The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world's oldest orchestral institutions. It performs some 110 concerts a year, and is based at the 1,500-seat Grieg Hall in Bergen, Norway.
Established in 1765 under the name Det Musicalske Selskab (The Musical Society), it later changed its name to Musikselskabet Harmonien and it is often referred to as "Harmonien" (the Harmony) by Bergen's citizens.
After World War I, there was strong interest in the major Norwegian cities of Bergen and Kristiania (which later changed its name to Oslo) in having larger orchestras, and in 1919 the orchestra in Bergen was reorganized to employed 40 professional full-time musicians. As of 2006 the orchestra has 98 musicians.
The orchestra has had a long tradition of playing contemporary music. Ludwig van Beethoven's second symphony was performed in Bergen in the year it was published, 1804 - even before it was performed in Berlin. Bergen-born composer Edvard Grieg had close ties with the orchestra, and was artistic director from 1880 to 1882. He also bequeathed a portion of his estate to a fund which continues to provide financial support for the orchestra. Other composers have served as principal conductor of the orchestra, including Arvid Fladmoe, Johan Halvorsen, Iver Holter, Richard Henneberg, Olav Kielland and Per Winge. Composer Harald Sæverud was frequently invited to conduct his own works, and the orchestra continues to commission and perform new compositions on a regular basis. Other composers who have conducted their own works with the orchestra include Aaron Copland, Karl Nielsen, Jean Sibelius, Witold Lutosławski, Lukas Foss, and Krzysztof Penderecki. In 1953 the Festspillene i Bergen was started and Leopold Stokowski was contracted to conduct the orchestra. Other conductors at the Bergen Festival have included Eugene Ormandy and Sir Thomas Beecham.
American conductor Andrew Litton became principal conductor in 2003 and artistic director in 2005. In 2002 the orchestra began, as the first Norwegian orchestra ever, recording the complete orchestral works of Edvard Grieg, its former music director. Norwegian conductor Ole Kristian Ruud and the orchestra recorded the final of the 7 CDs for BIS., in 2005. Also in 2005, Andrew Litton and the orchestra recorded music from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet for BIS. This was Litton's first recording with the orchestra.
Many members of the orchestra teach at the Grieg Academy of Music, which is a music conservatory within the University of Bergen.
Partial list of principal conductors and music directors for the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
* Mathias Lundholm (1820-1827)
* Ferdinand Giovanni Schediwy (1827- ?)
* Otto Lübert (1855-1856)
* Ferdinand A. Rojahn (1856-1859)
* August Fries (1859-1862)
* Amadeus Wolfgang Maczewsky (1862- ?)
* Richard Henneberg (1873-?)
* Herman Levy (1879-1880)
* Edvard Grieg (1880-1882)
* Iver Holter (1882-1886)
* Per Winge (1886-1893)
* Johan Halvorsen (1893-1898)
* Harald Heide (1908-1947)
* Olav Kielland (1948- 1952)
* Carl von Garaguly (1952-1958)
* Arvid Fladmoe (1958-1961)
* Karsten Andersen (1964-1985)
* Aldo Ceccato (1985-1990)
* Dmitri Kitajenko (1990-1998)
* Simone Young (1998-2002)
* Andrew Litton (2003-present)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra timeline
* 1765 - Det Musicalske Selskab (The Musical Society) established
* 1769 - Society re-named Det Harmoniske Selskab (The Harmonic Society)
* 1770 - Society has over 30 members, one-third are singers. Thursday set as concert day.
* 1771 - Fire destroys concert locale.
* 1773 - Society rents Altona as concert locale (until 1807).
* 1774 - Society has 20 instrumentalists, mirroring Haydn's Esterhazy orchestra of 1766 to 1790
* 1783 - Society engages Ole Rødder as a paid violinist.
* 1785 - Society's orchestra has 25 members.
* 1799 - Johan Henrich Poulson, student of Giovanni Battista Viotti leads orchestra.
* 1811 - Society buys its own building on King Oscar's street. Orchestra has c. 30 members.
* 1812 - Society's members give free instruction to young musicians, some of whom play in the orchestra.
* 1818 - violinist Ole Bull begins playing in the orchestra at age 8.
* 1819 - violinist Ole Bull performs Ignaz Pleyel concerto with orchestra.
* 1820 - Swede Mathias Lundholm becomes orchestra's conductor.
* 1827 - Prague-born Ferdinand Giovanni Schediwy named conductor. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven dominate orchestra's repertoire.
* 1839 - As a promotion, the society advertises that each man can bring two women to concerts.
* 1855 - Otto Lübbert becomes musical leader.
* 1856 - Society re-named Musikselskabet Harmonien. Ferdinand A. Rojahn named orchestra leader. First part of Haydn's "Creation" performed after over 100 rehearsals.
* 1859 - August Fries named conductor.
* 1862 - Musicians from Harmonien assist the 18-year old Edvard Grieg with his first concert in his home city of Bergen after his studies in Leipzig. Amadeus Wolfgang Maczewsky becomes orchestra leader.
* 1863 - Edvard Grieg performs a Beethoven sonata with Maczewsky on a Society concert.
* 1865 - August Fries leads Grieg's Symphony in C Minor.
* 1866 - Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah performed with Nina Hagerup as a soloist.
* 1870 - Orchestra has 41 permanent members
* 1871 - Johan Svendsen's Symphony in D Major is played for the first time in Bergen.
* 1873 - Richard Henneberg hired as conductor.
* 1875 - German Adolf Blomberg becomes Kapellmester.
* 1879 - Herman Levy hired as conductor after Grieg declines offer.
* 1880 - Edvard Grieg becomes artistic director.
* 1881 - Orchestra performs Grieg's A minor Piano Concerto with Alice Lindberg as soloist.
* 1882 - Composer Iver Holter becomes conductor.
* 1883 - Orchestra premieres Grieg's Landkjenning
* 1885 - Johan Halvorsen hired as concertmaster
* 1886 - Per Winge named conductor.
* 1889 - No concerts.
* 1893 - Johan Halvorsen becomes conductor. During his six seasons as conductor, he introduces music of Glinka, Delibes, Dvořák, Humperdinck and Sibelius to Bergensers.
* 1907 - Death of Edvard Grieg.
* 1908 - Harald Heide becomes principal conductor. "Edvard Grieg's Fund" established.
* 1915 - Orchestra celebrates 150th season. First concert in Koncert-Palæet.
* 1919 - Orchestra reorganized and employs 40 full-time musicians.
* 1920-21 - Jean Sibelius conducts his own works: Symphony #2, The Swan of Tuonela and Finlandia
* 1923-24 - Carl Nielsen conducts his own works, including The Four Temperments. Orchestra premieres Harald Sæverud Symphony Nr. 2.
* 1924-25 - Pierre Monteux guest conducts.
* 1925-26 - Orchestra celebrates its 160th season.
* 1927-28 - First radio broadcasts of orchestra's concerts.
* 1930-31 - Marian Anderson solos with orchestra three years before her London debut. Kurt Atterberg conducts his own Symphony Nr. 6.
* 1931-32 - Orchestra premieres Harald Sæverud Symphony No. 3.
* 1934-35 - Karol Szymanowski featured as soloist in his own Sinfonia Concertante for piano and orchestra.
* 1938 - First "Young Soloists Concert."
* 1939-40 - Orchestra holds first "Worker's Concert"
* 1941 - At the orchestra's 175-year jubilee concert, a Nazi mob protests against Ernst Glaser, a Jew who was scheduled to perform as soloist on Ole Bull's violin. He is whisked away by rescuers and the concert is cancelled after the first number.
* 1942-43 - Orchestra gives five memorial concerts for Edvard Grieg's 100-year jubilee.
* 1943 - Air-raid warning interrupts season opening concert.
* 1944-45 - Concert time changed to 6:00 p.m. because of 9:00 curfew. Orchestra holds benefit concert for victims of bombing in Laksevåg.
* 1946-47 - Orchestra premieres Harald Sæverud Oboe Concerto. School concert series begins.
* 1947-48 - Site for Grieg Hall selected. Haakon B. Wallem donates one million Norwegian Kroner to building fund.
* 1948 - Olav Kielland becomes principal conductor.
* 1951 - Orchestra employs 54 full-time musicians.
* 1952-53 - Carl von Garaguly named Artistic Director.
* 1953 - Bergen International Festival begins. Leopold Stokowski conducts.
* 1953-54 - Harmonien's fund for New Music established.
* 1954-55 - Eugene Ormandy guest conducts.
* 1956-57 - Orchestra premieres Egil Hovland Symphony No. 2.
* 1957-58 - Orchestra premieres Geirr Tveitt Brudlaupssuiten.
* 1958-59 - Arvid Fladmoe becomes Artistic Director. Orchestra employs 60 full-time musicians.
* 1961-62 - Pierre Monteaux guest conducts.
* 1962-63 - Orchestra has first international tour, to Copenhagen, Denmark.
* 1964 - Karsten Andersen becomes principal conductor
* 1966 - Tour to the U. S. A. under the name "Norwegian Festival Orchestra." Orchestra celebrates 200th season. Karsten Andersen named Artistic Director.
* 1968 - King Olav V of Norway lays cornerstone of the Grieg Hall.
* 1969-70 - Orchestra premieres Ragnar Søderlind Polaris.
* 1970-71 - Lukas Foss conducts Rileys in C. Orchestra tours England.
* 1972-73 - Orchestra tours Germany. Orchestra premieres Magnar Åm Bøn.
* 1974-75 - Orchestra premieres Allan Pettersson Symphony No. 11
* 1975-76 - Aaron Copland conducts his own works.
* 1976-77 - Orchestra premieres Kjetil Hvoslef Cello Concerto.
* 1978 - Orchestra moves to the Grieg Hall.
* 1979-80 - Orchestra tours Tallinn, Moscow and Leningrad. Antal Dorati guest conducts.
* 1980-81 - Witold Lutosławski conducts his own works. Dmitri Kitajenko conducts orchestra for first time. Orchestra employs 72 full-time musicians.
* 1982-83 - Krzysztof Penderecki conducts his own works. Aldo Ceccato conducts orchestra for first time.
* 1984-85 - Orchestra tours Belgium and France.
* 1985 - Aldo Ceccato becomes principal conductor
* 1986 - Name changed to Bergen Filharmoniske Orkester. Orchestra employs 83 full-time musicians.
* 1989 - Orchestra employs 89 full-time musicians.
* 1990 - Dmitri Kitajenko becomes principal conductor
* 1997 - Lorentz Reitan becomes managing director
* 1998 - Simone Young becomes principal conductor
* 2000 - Krzysztof Penderecki and Luciano Berio each conduct their own works.
* 2002 - Orchestra tours Austria (Bregenz, Salzburg, Vienna and Graz) and Croatia (Zagreb) with Spanish conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
* 2003 - Andrew Litton becomes principal conductor, takes orchestra on tour to Spain.
* 2005 - Andrew Litton named artistic director. Orchestra celebrates its 240th season. Litton leads European tour with concerts in Udine, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Rome, Vienna and Innsbruck.
* 2006 - Orchestra roster increased to 98 musicians. Orchestra goes on strike during Bergen International Festival. Sten Cranner becomes managing director.
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra Partial Discography
* Sergei Prokofiev - Romeo and Juliet (Andrew Litton, conducting)
* Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt (The Complete Incidental Music) (May 2005) SACD-1441/42
* Arvo Pärt - Spiegel im Spiegel (April 2005) CD-1434
* Edvard Grieg - Sigurd Jorsalfar (March 2004 SACD-1391
* Edvard Grieg - Orchestral Dances (May 2003) SACD-1291
* Edvard Grieg - Piano Concerto (February 2003) SACD-1191
* Benjamin Britten - The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (January 1989) CD-420
* Robert Schumann - Symphonies No.3 & No.4, re-orchestrated by Gustav Mahler (January 1988) CD-394
* Robert Schumann - Symphonies No.1 & No.2, re-orchestrated by Gustav Mahler (January 1987) CD-361
* Eduard Tubin - Symphony No.4 (January 1986) CD-227, also available in a compilation of the Tubin symphonies, CD-1402/04
* Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2 "Antar"; Symphony No. 3; Capriccio espagnol; Russian Easter Overture; Piano Concerto; Sadko. Geoffrey Tozer (piano), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Chandos 6613 CD
* Bull: Herdgirl's Sunday, Bergen Symphony Orchestra with Arve Tellefsen. Conducted by Karsten Andersen (1995) ASIN: B0000044TC
* Ludvig Irgens-Jensen - Japanischer Frühling; Passacaglia; Pastorale religioso; Canto d'omaggio, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Ragnhild Heiland Sorensen (soprano), Eivind Aadland (conductor) Simax 1164 CD
* Bolero: French & Russian Orchestral Favorites, Dmitri Kitajenko (conductor) ASIN: B000059LOF
* Classical Dreams: Music to Inspire; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Bournemouth Sinfonietta, et al. ASIN: B00005Q467
* Grieg: Piano Concerto - Sonata Op. 7, Lyric Pieces Opp. 43, 54 & 65, Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) #61745 (2000) ASIN: B00004LCAV
* Grieg: Symphonic Dances Op64; Funeral March in Memory of Richard Nordraak, Dmitri Kitajenko (conductor) (2000) ASIN: B000026CIK
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