unique timbre, its virtuosic flexibility, its musicians' rapture-inducing, infectious joy, coupled with the profound sincerity of their music-making, are the unmistakable characteristics which led to the Orchestra's inclusion in the exclusive German showcase publication "Brands of the Century" in 2009.
Indisputably unique is, in addition, the extraordinarily rich diversity of the repertoire to which the Gewandhaus Orchestra dedicates itself in over 200 performances each year. The Orchestra's astounding spectrum of expressive capability is a result of the worldwide unique sphere of activity in which the Orchestra operates: as concert orchestra in the Gewandhaus, orchestra of the Leipzig Opera and orchestra for the weekly performances of the cantatas of J.S. Bach with the Thomanerchor in St. Thomas's Church.
The Gewandhausorchester is the oldest civic symphony orchestra in the world, its history stretching back in excess of 250 years. Its distinguished reputation and enduring influence on the history of music, its countless appearances on every continent of the globe since 1916 and hundreds of recordings have made the Orchestra one of the most beloved of our time.
Since Riccardo Chailly's induction as 19th Gewandhauskapellmeister in 2005, the Orchestra has released numerous CDs which have been serially decorated with the most prestigious international awards, including a Golden Disc: the complete symphonies of both Beethoven and Schumann; a Gershwin album with the pianist Stefano Bollani; Bach's piano concertos, Christmas Oratorio, St. Matthew Passion and the Brandenburg Concertos; Brahms' piano concertos with Nelson Freire; Mendelssohn's Lobgesang and the "Mendelssohn Discoveries" album).
2004 saw the establishment of the Gewandhausorchester's Mendelssohn Orchestra Academy, run in conjunction with the University of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig. The objective of the Academy is the provision of first-class, practice-specific training for the next generation of musicians for the world's elite orchestras. Members of the Orchesterakademie receive instrumental tuition from principal musicians of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, as well as practical and theoretical instruction at the University. Orchestral experience is gained through active participation in the Orchestra's activities in the Gewandhaus, the Opera and St. Thomas's Church.
The Gewandhausorchester was awarded the prize for the "Best Concert Programme" for the conception of its concert season 2008/09 by the German Association of Music Publishers.
Noble, charming, sober, modest. Such qualities may play a major role in human coexistence and are certainly appreciated. However, they are rather atypical for extraordinary personalities such as conductors. Whatever the general public’s notion of a conductor may be, Herbert Blomstedt is an exception, precisely because he possesses those very qualities which seemingly have so little to do with a conductor's claim to power. The fact that he disproves the usual clichés in many respects should certainly not lead to the assumption that he does not have the power to assert his clearly defined musical goals. Anyone who has attended Herbert Blomstedt’s rehearsals and experienced his concentration on the essence of the music, the precision in the phrasing of musical facts and circumstances as they appear in the score, the tenacity regarding the implementation of an aesthetic view, is likely to have been amazed at how few despotic measures were required to this end. Basically, Herbert Blomstedt has always represented that type of artist whose professional competence and natural authority make all external emphasis superfluous. His work as a conductor is inseparably linked to his religious and human ethos, accordingly, his interpretations combine great faithfulness to the score and analytical precision, with a soulfulness that awakens the music to pulsating life. In the more than sixty years of his career, he has acquired the unrestricted respect of the musical world.
Born in the USA to Swedish parents and educated in Uppsala, New York, Darmstadt and Basel, Herbert Blomstedt gave his conducting debut in 1954 with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently served as Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, the Swedish and Danish Radio Orchestras and the Staatskapelle Dresden. Later, he became Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Chief Conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig. His former orchestras in San Francisco, Leipzig, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Dresden as well as the Bamberg Symphony and the NHK Symphony Orchestra all honoured him with the title of Conductor Laureate.
Herbert Blomstedt holds several Honorary Doctorates, is an elected member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy and was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit. Over the years, all leading orchestras around the globe have been fortunate to secure the services of the highly renowned Swedish conductor. At the age of over ninety, with enormous mental and physical presence, verve and artistic drive, he continues to be at the helm of all leading international orchestras.