Arts & Culture
12:16 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Adolph Herseth, Master Trumpeter, Dead at 91

The hearts of all who love and care for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are weeping today with the announcement of the passing of trumpeter Adolph Herseth. For over a half century (1948-2004), he was the principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Along with tubist Arnold Jacobs, Herseth and his brass playing colleagues evolved into the most powerful and accomplished orchestral brass section in the world. This is no exaggeration!

Three sound bites: 1) Introduction to the Chicago brass section and a comment by Wayne Barrington (former 3rd horn of the CSO) regarding arrival of Herseth in Chicago in 1948; 2) Gail Williams (former associate principal horn) about the importance of Herseth and tuba player Arnold Jacobs in her career; 3) comment by Herseth about the thrill of playing in the orchestra (taken from an old cassette tape which no longer exists - please excuse the sound)

I have had the opportunity to study with and interview numerous members, past and present, of the CSO. When I asked how each of them was able to play at such a high level, without fail they mentioned the presence of Herseth and Jacobs in the orchestra. These two musicians, one at the top, the other at the bottom of the brass, set the standard. Yet it was never a matter of having to live to the standard of Herseth and Jacobs, or else. To the contrary. Everyone I have ever discussed this with speaks of Herseth and Jacobs as mentors who were always encouraging to those around them.

Stories abound about Adolph Herseth, and I would encourage all to seek them out. Recordings are also abundant. A good starting point would be any of the Fritz Reiner era recordings on RCA, and also the Solti-CSO discography. One will also find Herseth on many of the Barenboim recordings with Chicago. To hear Herseth as a soloist, seek out his Haydn Concerto, packaged in a set called "The Chicago Principal," and Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 2," part of the Ravinia series with James Levine.