Jonathan Nott achieved success as a conductor in rather unusual fashion: with no competition victories under his belt and no mentoring conductor ushering him along, he launched his career in foreign opera houses, eventually conducting orchestral concerts on the side, but often with modern or contemporary works on the bill. In fact, Nott developed a reputation for his interpretations of avant-garde music, making a recording early in his career (1996) for BIS that contained works by Xenakis, Berio, and Fornés. He would make others later on, for major labels, too, like Teldec, offering music by Ligeti, Feldman, Rihm, Turnage, Schwertsik, and others. Yet in the new century Nott has been drawing praise for his Schubert, Mahler, and Mozart and, of course, for his operatic readings of Verdi, Puccini, and other notables. Beside Teldec and BIS, Nott has recorded for Tudor Records, Accord, Arthaus Musik, and Naïve.
Nott was born in Sollihull, England, in 1962. His father was an Anglican priest who helped instill the Anglican choral tradition in his son. Nott studied choral music at Cambridge University, and then voice and flute at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Soon, however, Nott turned to conducting at the London-based National Opera Studio.
Nott debuted at the 1988 Battignano Opera Festival in Italy, and the following year secured an appointment as kapellmesiter at the Frankfurt Opera. He moved on to the Hessian National Theater in Wiesbaden, where he served as Hoch Kapellmeister from 1991.
In the mid-'90s Nott began appearing as a guest conductor with major orchestras across the globe, including the Orchestre de Paris, Munich Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw, and the major orchestras of London, New York, and Los Angeles. Nott was appointed principal conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra in 1997, serving until 2002. During this period he also held the post of music director at the Lucerne Theater.
2000 was the pivotal year in Nott's career: he was appointed both music director of the Paris-based Ensemble InterContemporain (serving until 2003) and principal conductor of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. It has been with the latter ensemble that Nott achieved his greatest acclaim on recordings, and perhaps in the concert hall, as well. Nott's cycle of Schubert symphonies, for Tudor Records, was released in 2005-2007 and received lavish acclaim internationally. Nott renewed his contract with the Bamberg Symphony in 2006, extending his post there through 2009-2010.