied conducting with Jānis Ozoliņš at the Jāzeps Vītolas Latvian State Conservatory and later pursued further study with Visilij Sinaiskas.
A saxophonist in the Latvian Radio and Television Light Music Orchestra between 1967 and 1980, Zirnis also began to develop his profile as a choral conductor during this time.
His first post was with the mixed choir of Kāduma village, and in the 1980s he also conducted the Madona District Teachers’ Choir, serving long tenures as the conductor of the women’s choir ‘Ausma’, the mixed choir ‘Ogre’, and as the principal conductor of the Dobele District Teachers’ Choir ‘Sidrabe’.
Zirnis also held a post as Assistant Conductor of the Latvian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1984, and became chief chorus master and then conductor of the Latvian National Opera in the period from 1987 to 2004.
Zirnis was also a devoted pedagogue and returned to his alma mater to be head of the Music Pedagogy Department (1984-87) and conductor of the training choir and symphony orchestra.
The nation of Latvia recognized Zirnis’s work with the Letter of Appreciation of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia in 2004, and the Order of Three Stars in 2008.