Following Sir Colin Davis, Herbert Blomstedt is only the second conductor to be awarded this honorary title.
The earliest meeting between Herbert Blomstedt and the Staatskapelle Dresden was back in 1969. Blomstedt himself has said that he fell in love with the Staatskapelle sound as a youngster when, growing up in Sweden, he listened to early recordings of the orchestra on a small radio. The first collaboration was such a great success that only six years after his debut, the Staatskapelle appointed Herbert Blomstedt as their Principal Conductor, against the wishes of the East German authorities. He held this position until 1985, after which time he returned time and again to the Kapelle rostrum. Until today he has conducted more than 300 concerts with the Staatskapelle, and together they have recorded no fewer than 150 albums and CDs. Blomstedt also accompanied the orchestra on its very first tour of the USA
In his laudation speech, Bernward Gruner, Chairman of the Orchestral Board and a cellist with the Staatskapelle since 1979, described Herbert Blomstedt as follows: »Your artistic work is characterized by its attention to detail, an abounding love of music as well as great respect for musicians as well as audiences. Your artistic standards as well as standards of common decency have always been sacrosanct.«
Herbert Blomstedt reacted to news of his appointment as follows: »My initial encounter with the Staatskapelle Dresden was perhaps the greatest stroke of good fortune in my life. I hesitated for quite some time before accepting the post of Principal Conductor in Dresden, in the former GDR. But my collaboration with the Kapelle players certainly transformed me as a musician. You could even say that I learnt my trade as a conductor here in Dresden. That’s the reason why, in conversation, I frequently return to this important and wonderful period with the Kapelle. I am greatly touched to become the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate, which I also see as confirmation that my original decision was the right one.«
The official inauguration ceremony to the post of Conductor Laureate took place during the Staatskapelle’s 10th Symphony Concert on 5 May 2016 in the Semperoper, when Herbert Blomstedt conducted Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony as well as the Piano Concerto by Max Reger. The performance of this latter work was also to mark the 100th anniversary of Reger’s death. The soloist was Peter Serkin, son of the legendary pianist Rudolf Serkin, who, together with former Dresden Music Director Fritz Busch, was a strong advocate of the music of Max Reger.