Herbert Blomstedt was born in the United States as the son of Swedish parents. He studied in Stockholm and Uppsala and took lessons in orchestral direction at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. In Darmstadt he specialised in contemporary music, and at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in early music. He worked with Igor Markevich in Salzburg and with Leonard Bernstein in Tanglewood.
In 1954 Herbert Blomstedt made his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Stockholm.
He was chief conductor of several Scandinavian orchestras, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the NDR Sinfonieorchester and the San Francisco Symphony – where he is now Conductor Laureate is. From 1998 until 2005 he was chief conductor of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; he is now their conductor laureate.
Herbert Blomstedt works with major symphony orchestras all over the world and conducted at important festivals in Edinburgh, Salzburg en Luzern. Among his many CD recordings the complete symphonies of Sibelius and Nielsen deserve special mention.
Herbert Blomstedt received a number of honorary doctorates and is a member of the Royal Swedish Music Academy. In 2003 the German President Johannes Rau personally handed him the Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, the highest German order of merit.
He has regularly conducted Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, most recently with works by Wagner, Lidholm and Dvořák in January 2016.