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Adolph Herseth dies at 91; honored trumpeter was Chicago Symphony principal five decades

Submitted by on Apr 14, 2013 – 10:36 pm 2 Comments

Report: Herseth, CSO’s principal trumpet for 53 years, won the job in 1948 while a student and still occupied the chair when it was named for him. He appeared as soloist on numerous CSO recordings.

Adolph “Bud” Herseth, who served as principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for half a century under five music directors, died Saturday at his home in Oak Park. He was 91.

Herseth was studying for his master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music when he was appointed principal trumpet of the CSO in 1948 by music director Artur Rodzinski. Though Herseth never performed under Rodzinski, whose directorship ended later that year, he went on to serve under Rafael Kubelik, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim.

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, CSO president Deborah F. Rutter said the organization was “deeply saddened” by Herseth’s death. “He had suffered from a short illness, but his life was long, well lived and so magnificently filled with extraordinary music. The contributions he made — as a performer, a teacher, a mentor and colleague — to classical music, trumpet playing, and certainly to the CSO, are incalculable.”

In June 1998, Herseth’s friends – among them Doc Severinsen, Daniel Barenboim and Arturo Sandoval as well as brass players from around the world – performed a concert at Orchestra Hall commemorating his 50th season with the CSO.

After the Ravinia Festival in the summer of 2001, Herseth relinquished the principal trumpet chair and became principal trumpet emeritus. He retired from CSO in 2004 after 56 years and received the Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service.

Herseth held honorary doctor of music degrees from DePaul University, Luther College, the New England Conservatory of Music, Rosary College, and Valparaiso University.

He received the Living Art of Music Symphonic Musician Award in 1994, was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America in 1995, and was an honorary member of the Royal Danish Guild of Trumpeters. In June 2001, Herseth received the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Gold Baton Award, marking the first time in the League’s history that the award was bestowed on an orchestral player, and he was also awarded an honorary membership from London’s Royal Academy of Music.

The CSO’s principal trumpet chair was named after Herseth in 1988.

Born in 1921 in Minnesota, Herseth earned a degree at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He originally planned to become a teacher but gravitated to performance as a career while in the armed forces. During World War II, he served as a bandsman at the pre-flight school in Iowa and at the U.S. Navy School of Music.

Herseth made countless solo appearances and recorded extensively with the CSO, including seven recordings of Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures from an Exhibition” — under Kubelík, Reiner, Seiji Ozawa, Carlo Maria Giulini, Solti (twice), and Neeme Järvi.

Devoted to the development of the next generation of symphony orchestra musicians, Herseth regularly gave seminars, coaching sessions, and master classes in Chicago and throughout Europe and worked with the European Community Youth Orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Workshop for Young Musicians, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

He is survived by Avis, his wife of 69 years, their two children Christine Hoefer and Stephen, and six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His son Charles preceded him in death in 1996. Services will be private and details regarding a memorial will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Luther College, or the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: Adolph Herseth, principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1948-2001. (1990 photo by Jim Steere) Youtube video of Adolph Herseth performing the opening solo in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with the Chicago Symphony conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Adolph Herseth. CD cover for an album of concertos with CSO principals as soloists, among them Adolph Herseth playing the Haydn Trumpet Concerto. (Deutsche Grammophon)

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2 Comments »

  • Mark Alderman says:

    Bud Herseth was the greatest orchestral trumpet player of our time, if not all time. He was kind and shared his knowledge and skills with so many young students desiring to play the trumpet. He will certainly be missed by the trumpet and orchestral world. Goodbye to the man who showed us how it should be done. We will miss you Bud.

  • Mark Alderman says:

    Bud Herseth was the greatest orchestral trumpet player of our time, if not all time. He was kind and shared his knowledge and skills with so many young students desiring to play the trumpet. He will certainly be missed by the trumpet and orchestral world. Goodbye to the man who showed us how it should be done. We will miss you Bud.

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