The prominent American-born Swedish conductor, Herbert (Thorson) Blomstedt, was born of Swedish parents, and moved with his family to Sweden in 1929. He took courses at the Stockholm Musikhögskolan and at the University of Uppsala. After conducting lessons with Igor Markevitch in Paris, he continued his training with Jean Morel at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and with Leonard Bernstein at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, where he won the Koussevitzky Prize in 1953. He also studied contemporary music in Darmstadt and renaissance and baroque music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and worked with Igor Markevitch in Salzburg.
In February 1954 Herbert Blomstedt made his professional conducting debut with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, then was music director of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra from 1954 to 1961. He subsequently held the post of first conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1962 to 1968 while being concurrently active as a conductor with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Copenhagen, where he served as chief conductor from 1967 to 1977. From 1975 to 1985 he was chief conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, with which he toured over twenty European countries, the USA (1979, 1983), and Japan. From 1977 to 1983 he was chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm.
Herbert Blomstedt also appeared as a guest conductor with principal orchestras of the world. As guest conductor, he has performed with orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as well as NHK Symphony, of which he is Honorary Conductor.
Herbert Blomstedt is Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra where he served as Music Director from 1985 to 1995, leading it at its 75th-anniversary gala concert in 1986 and on a tour of Europe in 1987. Throughout his tenure he and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra repeatedly appeared to critical acclaim at major European concert venues and festivals including Edinburgh, Salzburg, Munich and Lucerne. From 1996 to 1998, he was Music Director of the NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg. With the season 1998-1999 he succeeded Kurt Masur as Music Director of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, a post which he maintained until the end of the season 2004-2005. Having been appointed Honorary Conductor of this orchestra, he returns to Leipzig regularly. In 2006, he was awarded the title of Honorary Conductor by three more orchestras: the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as the Bamberger Symphoniker, which he has been conducting since 1982. In addition, he continues guest conducting the world's most pre-eminent orchestras.
His extensive discography includes over 130 works with the Dresden Staatskapelle, amongst them all symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert. With the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra Herbert Blomstedt recorded the complete works of Carl Nielsen. 1987 he and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra signed up an exclusive contract with Decca and numerous of their recordings received major awards; his complete cycles of the symphonies of Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen enjoy reference standard.
His collaboration with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig has been documented by several labels. For Decca, he recorded Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4, Brucknerís Symphony No. 9, Paul Hindemith's Sinfonia serena and Die Harmonie der Welt, piano concertos of Felix Mendelssohn and works by Richard Strauss. Releases also include Sandströmís High Mass for Deutsche Grammophon and F. Mendelssohn's Elijah for RCA Red Seal. German label querstand released a box of live concert recordings covering the Leipzig period from 1998 to 2005, Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 (a recording of Herbert Blomstedt's farewell concerts with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig) and, most recently, Bruckner's Symphony No. 7.
Herbert Blomstedt received several Honorary Doctorates and is an elected member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy. In fall 2003 he was awarded the "Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz" by the German Federal President Johannes Rau. He celebrated his 80th birthday on July 11, 2007.