The Spanish conductor, Jesús López-Cobos, was educated at the University of Granada and at the Complutense University of Madrid, earning a doctorate in philosophy at the latter institution in 1964. In his student days, López-Cobos led a student chorus with such success that he decided to undertake full-time musical studies, first earning a degree in composition from Madrid in 1966. The same year he began studying conducting with Franco Ferrara in Italy. In 1968, López-Cobos won first prize at the Besançon international conducting competition, and as a student of Hans Swarowsky he took his degree in conducting at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna in 1969. That same year, López-Cobos gave his debut concert as a symphony conductor at the Prague Festival, and as an opera conductor at La Fenice in Venice. In North America he made his operatic debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1972, and his orchestral debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1978.
Jesús López-Cobos first led the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1970, and would serve as General Music Director for that company from 1981 to 1990. During that time, he conducted 30 new productions at the Berlin Opera, including the Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen on tour in Japan in 1987; the tour marked the first time the whole Der Ring des Nibelungen had been staged in that country. In 1989 they performed Der Ring des Nibelungen in Washington DC. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, he also led opera productions at Covent Garden, San Francisco, the Vienna Opera, La Scala, and he Metropolitan in New York. López-Cobos was named Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and served there from 1981 to 1986. Also, from 1984 to 1988, he served as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Orquesta Nacional de España (Spanish National Orchestra).
In 1986, Jesús López-Cobos was named the 11th Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). His commitment to excellence, musical knowledge and love of music that have led the CSO into a new era of acclaim. He has led the usually homebound CSO on several tours. During the 1997-1998 season he led the CSO in 12 Music Hall subscription concerts, and in East Coast and Carnegie Hall concerts with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. The CSO's first national telecast appeared in 1997 on PBS-TV under his direction, featuring pianist Alicia de Larrocha. In June, he and the orchestra, with pianist Barry Douglas, travelled to Puerto Rico to give two concerts at the prestigious Casals Festival. Among the orchestra's other tours during his tenure are a successful trip toTaiwan and Japan (1990), eight sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall, and two West Coast tours (the first West Coast tour in the orchestra's history in 1992, and also in 1997). His annual appearances with the CSO at Carnegie Hall in New York regularly sell out the house. In 1995 he led the orchestra in its first European tour since 1969. He served as Music Director of the CSO until 2000, and in 2001 the CSO promoted him Emeritus Musical Director for ever.
In parallel to his post with the CSO, Jesús López-Cobos also served from 1990 to 2000 as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the prestigious Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.He was Music Director of the Teatro Real in Madrid from 2003 to 2010, and was appointed Permanent Conductor of the Orchestre Français des Jeunes in Paris for summer education/performance programs for French youth from 1998 to 2000.
Jesús López-Cobos has decided not to renew his contracts with the CSO and with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in order to develop his international career as guest conductor. He has worked with many of the world's major orchestras. He led the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, conducted two evenings at New York's Mostly Mozart Symphony Orchestra in three concerts. Among the major orchestras he has conducted are in Europe: the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Symphoniker, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, Münchner Philharmoniker, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Zürich Tonhalle, Paris, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and all of the London Orchestras; in North America: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra; and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
In recent years Jesús López-Cobos has conducted all around the world in America as well as in Europe - Scandinavia (Malmö, Stavanger, Odense), France (Orchestre National de France, Bordeaux, Lyon, Lille, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Strasbourg), Spain (Madrid, Séville, La Coruña), the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Portugal, Germany, Eastern Europe etc. He has also appeared as operatic conductor at the Teatro Real in Madrid, Liceu in Barcelona, Chicago Lyric Opera, Covent Garden in London, and he begins a regular collaboration with the Opéra de Paris (Manon in 2001, Carmen and Les Contes d’Hoffman in 2002, Barbiere Di Siviglia in 2003, Manon in 2004).
His repertory is rich with works of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His numerous recordings include discs for Philips, Decca, EMI, Telarc, Virgin and Denon. Under his direction, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has made 21 recordings for Telarc, beginning with a 1987 release of music by Falla (Stereo Review "Record of the Year"). Other highly praised releases include music of Wagner, Ottorino Respighi, Richard Strauss, Bruckner, Georges Bizet, Franck, Gustav Mahler, Ravel, and Dukas. February 1997 brought G. Mahler's Symphony No. 9, which has been singled out as a critical favorite and earned praise from Stereophile: "Jesus Lopez Cobos' reading stands tall among the very best, namely Walter, Bernstein, von Karajan. I wouldn't even argue too strongly if you claimed that it is the best". The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's latest CD, Albéniz's Iberia in the Arbos and Surinach orchestrations, which was was released in February 1998, is apparently unique in the catalog. and a CD of G. Mahler's Symphony No. 3 was released in the fall 2001. He has also recorded with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne for Denon and Teldec.
Jesús López-Cobos He was the first recipient of the Prince of the Asturias Award (1981), given by the Spanish government and the Royal House for outstanding contributions to the arts. He received the distinguished Service Medal First Class (1989) from the German government for contributions to musical culture. In 1996, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music awarded him an honorary doctorate in music. He is a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.