He studied violin, piano, and composition at the conservatories of Bilbao and Madrid. He graduated summa cum laude from the Hochschule für Musik in Munich in conducting and won the Richard Strauss prize.
He has served as music director of the Rundfunkorchester Berlin, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Chief Conductor of the Bilbao Orchestra and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, as well as being principal guest conductor for numerous orchestras in Europe and the United States. He made his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
He has recorded extensively on a number of labels. Especially noteworthy are his performances of Mendelssohn's Elijah, the Mozart Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, Bizet's Carmen, and the complete works of Manuel de Falla.
The maestro is currently the Chief Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Torino, Italy, and Music Director of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, Dresden, Germany.