On 11 July one of the industry’s hardest working conductors will turn 90 with a host activities planned to celebrate the landmark occasion – and by look of his packed schedule we think Herbert Blomstedt could give Rolling Stone Mick Jagger (17 years his junior at just 73) a run for his money! American-Swedish conductor Blomstedt, who is the former music director and now conductor laureate of San Francisco Symphony (SFS), will have racked up an incredible 90 international appearances before the year is out.
In February 2017, The New York Times journalist Michael Cooper asked the munificent conductor the question we all want to know the answer to: “What’s the secret to pulling off such a demanding schedule?”
Blomstedt replied: “I love music. How could you deny being together with your loved one? Some journalists want me, of course, to say it’s because I never smoked, or because I’m a vegetarian, or because I keep the Sabbath. But that’s not the reason. It’s a gift. I cannot say, ‘Look at me, be like me, you will be in good health.’ It’s not like that. Some people who lived long and active lives lived a not-very-clever life. Churchill drank lots of whiskey and smoked enormous big cigars, and he lived to be 90 or so.”
The celebrations kick off today, 30 June, as Accentus Music release a five CD box set, Ludwig Van Beethoven – The Complete Symphonies: The new Beethoven cycle with Herbert Blomstedt, in honour of the occasion. Running to 349 minutes, the box set pays homage to the long-standing partnership between the legendary conductor and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, which celebrates its 275 anniversary this year. The live recordings were made at the Leipzig Gewandhaus between May 2014 and March 2017.
As a further show of appreciation, Blomstedt will be granted the Medal of Honour by the city of Leipzig, having just been awarded the Brahms Prize in Northern Germany on 10 June.
Blomstedt is certainly a force of nature: he saw out 2016 at the podium with NHK Symphony Orchestra at Suntory Hall, Tokyo. He entered 2017 conducting concerts with Gewandhausorchester and Berliner Philharmoniker in January, before hopping over to West Coast USA to Davies Symphony Hall to conduct SFS in February, and then crossing the country to conduct Philadelphia Orchestra and NY Philharmonic on the East Coast.
In March 2017 Blomstedt began an impressive European tour by totting up the miles with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra among others.
Some people take their birthday off and put their feet up – not Blomstedt. His birthday month of July places him on stage with, among others, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and Bamberg Symphony. For the summer month of August he will hook up once again with Vienna Philharmonic at Salzburg Festival.
In September, he’ll have a short stopover in his native Sweden to perform with Swedish Radio Symphony, followed by dates with Danish National Symphony Orchestra in Copenhagen and four concerts with Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig that last until mid-October. Later in October, Blomstedt and the players will perform in London, Paris, Luxembourg, Baden-Baden, Vienna and Budapest.
In November, Blomstedt and Gewandhausorchester will head for a slightly more temperate climate when he returns to Tokyo, followed by concerts in Taipei, before coasting back to Europe in time for Christmas to end the year in Germany with Berliner Philharmoniker, Staatskapelle Dresden and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Not that there’s any risk the maestro will slow down the pace by eating too much stollen at the famous festive German markets – he launches back onto the tour circuit 4 January 2018 with Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by an impressive US tour (February to March) that will take him to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, before once again heading back to Japan and Europe for spring.
Happy 90th Birthday Herbert Blomstedt! – we just hope you have a moment to blow out those candles…