Giordano Bellincampi, an Italian entrusted with a precious part of Denmark's national heritage, talks to Terry Grimley about the orchestra he will be saying farewell to in Birmingham...
The Los Angeles Philharmonic may have its recently-completed Walt Disney concert hall, but to many people the idea of a symphony orchestra based in an amusement park will seem odd.
For the Copenhagen Philharmonic, which comes to Symphony Hall on Thursday, is none other than the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra in its out-of-season guise (to add to the potential confusion, it is known in Denmark as the SjEllands Symfoniorkester).
During the summer, its home is the fairytale concert hall which forms one of the many attractions of the historic pleasure gardens in the heart of Copenhagen.
With its bars and restaurants, fireworks and ferris wheel, Tivoli is a peculiarly Danish institution which has clung charmingly to its 19th century character. At night it is a neon-free zone, lit entirely by thousands of coloured light bulbs.
Four years ago the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra launched Birmingham's Discover Denmark festival at Symphony Hall with its first-ever Tivoli-style concert on foreign soil, including such Tivoli staples as the Champagne Galop and the Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop by the "Danish Johann Strauss", Hans Christian Lumbye.
Switching identities to the Copenhagen Philharmonic, the orchestra then gave a concert including the first-ever Birmingham performance of the Violin Concerto by Denmark's greatest composer, Carl Nielsen.
The orchestra returns to Symphony Hall on Thursday for the last concert in a short British tour which also happens to be the last which will be conducted by Giordano Bellincampi as the orchestra's chief conductor.
Born in Rome in 1965, Bellincampi trained as a trombonist in Denmark and took conducting lessons from Jorma Panula, the teacher of the acclaimed Finnish generation of Salonen, Vanska and Oramo.
Recently I was surprised to see him described as Danish, so I thought this was the first point to clear up when I caught up with him on his mobile as he walked through Copenhagen to a rehearsal last week.
"No - I'm Italian!" he assured me. "But I've been here many years, and my wife is Danish. I think if I do something good I'm Danish, if I do something bad, I'm Italian!"
Bellincampi's departure from his present job does not mean that he will be leaving Denmark. He has just been appointed artistic director of the Danish National Opera.
I asked him whether his present orchestra's association with Tivoli had tended to typecast it as a lightmusic specialist.
"Of course the birth of the orchestra was like that. In the 1840s in Tivoli Gardens they had this orchestra playing waltzes and marches. But it developed through the years and they started to have a regular winter season in the 1880s and 1890s. Carl Nielsen played in the strings."
In fact, Nielsen's first orchestral work, the Little Suite, was premiered by the Tivoli orchestra in 1888. A small newspaper item announced this first performance of a piece "by someone called Carl Nielsen whom no-one has heard of".
Ah, we don't write previews like that any more . . .
A further step forward came in 1965, when the orchestra became an all-year-round regional organisation serving the island of Zealand. It may come as a surprise to discover that today it has more players than the CBSO.
There has been a late change to Thursday's programme with the advertised overture being replaced by Horneman's Gurre Suite, alongside Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (Baiba Skride as soloist) and Nielsen's Symphony No 4 (The Inextinguishable).
Christian Frederick Emil Horneman (1840-1906) is little known outside Denmark but his music was an important influence on Nielsen and is regarded as an important link between the romantic and modern eras. The Gurre Suite derives from the same Danish legend which inspired Schoenberg's epic Gurrelieder.
Nielsen's own music was slow to become known outside Denmark, but has apparently caught on in Japan recently: nine years ago I was lucky enough to hear a performance of the Fourth Symphony by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in the Tivoli Concert Hall.
The Fourth is one of the greatest of Nielsen's works. It was directly provoked by the First World War, during which Denmark was a bewildered neutral spectator, and seems to incorporate the sound of its artillery bombardments in the ferocious duel between two timpanists in the climactic fourth movement.
"For me, it's really an explosion of energy," Bellincampi says." It's a very dramatic symphony which has an enormous impact because it's so full of passion.
"It's quite rough, I would say. The [second] woodwind movement is elegant but the rest is a little rough. It's quite strange for Scandinavian music because it's so direct. I find it very colourful and it has a great appeal to me.
"For me it's really the opposite of Sibelius. I really admire Sibelius's music but I prefer this because it is more dramatic. It's not always perfect - the harmonic progressions can be, I would say, sometimes not very well defined - but it's very interesting.
"When I do Nielsen with other orchestras at the first reading they think it's really strange music, but then when you work with it and find the right colours they always like it."
* Giordano Bellincampi conducts the Copenhagen Philharmonic in music by Horneman, Tchaikovsky and Nielsen at Symphony Hall on Thursday at 7.30pm (Box office: 0121 780 4333). At 6.15pm Giordano Bellincampi will talk about musical life in Copenhagen in conversation with Lyndon Jenkins.
An exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen is on view in the foyer on Level 4 until May 23 (admission free).