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Herbert Blomstedt (Juergen M. Pietsch photo)

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to the legendary Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, today celebrating his ninety-fifth!

“A first-rate conductor was in charge,” wrote John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune, following Blomstedt’s debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in January 1988. “Blomstedt gives the impression of being a serious seeker of musical truth, a kind of Diogenes of the baton. In the process of communicating what he perceives as the composer’s intentions, he has stripped his music making of frills and fustian, showing you the clean, shining surface beneath. Every orchestra should have such a musician on the premises.”

Over the past thirty-five years, Maestro Blomstedt has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall on several occasions, as follows.

January 7, 8, 9, and 12, 1988
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
Ivan Moravec, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A Major

February 22, 23, 24, and 27, 1990
HADYN Symphony No. 86 in D Major
LADERMAN Cello Concerto (world premiere)
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
DVORÁK Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70

January 24, 25, 26, and 29, 1991
SIBELIUS The Swan of Tuonela from Four Legends of the Kalevala, Op. 22
Grover Schiltz, english horn
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47
Rubén González, violin
NIELSEN Symphony No. 3, Op. 27 (Sinfonia espansiva)
Jane Green, soprano
William Diana, baritone

Herbert Blomstedt (Martin Lengemann photo)

March 5, 6, 7, and 11, 1998
MENDELSSOHN The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26
DUTILLEUX Tout un monde lointain . . .
Lynn Harrell, cello
DVORÁK Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

June 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2007
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Annalena Persson, soprano
Ingeborg Danz, contralto
Robert Künzli, tenor
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Chicago Symphony Chorus
Duain Wolfe, director

March 1, 2, and 3, 2018
MOZART Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major (Eroica)

March 5, 6, and 7, 2020
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Bertrand Chamayou, piano
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

Herbert Blomstedt leads the CSO in Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony on March 10, 2022 (Todd Rosenberg photo)

March 10, 11, and 12, 2022
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453
Martin Helmchen, piano
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major (Romantic)

Under the auspices of Allied Arts and Symphony Center Presents, Blomstedt has appeared as conductor with visiting orchestras, as follows.

March 12, 1986
WAGNER Prelude to Lohengrin
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
Claudio Arrau, piano
NIELSEN Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 (The Inextinguishable)
San Francisco Symphony

November 30, 1988
MOZART Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550
LIDHOLM Kontakion for Orchestra
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
San Francisco Symphony

October 22, 2001
NIELSEN Violin Concerto, Op. 33
Nikolaj Znaider, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Happy, happy birthday!

Herbert Blomstedt appears with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on March 9, 11, and 12, 2023, leading an all-Dvořák program: the Cello Concerto with Andrei Ioniţă and the Eighth Symphony.

This article also appears here.




On February 11, 1943, Edward L. Ryerson, president of the Orchestral Association, announced that Désiré Defauw would become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s third music director, beginning with the 1943–44 season. The Belgian conductor had made his debut with the Orchestra only a month before, leading one program of subscription concerts on January 7 and 8 (Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman, Debussy’s Clouds and Festivals from Nocturnes, Franck’s Le chasseur maudit, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony) and a Popular Concert on January 9 (Weber’s Overture to Euryanthe, Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela from Four Legends of the Kalevala, selections from Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony).

Defauw’s years with the Orchestra coincided with the time when American involvement in World War II was at its peak, an unsettled era when musicians were off to war (making room for more women to join orchestras) and servicemen were able to hear concerts for free when seats were unsold or empty. Patriotism was in high gear and the Stars and Stripes became a permanent fixture over the stage of Orchestra Hall. For the first concerts of the fifty-fifth season on October 4 and 5, 1945—the first downtown concerts following the end of the war—Defauw led the Orchestra in the national anthems of the Allied nations: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Music director Désiré Defauw and the Orchestra onstage on October 12, 1943

Music director Désiré Defauw and the Orchestra onstage on October 12, 1943

Serving for four seasons through 1946–47, Defauw introduced Chicago audiences to the works of several contemporary composers, including Barber, Bloch, Carpenter, Chadwick, Copland, Elgar, Goldmark, Milhaud, Sibelius, Walton, and Warlock. For RCA, Defauw and the Orchestra recorded a wide variety of repertoire, including works by Borodin, Franck, Grétry, Handel, Prokofiev, Respighi, Smetana, and Stravinsky, along with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Mischa Elman, Strauss’s Burleske and Weber’s Konzertstück with Claudio Arrau, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Erica Morini.

This article also appears here.

the vault

Theodore Thomas


The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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