Herbert Blomstedt, Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony, served as SFS Music Director from 1985 until 1995. Born in the US to Swedish parents, Mr. Blomstedt began his music education at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and at the University of Uppsala. He later studied conducting at the Juilliard School in New York, contemporary music in Darmstadt, and early music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. He worked with Igor Markevitch in Salzburg and Leonard Bernstein in Tanglewood.
Mr. Blomstedt made his debut as conductor with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in February 1954. He has served as chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and the Swedish and Danish radio orchestras. From 1975 to 1985 he was chief conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, with whom he toured more than twenty European countries, the US, and Japan. In 2016 he was named Honorary Conductor of the Staatskapelle.
In his decade as Music Director of the SFS, Mr. Blomstedt and the Symphony appeared at major European concert venues and festivals including Edinburgh, Salzburg, Munich, and Lucerne. Mr. Blomstedt continues to lead the Orchestra regularly, most recently in March 2016. From 1996 to 1998, he was music director of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and from 1998 to 2005 he was music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He holds the title of Honorary Conductor with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, NHK Symphony in Japan (where he was recently named Honorary Conductor Laureate), the Danish National Symphony, the Swedish Radio Symphony, and the Bamberg Symphony. In addition to these commitments, he continues guest conducting orchestras worldwide. In 2011 he made a late debut with the Vienna Philharmonic; he has since led that orchestra in Vienna and on tour, with further concerts being planned.
Herbert Blomstedt's extensive discography comprises more than 130 works with the Dresden Staatskapelle, including all the symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the complete orchestral works of Carl Nielsen with the Danish Radio Symphony. 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. In 2014, Decca released a 15-CD box set The San Francisco Years, offering a representative selection of Herbert Blomstedt's tenure in San Francisco.
With the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, he recorded works of Brahms, Bruckner, Hindemith, Mendelssohn, and Richard Strauss for Decca; other releases include Sandström’s High Mass for Deutsche Grammophon and Mendelssohn's Elijah for RCA Red Seal. The German label Querstand has released a set of live concert recordings from Mr. Blomstedt’s Leipzig tenure. A box set of the complete Bruckner symphonies was released in 2012 and also won an International Classical Music Award. His most recent release for Querstand is of Beethoven’s Missa solemnis.
Mr. Blomstedt celebrated his 85th birthday in 2012. He has received several honorary doctorates and is a member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy. In 2003 he was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit. He received the Danish Léonie Sonning Music Prize in 2016.