Herbert Blomstedt

Building an International Reputation

Herbert Blomstedt, Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), served as the Symphony’s Music Director from 1985 to 1995. During that decade, he raised the orchestra’s standards and its international stature.  Blomstedt led the SFS on successful tours of the United States, Europe, and Asia, conducting performances at the major festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, and Lucerne.  The recordings he made with the SFS, including the complete cycles of Nielsen and Sibelius symphonies, scored numerous awards -- 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 Association of German Record Critics.

Training & Early Triumphs

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1927, Blomstedt moved with his family to Sweden two years later. He 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. Blomstedt continued his conducting studies with Igor Markevitch in Salzburg, with Jean Morel at Juilliard, and with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. His talent was quickly recognized. In 1953, he won the prestigious Koussevitzky Conducting Prize. The next year, he made his conducting debut with the Stockholm Philharmonic and landed his first post, as Music Director of Sweden’s Norrk√∂ping Symphony. In 1955, he won first prize at the Salzburg Conducting Competition.

A Flourishing European Career

Before coming to San Francisco, Blomstedt was chief conductor of the venerable Dresden Staatskapelle from 1975 to 1985. He led that orchestra’s first performances in the United States, and made numerous recordings with it, including complete cycles of the Beethoven and Schubert symphonies. After his decade-long tenure with the SFS, he became Music Director of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, and served in the same capacity at the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig from 1998 to 2005. Among many other works, he recorded Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, Sandstr√∂m’s High Mass, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Leipzig musicians. The German label Querstand has released a set of live recordings from Blomstedt’s tenure with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. He is currently its Honorary Conductor, a title he also holds with Japan’s NHK Symphony, the Danish and Swedish radio symphonies, and the Bamberg Symphony in Germany, which he has conducted since 1982.

A Bounty of Honors & Awards 

Blomstedt is a member of the Royal Musical Academy of Stockholm, and has received 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 2003, he was awarded the Great Cross of Merit by German President Johannes Rau.



Recording Boxed Sets

Recordings from the ten-year partnership of the SFS and Herbert Blomstedt.

Sibelius: The Symphonies


Nielsen Symphonies Nos. 1-3


Nielsen Symphoniess Nos. 4-6