Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

This is a perfect disc. This performance has passion, color, and drive aplenty. Prokofiev often indulges a deliberate simplicity, and Litton takes him at his word, never for a moment lapsing into artifice or affectation. A wonderful release.  Bergen Philharmonic; Prokofiev Symphonies No. 4 & 7

— David Hurwitz,

Wait till you hear the combination of Litton's clear thinking and perfect pacing and the orchestra's razor-sharp response . . . it reminds you why this Litton-Prokofiev cycle has been such a consistent pleasure. Bergen Philharmonic; Prokofiev Symphonies No. 4 & 7

— David Nice, BBC Radio 3

Litton's mastery shows in the immediate contrasts of broad, epic opening and razor-sharp Allegro mechanics. He never rushes, and allows the theatrical contrasts to speak for themselves. Bergen Philharmonic; Prokofiev Symphonies No. 4 & 7

— David Nice, BBC Music Magazine

The Rachmaninov is given a glorious performance, superbly played and recorded. Overall, Litton's "Rach 2" goes on the top recommendation list. Bergen Philharmonic; Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2

— Colin Anderson,

Andrew Litton does elicit an ideal sonority from his Bergen Philharmonic, from the opening wind chord onward; this is a first-class orchestra. Litton's tempos are well chosen, with a supple use of rubato, but without distortion. Throughout, there is scrupulous attention to the small details. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2

— Richard A. Kaplan, Fanfare

An absence of glutinous thickness in this performance amounts to genius. I find myself noting details along the way I've never heard so beautifully put. Every moment means something. There's an instinctive sense for the music's fine points one doesn't often encounter. Every phrase has thought behind it. And the ability of the Bergen Philharmonic to provide little nuances of texture, portamento and balance is unsurpassed. This is one of the world's unsung orchestras. Litton has managed to elicit from it a remarkable delicacy. Bergen Philharmonic; Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2; Liadov The Enchanted Lake

— Steven Kruger, New York Arts

[Litton's] interpretation is thoughtful, the Bergen Philharmonic is totally outstanding, and the recorded sound from BIS is as phenomenally detailed as it always is. Bergen/Litton definitely deserves to be on your shelf, for comparison and for simple enjoyment. Bergen Philharmonic; Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2

— Brian Reinhart,

The Bergen Philharmonic sounds splendid; their playing glows. In Litton's hands, there's often great power and energy in the performance. The music-making is exciting, though never in a superficial way. Where the scoring calls for it Litton's orchestra plays with very pleasing tonal weight but elsewhere their individual and collective delicacy is just as admirable. Bergen Philharmonic; Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2

— John Quinn,

This is one of the best performances of the Fifth that I have ever heard—one that can easily take its rightful place alongside the classic recordings by Szell, Bernstein, Karajan, Previn, and Levine. Highly recommended and a want list no-brainer! Bergen Philharmonic; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5

— Merlin Patterson, Fanfare, Sep/Oct 2015

Litton - who had shown his mettle throughout the demanding programme - led an account of The Rite [of Spring] that would have been hard to beat in terms of exuberant colour, and which amply demonstrated that, even today, the score's ability to shock and disturb remains undiminished. Bergen Philharmonic at Prom 56

— George Hall, The Guardian

It's so easy these days for The Rite [of Spring] to be bounced off as a vacuous showpiece, something gratefully avoided by Litton who retained dance as the core of the music. He avoided bombast, too, as part of a gutsy and honest reading, one full of character and no lack of paganism, and with well-balanced detail, including some aspects that tend to be overlooked. The opening of part two was of clandestine suggestion, the muted trumpets properly whispering, and the concluding 'Sacrificial Dance' was straight from the hip, and it swung too, as befits a musician born in New York, and the 'halt' (the final reckoning) before the victim falls to the ground was well-timed by Litton for maximum theatrical effect. Bergen Philharmonic at Prom 56

— Colin Anderson,

The slow movement features ons of the all-time hushed and beautiful string melodies, and the Chopinesque piano part is simply gorgeous. Sudbin and Litton take a more romantic approach, but the well balanced structure of the music holds everything together beautifully. Bergen Philharmonic: Scriabin Piano Concerto

— Steven Kruger, Fanfare

Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic continue their Prokofiev series with another big success. All in all, another victory for great BIS engineering and their mastery of orchestral balance, another testimony to the superb quality of the Bergen Philharmonic and another piece of evidence that Andrew Litton is one of the most underrated conductors alive. Bergen Philharmonic; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5

— Brian Reinhart,

A Musical Triumph: Aida as a musical drama performed with passion and professionalism. Andrew Litton's conducting displayed incredible attention to the smallest detail. He led the musicians and followed and supported both soloists and choir. Together with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra he made Verdi's orchestral score sparkle and shine. Bergen Philharmonic; Verdi: Aida

— Arts Section, Bergens Tidende

Its brave of Litton's Bergeners to open what one hopes will be a Prokofiev symphony cycle with the unjustly neglected Sixth. Litton makes a strong case for regarding it as vintage mature Prokofiev, and one that reveals a more introspective spirit, with its long, reflective opening Allegro moderato and the expansive Largo, suggesting a foreboding of the horrors to come a year after the 1947 premiere. The brilliant Vivace finale is perhaps more characteristic, but its apparent optimism soon dissolves into despair and terror. Coupling such a challenging work with two of his most popular orchestral suites is wise: the zany high jinks of the orchestral music from The Love for Three Oranges - the celebrated March is the show stopper - find Litton and his band on sizzling form. A winner. Prokofiev: Symphony No 5, Lieutenant Kije, and Love tor Three Oranges

— Hugo Canning, The Sunday Times

There's a whole lot to enjoy here: BIS's fantastically solid, warm, inviting, spacious SACD sound the incisive playing and luxurious tone of the Bergen Philharmonic and maestro Litton's cogent, superbly paced interpretations that perfectly capture Rachmaninoff's lush, autumnal, sometimes morose sound world. Litton has a remarkable affinity for Russian music—some of the most mind-altering Shostakovich performances of my life have been under his baton—and he's superbly attuned to the three phases of Rachmaninoff's output represented here: the early (The Rock), middle-maturity (Isle), and the late Indian Summer (Dances). Here is [an] outstanding interpretation. Bergen Philharmonic; Rachmaninov: The Isle of the Dead, The Rock, Symphonic Dances

— Lawrence Hansen, American Record Guide 

Andrew Litton's performance of Britten's paean to peace left one stirred and humbled. Litton's nose for theatricality was much in evidence throughout and his relish for such explicitly pictorial passages as the Sanctus delivered more collective heft at the big nodal points. Litton's mighty ritardando into the apocalypse of all chords seemed to carry with it the anguish of all mankind. Call it excessive, call it melodramatic, no one leaves performances of War Requiem like this one indifferent, but rather stirred and humbled. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Britten: War Requiem

— Edward Seckerson,

The purposefulness of Litton's account is apparent right from the sharp chords spat out by the brass at the opening of the first movement, and with well judged tempi and scintillating orchestral playing throughout he proves to be a persuasive guide through each of the work's three movements. The total playing time of 79 minutes is especially generous and this, combined with Litton's compelling performances, the assured orchestral playing and fine BIS recording, makes this SACD an essential purchase. Highly recommended. Bergen Philharmonic; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6, Lieutenant Kijé, The Love for Three Oranges

— Graham Williams,

In Litton's hands the starkness of the opening bars sets the mood for the heartbreaker second theme, contoured with great sensitivity by Litton and his Bergen players to bring out all of its compassion. The urgency of the dissonant music that launches the Adagio is sustained throughout the movement by Litton, who also gives it enough air for its melodic richness to have its full effect. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6

— Ung-Aang Talay, Bangkok Post

The rough edges are retained: the initially easygoing and good-humoured third movement shows its teeth in the very early stages; more so in this recording than in any others. It becomes clear that the tormented outcry shortly before the coda is firmly anchored in the thematic events at the start. The code is splendid in itself. Many a conductor steps on the tempo brake to achieve an affirmative final effect, although this was never what the composer actually intended. Under Litton, the music maniacally races towards one of the most evil major key finales that can be found in all of symphonic literature. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6

— Thomas Schulz, Klassik Heute

Litton's command of colour and style and demonically vital conducting honoured the glamour and romance of Ein Heldenleben to the letter, and the Bergen Philharmonic responded with some thrilling, galvanised playing. Bergen Philharmonic; R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

— Peter Reed,

he prevailing mood of Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, where the solidity of the Bergen strings provided a superb foundation. Litton's unobtrusive way with balance and rhythmic elan was finely judged. But this was above all an airy performance. It took wing from the very start. Probably nothing can wholly redeem the hubristic self-quotations of The Hero's Works of Peace, but Litton's sure feel for the architecture of the piece came close. Bergen Philharmonic; R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

— David Fanning, The Telegraph 

Litton and the Bergen Phil's clean, unflashy playing had honesty in its interpretation and delivery, avoiding overstatement throughout, giving a sound, well-balanced, well-structured, deeply impressive and moving account of Heldenleben. Bergen Philharmonic; R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

— Michael Tumelty, The Herald

Litton's scorching reading turned [Ein Heldenleben] into a true concerto for orchestra, allowing the individual Bergen players to shine with a remarkable rhythmic suppleness and freedom. The concert's opener, however - Delius's Ibsen-inspired On the Mountains - showed what heights of expression the Bergen players could find in even modest music. Bergen Philharmonic; R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Delius: On the Mountains

— David Kettle, The Scotsman

This overexposed work generally suffers from interpretations by modern conductors who are afraid of showing some emotion. The result is an attempt to cast Stravinsky as a follower of Schoenberg and Webern and their Second Viennese School of dry, dour, atonal music. But Litton sees the young Stravinsky as still fascinated by theater in general and the Parisian lifestyle in particular. His Firebird is a vastly romantic, occasionally terrifying work that breathes almost as if it had a life of its own. His tempos are carefully judged, but they still have incredible rhythmic freedom. As we've seen before, in both his Rachmaninoff and Mahler cycles, Litton's dynamic range from ppp to fff adds to both the grace and the potency of the work. By the time we reach the Second Tableau, we feel like rejoicing with the dancers. BIS's recording is of demonstration quality, as usual for the label. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: The Firebird

— Wes Marshall,

Andrew Litton and his venerable Norwegian orchestra have provided a perfect companion to his much-acclaimed Stravinsky Rite of Spring in this luminous, lyrical and uplifting Firebird. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: Rite of Spring

— Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare

There is a new game in town and it's Andrew Litton and the Bergen Orchestra completely decked out with fabulous sound on both the SACD layer and CD layer. Definitely not to be missed for any reason. The fill up orchestrations are very nice and lovely to have, but the keys to the kingdom go to Litton and the Bergen. Exceptional. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: The Firebird and Greeting Prelude

— HiFi+, July/August 2012 edition

This is the finest Firebird I've ever heard. From the eerie Introduction to the final tableau, Litton and the orchestra's performance is a model of precision, color and drama. Every one of the rich details of the score is brilliantly highlighted. They know how to finish big and the closing passages will lift you out of your seat. Litton and company also earn big points in the score's tender moments. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: The Firebird

— Craig Zeichner,

Everything about this Firebird is exceptional: Litton's again electrifying conducting, BIS's superb engineering, and a bass drum that won't disappoint anyone. The very end of the ballet is a room shaking, mirror-cracking experience, unlike any other. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: The Firebird

— E. Maidel,

Litton, a fine pianist himself, is one of the best orchestral accompanists on the planet, following Hough's every nuance with pin-point prevision and lovingly shaping the many woodwind and string solos. Superb performances, beautifully engineered. Bergen Philharmonic; Liszt/Greig Piano Concertos

— Jeremy Nicholas, Classic FM Magazine

I'm not sure that there exists a performance of either Liszt concerto more scrupulously adherent to the composer's every indication of expression, articulation, and dynamics. With these, as with the Grieg Concerto, it is not as though interesting interpretations have been imposed upon them. Rather, one feels that their scores were so thoroughly scrutinized, understood, and then imaginatively realized that they have yielded fresh riches. It may be that the full measure of Andrew Litton's extraordinary talent as a conductor has yet to be taken. Bergen Philharmonic, Stephen Hough; Liszt: Piano Concertos No. 1 & 2; Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor

— Patrick Rucker, International Record Review

Recording of the month. Both through the accuracy of the playing and detail in the recording there is much new to be discovered under Andrew Litton's baton. Litton brings the best of all worlds in a performance which has all of the fresh-minted sense of discovery, technical perfection and passionate delivery you could ask for. Bergen Philharmonic; Pétrouchka and Le Sacre du Printemps

— Dominy Clements,

For the sheer impact of performance and recording, Litton's BIS disc is hard to beat ... Definitely one to try if you're an SACD or surround fan. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: Rite of Spring and Petrouchka

— Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 CD Review

This is a thoughtful reading [of the Bruch Violin Concerto] that is almost insouciant about its outrageous beauty. Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic show their own strengths as accompanists; Litton is very good at big energetic music, and the orchestra sounds great. Bergen Philharmonic; Bruch: Violin Concerto

— Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

Andrew Litton has the Bergen Philharmonic playing at a world-class standard. Sure, they don't have the crushing power of the biggest American or European orchestras, but Litton compensates by turning in high-voltage readings of both works, full of excitement and textural nuance. In The Rite he reminds us that despite the extremes of volume and dissonance this is still a folk-music-based work. The tunes really sing, with such vibrancy and freshness that you might think you are hearing them for the first time. Bergen Philharmonic; Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring and Petrushka

— David Hurwitz, Classics

This is one of the most enjoyable discs I've listened to in a long time. Contrary to what has sometimes been said, Mendelssohn's music does not play itself and here conductor Andrew Litton...allows himself to add dynamics in various places where the composer hadn't marked. In every case these additions are intelligent and tasteful and do much in the faster movements to bind them together. Litton, for my money, gets it right every time. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra;Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 1 Symphony No. 4, Italian and Ruy Blas Overture

— Roger Nichols, BBC Music Magazine

This third and final disc to this [Mendelssohn] series is every way up to the high standards of its predecessors...It's easy to see why any orchestra would play its heart out for a conductor of such musical intelligence. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Scottish and Symphony No. 5, Reformation

— Roger Nichols, BBC Music Magazine

This new [Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto] from Freddy Kempf with the Bergen Philharmonic and Andrew Litton has a lot going for it. Kempf, Litton and the Bergen players are bursting with life; this is one of the most persuasive versions I've heard of this piece in recent years.

— Nigel Simeone, International Record Review

Classic FM's May 2008 Disc of the Month. And so to Tchaikovsky's [Violin] Concerto, where any addition to the plethora of available recordings needs to be special to command attention — and this is the one. Litton's Bergen Philharmonic is exquisitely detailed from the opening bars; "They sincerely want to play music in the best possible way" says [Vadim] Gluzman of its players, hailing its conductor as "absolutely sensational". While Litton keeps things opaque and tight when required, at the right moments he pulls irresistibly at the concerto's tempi and unleashes considerable tutti power, never foregoing detail. 

— Andrew Mellor, Classic FM

For sheer fiery virtuosity this version of the Tchaikovsky [violin] concerto is pretty hard to beat. Gluzman's passage work in double-stops is jaw-droppingly spectacular...He's pretty remarkable elsewhere too; the first movement has plenty of Romantic passion, aided by Litton's eruptive orchestral tuttis.

— David Hurwitz, Classics

The Norwegians' range of sound and color -- from the whole orchestra, not just the strings -- paid off in the whole symphony (Tchaikovsky's 4th), especially the way conductor Andrew Litton marshaled it all. With so much sound at his disposal, Litton made the lyricism rich and big-hearted. 

— Steven Brown, The Charlotte Observer

....the orchestra showed off its power with an impressive reading of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. The sheer volume of sound from the Bergen Philharmonic was stunning with sturdy brass-laden climaxes in the first and fourth movements that made one forget how difficult the Carr auditorium can be for some ensembles. In fact, just the string section alone of this orchestra had one of the richest and fullest ensemble sounds this reviewer has ever heard in the Carr. Instead of heading for the exits after the encore, as Carr crowds usually do, the audience gave one of the longer ovations in recent memory for any orchestra. It was well deserved.

— Scott Warfield,

...the Bergen Philharmonic played with an unusual solidity and warmth, and produced a breadth of color that gave it a distinctive sonic thumbprint. Some of that, clearly, was Mr. Litton�s work. Mr. Litton�s reading (of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony) had the virtues of supremely polished surfaces with raw, often savage emotion swirling just beneath them.

— Allan Kozinn, New York Times

A sell-out had greeted the Bergen Philharmonic on its impressive Proms debut with Andrew Litton... with an outstanding account of Walton's First Symphony. Litton's wonderfully mobile account, propelled on perfectly articulated bass lines, was less aggressive than many, but still tense and well-judged. 

— Andrew Clements, The Guardian, London

Refusal to dally heralded Litton's absolutely electric interpretation of Walton's Symphony no.1, teeming with urgency, and with clear, transparent textures reflecting the composer's gaunt, biting lines. The sustained energy of the first movement found release in an irrepressible audience "bravo" at its conclusion, though tension never really totally disappeared . . . the finale drew together all the threads convincingly under Litton's perceptive direction. 

— Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post

On the face of it, there seemed no particular reason why a Norwegian orchestra and an American conductor should be brought to London to play a British symphony, but this one burgeoned impressively. Litton achieved a telling instrumental blend, answering to the music's emotional pressures, and, in the incisive finale, the interpretation�s overall plan reached its climax in playing of dynamic drive and power. 

— Geoffrey Norris,

The performances (of the Alnaes and Sinding Piano Concertos), with Piers Lane as soloist and the Bergen Philharmonic conducted by Andrew Litton, are jaw-droppingly good - so much so that any qualms you may have about the works themselves are swept aside by the sheer excitement of it all.

— Tim Ashley, The Guardian

In the recording of the popular and most frequently played music (Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet)...a top European orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, comes together with Andrew Litton, an American conductor well versed in the Russian repertoire, and the result is brilliant, colorful, spirited, striking, dynamically layered and of impressive, detailed precision..."

— Hartmut Lueck,

When one has followed [the Bergen Philharmonic] for more than 45 years, with many excellent conductors, it is a great joy to note that under today�s Maestro, the very inspiring and deeply musical Andrew Litton, the time has come for the BPO to be compared with the best orchestras in Europe and the world at large. 

— Nils M. Stene, Bergens Tiedende

All the uneasiness and drama which lies in the music (Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10) was brought out with extraordinary energy and unanimous sensitivity between musicians and conductor. Andrew Litton controlled it all with great assurance and total command of dynamic extremities...An excellent achievement which portends well for the upcoming European tour...a long and eventful concert, enthusiastically received by the audience, reflecting pride in the obvious progress and development of the venerable Musikselskabet Harmonien (Bergen Philharmonic).

— Knut Helbekkmo, Bergens Tidende

Again it became clear that Andrew Litton knows how to get the orchestra to play the way he wants it to. It was an emotionally charged interpretation where the conductor and the musicians never missed an opportunity to bring out all the abundant romantic intensity of the symphony (Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4). It is clear that he inspires his orchestra.

— Knut Helbekkmo, Bergens Tidende

It was a program of pure pleasure for both ear and mind (Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra). Principal Conductor Andrew Litton revelled on every level, and the audience loved it. Litton's best qualities lie in being a communicator, his ability to express himself, and to create an atmosphere. An impromptu description of the work before Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was a perfect illustration on how a musician can exploit his communicative skills to reach an audience. When he immediately afterwards embarked on his role as soloist, he was obviously in his element. He had a perfect command of his role, he knew it, and enjoyed the situation.

— Idar Karevold, Aftenposten

Andrew Litton, the American with both legs firmly planted in European music and orchestral traditions, is to be given a lot of the credit. It's a long time since the orchestra from Bergen has had such an energetic boss. The conductor's involvement � seemingly easy-going, but ecstatic � was contagious. A performance to be remembered! Anyone else rendered breathless?

— Arnstein Olaisen, Haugesunds Avis

From the first moment, Litton worked with an intensity as if replacing Strauss as hero in [Ein Heldenleben]. He was obviously on home ground here. The way Litton and the orchestra played gives good reason to look forward to the Strauss-concerts later this autumn.

— Geir Rege, Bergens Tidende