Manager: Judie Janowski
Management Territory: North America
Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer February 15, 2013 You don't need to read the program booklet to see that Herbert Blomstedt is a maestro, or that he enjoys a special relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra. No, all you need to do is listen. Pay even a little attention this week at Severance Hall to his performances of symphonies by Beethoven and Nielsen and you'll experience the work of a conductor who knows exactly what he wants and exactly how to get it. Even better, you'll hear the musical equivalent of true affection. On the first of two weeks in a row in Cleveland, the renowned former music director of the San Francisco Symphony and several major European ensembles left blazing marks with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and the Symphony No. 3 of Carl Nielsen. Positive traits abounded, but the characteristics that kept coming to the forefront in both works were lucidity, balance and refinement. Not only did the conductor evince profound comprehension of the music, a sense of every passage's structural purpose, but he also observed every detail, taking nothing for granted in readings of supreme precision. Start with the more famous of the two items on the program, the Beethoven. Conducting without a score, Blomstedt coaxed from the orchestra a performance from his memory to ours. Exceptional from the outset, Blomstedt's rendition Thursday had the lean, chiseled quality that only stems from great familiarity. Nothing extraneous interfered with impeccable displays of restraint and dramatic timing. All of this continued in the last two movements. Beyond responsive, the orchestra gave Blomstedt whatever he wanted at the drop of a hat, everything from supercharged punches and supple undulations to total silence. But the Allegretto upstaged all else. So soft and cohesive were the strings, one could have mistaken whole sections for individual players, and the forward tempo Blomstedt chose permitted darkness but not gloom. Emotionally, the effect was of a sneak attack. As the movement neared its pinnacle, the hints Blomstedt had dropped throughout the movement coalesced as a poignant, surprise blow. Though it came first on the program, the Nielsen symphony was no light offering. On the contrary, the first performance of the work in nearly 30 years lived up to the score's "Expansive" nickname and conveyed nothing if not breadth and depth. As in the Beethoven, precision was a hallmark. Under Blomstedt, the first two movements functioned like fine-tuned machinery, with all elements in perfect working order. Most remarkable was the sense of chamber-like intimacy that resulted from players across the ensemble matching each other's phrasing. The Finale, too, was a triumph, a parade of high-spirited solos that only picked up urgency as it progressed. Again, though, the slow movement reigned. Together with soprano Ellie Dehn and baritone Michael Kelly, Blomstedt and the orchestra achieved a state of utter bliss.
Maestro Herbert Blomstedt is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony. He recently concluded his position of Music Director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig after seven seasons,and he is Honorary Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo and the Bamberg Symphony. Maestro Blomstedt has guest conducted the world's major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Munich Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and The Philadelphia Orchestra.