THEY send us a Christmas tree every year and this week the good people of Bergen are sending us their orchestra.
One of the oldest in the world, as well as one of Norway’s finest, the 100-player Bergen Philharmonic is gearing up for its 250th anniversary.
But it will visit The Sage Gateshead on Friday with its music director Andrew Litton, who joined the orchestra in 2003 and recently extended his contract to take in the anniversary season of 2014-15.
A visit by an overseas orchestra is a highlight of the North East music calendar at the best of times but particularly so now with budgets squeezed (these attractions are few and far between).
With the Norwegian orchestra in buoyant mood, this concert promises to be especially memorable. It’s the second date on a UK tour which begins on Thursday at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.
The headline piece on the programme is A Hero’s Life (Ein Heldenleben) by German composer Richard Strauss.
The 50-minute tone poem was premiered in Frankfurt in 1899 but has never been performed before at the Gateshead venue so that’s a significant landmark to get February under way.
“This is our third tour as a team to the UK and I can’t wait to hear Ein Heldenleben in The Sage Gateshead,” said Andrew Litton, an award winning conductor who has many recordings and concert performances with leading orchestras to his name.
Also on the programme is Frederick Delius’s symphonic poem, On The Mountains.
Interesting character, Delius. He was born in Bradford in 1862 and christened Fritz.
He went by that name for some 40 years until, for some reason, he dropped it in favour of Frederick.
Delius’s parents grew up in Germany, of Dutch origin.
They came to Britain in the mid- 19th Century so his father could further his career as a wool merchant.
Delius’s grandfather had fought for General Blücher whose army arrived on the field of battle at Waterloo in the nick of time.
On The Mountains was sketched out in 1889 when Delius was on a walking holiday with two fellow musicians, Edvard Grieg and Christian Sinding, in mountains to the north east of Bergen.
“It is tremendous fun to programme a work by a British composer that is rooted in Norway,” said Andrew Litton.
The third piece is Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no 3 in C minor, which will bring Stavanger-born Christian Ihle Hadland to the stage.
He is one of Norway’s most highly- regarded young musicians and one of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation artists.
Tickets for Friday’s Hall One concert, which starts at 7.30pm, are available from the box office: 0191 443 4661 or www.thesagegateshead.org