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Veterans’ centennial homecoming

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Then and now: Former San Francisco Symphony music directors Herbert Blomstedt, left, and Edo de Waart — pictured during their tenure with the orchestra and today — are leading the orchestra in concert, beginning this week. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Then and now: Former San Francisco Symphony music directors Herbert Blomstedt, left, and Edo de Waart — pictured during their tenure with the orchestra and today — are leading the orchestra in concert, beginning this week.

Some special guests are appearing with the San Francisco Symphony soon: Former music directors Edo de Waart and Herbert Blomstedt are returning to The City to lead the orchestra during this season’s centennial celebrations.

Now 70, de Waart made his début here in 1975, at age 34. He served as the orchestra’s ninth music director from 1977 to 1985, succeeding Seiji Ozawa. Under his leadership, the combined orchestra for the symphony and the San Francisco Opera separated, and in 1980, the symphony moved into a home of its own, the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

Blomstedt was 58 when he succeeded de Waart in 1985, and led the orchestra for a decade before Michael Tilson Thomas became music director.

Beginning Thursday, Blomstedt, 84, will conduct Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.

The following week, the program features Symphony No. 5 by Anton Bruckner, one of Blomstedt’s favorite composers. Blomstedt received Austria’s Anton Bruckner Prize and Denmark’s Carl Nielsen Prize for another 19th-century composer he has long championed.

After leaving San Francisco, Blomstedt headed orchestras of the North German Radio and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, one of the oldest symphony orchestras. Previously, he was music director of the Dresden Staatskapelle, which, founded in 1548, is probably world’s oldest.

Blomstedt, a conductor laureate with the San Francisco Symphony, holds the same position with the Bamberg, Danish, NHK, Swedish Radio, and the Gewandhaus orchestras.

Blomstedt, who has called San Francisco Symphony “a very special partner,” first conducted the orchestra in 1984. He made his debut with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and still remembers his initial impression: “Not only were they technically wonderful, but so eager to make music. I liked them from the very beginning, and that has not cooled off over the years.”

The orchestra received its first Grammy Award for the recording of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with Blomstedt, who conducted the popular work here for the first time in his career: “It’s a flashy piece, but it’s very cleverly done. That was an inspiration for me. We followed up with the Brahms Requiem, and we got the Grammy for that, too.”

De Waart’s concerts include the Prelude to Franz Schreker’s opera, Die Gezeichneten (“The Branded”), Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with Simon Trpeski as soloist, and Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3.

Since leaving San Francisco, de Waart headed orchestras in Minneapolis, his native Holland, Sydney, Hong Kong and Santa Fe. Currently, he is music director of the Milwaukee Symphony.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Symphony

Conducted by Herbet Blomstedt

When: 2 p.m. Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, Wednesday and Feb. 10

Where:
Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

Tickets:
$15 to $145

Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

Note: Concerts led by Edo de Waart are at 2 p.m. Feb. 16 and 19 and 8 p.m. Feb. 17-18