Herbert Blomstedt, Honorary Conductor
»The Bamberg Symphony is an exceptional orchestra. You can't help but admire it and love it. I'm always happy to come back to this magical city. Still, every time I'm surprised at the wonderful way they make music here, so relaxed, natural, fresh – and so rare these days. Beneath everything they play, there's an undercurrent of happiness and gratitude. Gratitude that such music exists, old and new, and that this select group of men and women come together to perform it, inspiring and enriching each other along the way. These are the qualities that make this Orchestra so special. Anyone with ears to hear will hear it. And anyone who hasn't yet heard it is in for quite an experience! Music touches our souls and makes us complete as human beings.«
In Bruckner's name
Faced with the problem, how to keep body and mind flexible into advanced age, artists have developed distinct strategies. By his own account, the dancer and impresario Paul Szilard, partner of the celebrated Nora Kaye, managed to reach one hundred by sticking to a special diet: no frying, no sauces, just steamed food. Jazz pianist Hank Jones stayed agile at the keys thanks to an ascetic regime pretty untypical for someone in his line, without smoking, alcohol or other vices. The conductor Sir Georg Solti needed to do nothing beyond simply exercise his profession: »Conducting keeps you young – it’s my daily run.« He didn’t of course just mean the physical aspect of his vocation, but above all the mental aspect too.
Solti’s view would find many takers among conductors: in a profession with no retirement age, not only do they remain active for a long time, they’re capable of exceptional artistic achievement late in life and can even attain the culminating points of their careers. Among them is Herbert Blomstedt, clearly as able as ever to transcend his age on the podium – as are Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Sir Neville Marriner, Georges Prêtre and Michael Gielen, all around ninety or even older and very far from retiring. Born in 1927, Herbert Blomstedt is also the oldest conductor ever to head the Bamberg Symphony.
Born in America of Swedish descent, Blomstedt has developed a specially intimate relationship with our Orchestra, which began in 1982 and has blossomed over numerous joint foreign tours. In recognition of this, the Orchestra appointed him Honorary Conductor in 2006, then only the third Kapellmeister in its history. This autumn, Herbert Blomstedt and the Bambergers take works by Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner on an extended tour of ten concerts in total, including one in Vienna, two in Seoul and five in Japanese cities, three of them in Tokyo.
A memorable moment for the Orchestra, but above all for Herbert Blomstedt, a past master of the music of Anton Bruckner, will come in July 2017, one week after our Honorary Conductor’s 90th birthday, when Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony will be heard not only in Bamberg’s imperial Cathedral but also in Würzburg Cathedral and the Niederaltaich Monastery Basilica. And on 22 July, bringing our season to a very special close, as well as marking a very late debut for Herbert Blomstedt, the Symphony will be performed in the Church of the Monastery of Augustinian Canons at St. Florian, the very foundation which is so inseparably linked with the composer’s life and work and in whose crypt he is buried. Born in 1824 in the monastic parish of Ansfelden, he absorbed formative early musical experiences as a boy chorister at St. Florian, and from 1848 on, as the Monastery’s organist, wrote his first important works there. Later in life, the deeply religious Bruckner repeatedly returned from Linz or Vienna to the scene of his youth and first artistic successes, and he always stayed in Room 4 in the Prelates’ Corridor, now named the »Bruckner Room« in his honour and still used as a guest room.