Bud Herseth was hands-down recognized as the greatest orchestral trumpet player of his generation. He is from the same mold as Harry Glantz, principal trumpet for the New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini – one of Bud’s heroes.
Bud Herseth was principal trumpet for the Chicago Symphony from 1948 – 2001. He was “instrumental”, pun intended, in helping create the famous Chicago Symphony brass sound – the most coveted in the US, perhaps the world. This reputation began with Fritz Reiner in the 50s, but reached its height during the tenure of music director Georg Solti from 1969 – 1991. His high voltage approach to composers such as Mahler, Strauss, and Bartok sparked playing of the highest caliber from the orchestra. Herseth’s ringing tone, perfect attack, and nerves of steel stand out in the Chicago Symphony’s recordings – especially in the Mahler recordings of the 60s and 70s under Solti, and in more recent Mahler performances under Solit’s successor, Daniel Barenboim.
Herseth was born in Lake Park, Minnesota in 1921. His father was band director in the school Bud attended. This is where Bud got his first trumpet and began to play. When Bud was just in his teens, he attracted attention with his trumpet and cornet playing. He went on to study trumpet at the New England Conservatory in Boston with the principal trumpet for the Boston Symphony. He received a degree in Mathematics at Luther College in Iowa, before going into the navy in WWII. After the war, Herseth auditioned for Artur Rodzinski, music director of the Chicago Symphony, in 1948. Rodzinski predicted he would be the next principal trumpet for the orchestra. When Fritz Reiner became director, in 1953, the orchestra’s reputation began to receive international notice, with emphasis on the virtuoso precision of the brass section in particular
Bud’s career was almost ended by a car accident, where his teeth punctured his lip requiring stitches and resulting in numbness. But with typical poise, he soldiered on and adjusted for his injury. In spite of his great and acknowledged skill, he never wanted to be a soloist, like Maurice Andre, of whom Herseth was a great admirer. He said that he loved the symphonic repertoire more than the trumpet show pieces.
Bud’s career spanned the orchestra’s years under directors Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner, Rafael Kubelik, Jean Martinon, Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim, before he retired in 2001. He continued to perform on occasion for the next several years.