The history of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra reaches back to 1765 and thus makes it one of the world’s oldest orchestras. It had a close relationship with Edvard Grieg who served as its artistic director during the years 1880 – 82. The modern orchestra owes much to Harald Heide, artistic director from 1908 until 1948, and Karsten Andersen who held the post from 1964 until 1985. Principal conductors since then have been Aldo Ceccato, Dmitri Kitayenko, Simone Young and, since 2003, Andrew Litton, the Orchestra’s current Music Director. The Principal Guest Conductor is the Spaniard Juanjo Mena, and the Assistant Conductor is the young Norwegian Trond Husebø.
One of two Norwegian National Orchestras, the ninety-seven-strong Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra tours regularly and participates annually at the Bergen Festival. During the last few seasons it has played in the Concertgebouw, at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, in the Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthaus, and in Carnegie Hall, New York. After a concert in the new DR Concert Hall in Copenhagen in the spring of 2009, the Danish daily Information wrote, ‘Andrew Litton has transformed the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra into a world-class orchestra’. In 2010 and 2011 the Orchestra will tour Sweden, England, Germany and Austria, giving concerts in Stockholm, London, Berlin and Vienna, among others.
The Orchestra has an active recording schedule and in 2007 received a special award for its recording of all Grieg’s orchestral music from The Grieg Society of Great Britain. In 2008 the Orchestra was awarded Spellemannprisen, Norway’s most prestigious record award, for its disc of Prokofiev’s Suites from the ballet Romeo and Juliet, conducted by Andrew Litton. A CD of the violin concertos by Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, with Vadim Gluzman as soloist, was released in spring 2008 to great critical acclaim and was nominated Disc of the Month by Classic FM. Recordings of all five of Mendelssohn’s symphonies, recorded in 2007 and 2008, are currently on the market. For Chandos, the Orchestra has recorded the symphonies and other orchestral works of Rimsky-Korsakov.