Herbert Blomstedt, Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, served as SFS Music Director from 1985 until 1995. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1927, Mr. Blomstedt moved with his family to Sweden in 1929 and later attended the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and the University of Uppsala. He studied contemporary music at Darmstadt and Baroque music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, also continuing his conducting studies with Igor Markevitch in Salzburg, with Jean Morel at Juilliard, and with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. Honors and accomplishments followed quickly: in 1953 the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize, in 1954 his conducting debut (with the Stockholm Philharmonic) and first appointment as a music director (with Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony), and in 1955 first prize at the Salzburg conducting competition.
In his decade as Music Director of the SFS, Herbert Blomstedt led the Orchestra to worldwide recognition, touring Europe, Asia, and the United States, and presenting concerts at the festivals of Salzburg, Edinburgh, and Lucerne. His recordings with the SFS, which included complete cycles of the Nielsen and Sibelius symphonies, captured France’s Grand Prix du Disque, Britain’s Gramophone Award, and two Grammy awards; their recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 was named Best Recording of 1995 by the German Record Critics. Mr. Blomstedt continues to lead the Orchestra regularly, most recently in February 2012.
From 1975 to 1985, Herbert Blomstedt was chief conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, leading that ensemble in its first visits to the US and on many recordings. After his years with the SFS, he was music director of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, and in 2005 he concluded his tenure as music director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, a post he had held since 1998. During his time in Leipzig he made a number of recordings, including Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, Sandström’s High Mass, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah. The German label Querstand has released a set of live recordings from throughout Mr. Blomstedt’s Leipzig tenure. He is currently Honorary Conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the NHK Symphony, the Danish and Swedish radio symphonies, and the Bamberg Symphony, which he has conducted since 1982. Mr. Blomstedt toured with the Vienna Philharmonic last year and will lead that orchestra in Vienna this October.
Herbert Blomstedt’s many distinctions include membership in the Royal Musical Academy of Stockholm and several honorary doctorates. In 1992 he was awarded Columbia University’s Ditson Award for distinguished service to American music. He received Austria’s Anton Bruckner Prize in 2001 and Denmark’s Carl Nielsen Prize in 2002. He is a Knight of the North Star, Stockholm, and a Knight of the Dannebrogen, Copenhagen. In the fall of 2003, he was awarded the Great Cross of Merit by German President Johannes Rau.