Arthur Berger Composer

Biography

ARTHUR BERGER has been an influential composer, critic and teacher for more than half a century. Born in 1912 in New York City, he received his musical education at New York and Harvard Universities, pursuing further studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and at the Sorbonne. By his early twenties he was accepted into the circle of avant-garde New York composers and became a member of the Young Composers Group that revolved around Aaron Copland as its mentor. In his capacity as critic, Berger became one of the chief spokesmen of American music for that period.

Although Berger has made notable contributions to the orchestral repertory, he has devoted the major share of his compositional activities to chamber and solo piano music. Virgil Thomson called his QUARTET IN C MAJOR FOR WINDS "one of the most satisfactory pieces for winds in the whole modern repertory," and his STRING QUARTET received a New York Music Critics Circle Citation in 1962. Among his orchestral works are SERENADE CONCERTANTE, written for the CBS Orchestra; POLYPHONY, a Louisville Orchestra commission; and IDEAS OF ORDER, commissioned by Dimitri Mitropoulos for the New York Philharmonic--a work that received a full page story in TIME magazine following its premiere.

Among Berger's numerous published critical and analytical articles, his seminal study "Problems of Pitch Organization in Stravinsky" applied the expression "octatonic" to the 8-note scale that has since become conventionally known by that term. At a time when Stravinsky's so-called neoclassicism was under attack, Berger wrote extensively and cogently in its defense. He was one of the first to write about Charles Ives and the first to write a book on the music of Aaron Copland. This study, which had occupied him since the early 1930's, was published by the Oxford University Press at a time (1953) when there was no precedent for books on American composers dealing as he did with their musical technique. In August 1990, "Aaron Copland" was reprinted by Da Capo Press.

When Berger received an award from the Council of Learned Societies in 1933, it turned out to be but the first in a long series of honors bestowed on him by prestigious organizations over the years: Guggenheim, Fromm, Coolidge, Naumburg and Fulbright Foundations; the NEA, League of Composers, Massachusetts Council on the Arts & Humanities to name a few. He is a Fellow of both the American Academy & Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Berger started his college teaching career in 1939 at Mills College where the following year Darius Milhaud joined the Faculty. (It was he who persuaded Pierre Monteux, conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, to ask Berger to write a woodwind quartet for first-desk men of that orchestra.) In 1943 Berger became a music critic for the New York Sun and in 1946 accepted Virgil Thomson's invitation to join the New York Herald Tribune. After a decade as a full-time daily music reviewer in New York City, he resumed teaching in 1953 at Brandeis University during the formation of its graduate music program. Following his retirement from Brandeis in 1980 as the Irving Fine Professor of Music Emeritus, Berger taught at New England Conservatory of Music until 1999. Coinciding with his 90th birthday in 2002 the University of California Press published Berger’s memoir, "Reflections Of An American Composer," which won a 2003 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.?

Mr. Berger died in Boston on October 7, 2003. Mr. Berger's Archives are located at the N.Y. Public Library for Performing Arts in Lincoln Center.

Arthur Berger seems to me to have contributed something of irreducible and exquisite individuality to contemporary music.
Bayan NorthcottThe New Statesman (London)

Orchestral Music Works

SERENADE CONCERTANTE?(1944, rev. 1951)
ww:1-1-1-1, vln soli; br: 2-1-0-0; str
Commissioned by CBS
9' C.F. Peters
IDEAS OF ORDER?(1952)
2/picc-2/e.hn-2/b.cl-2; 4-2-2-0; hp, timp,perc; str
Commissioned by Dimitri Mitropoulos
13' C.F. Peters
POLYPHONY?(1956)
2/picc-2/e. hn-2/b. cl-2; 4-2-2-0; cel, hp, timp, perc; str
Commissioned by Louisville Orchestra
15' ms
PRELUDE, ARIA & WALTZ?(1982)
(Orig. version-Three Pieces for String Orch., 1945)
10' C.F. Peters
PERSPECTIVES II?(1985)
2/picc-1-1-1; 1-1-0-0; pf, hp, cel, perc; str
(Revision of 2nd mov't. - Chamber Concerto, 1959)
Chamber orch. vers. available; see?Chamber Music
10' ms

Piano Music Works

TWO EPISODES?(1933) 5' Lawson-Gould
FANTASY FOR PIANO?(1942) 6' ms
RONDO FOR PIANO?(1945) 3' ms
THREE BAGATELLES FOR PIANO?(1946) 6' ms
PARTITA FOR PIANO?(1947) 9' Boelke-Bomar
FOUR TWO-PART INVENTIONS?(1993)
combination of INTERMEZZO (1948) and
THREE TWO-PART INVENTIONS (1948-49)
12' ms
THREE ONE-PART INVENTIONS?(1954) 11' ms
THREE PIECES FOR TWO PIANOS?(1961) 8' Boelke-Bomart
FIVE PIECES for piano?(1969) 14' C.F. Peters
COMPOSITION for piano four-hands?(1978) 14' APNM
Two birthday pieces:
IMPROVISATION FOR A.C.?(1980) ??????????
(birthday piece for Aaron Copland)
FOR ELLIOTT AT 75?(1983)
(birthday piece for Elliott Carter)
5' ms
DUET (RONDO) FOR H.S. for piano four-hands?(1980)
(birthday piece for Harold Shapero)
(arrangement of?Rondo 1945)
3' ms
PERSPECTIVES III?for piano four-hands (1982) 7' ms
BIRTHDAY CARDS?(1995-98) 9' ms

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Chamber Music Works

QUARTET IN C MAJOR FOR WINDS?(1941)
fl, ob, cl, bsn
10' C.F. Peters
THREE PIECES FOR STRING QUARTET?(1945)
(Quartet version of Prelude, Aria & Waltz)
10' ms
DUO NO. 1 FOR VIOLIN& PIANO?(1948) 13' APNM
DUO NO. 2 FOR VIOLIN & PIANO?(1950) 12' APMN
DUO FOR CELLO & PIANO?(1951)
Commissioned by League of Composers
12' Columbia Univ.?
Music Press
DUO FOR OBOE & CLARINET?(1952) 8' C.F. Peters
CHAMBER MUSIC FOR 13 PLAYERS?(1956)
fl, ob, cl, bsn, hn, tpt, cel, hp, 2 vins, vla, vIc, cb
9' C.F. Peters
DUO FOR CLARINET & PIANO?(1957) 8' C.F. Peters
STRING QUARTET?(1958) 24' C.F. Peters
SEPTET?(1966)
fl, cl, bsn, vln, vla, vlc, pf
Commissioned by Koussevitzky Music Foundation
12' C.F. Peters
TRIO FOR VIOLIN, GUITAR & PIANO?(1972) 10' Boelke-Bomart
TRIO FOR VIOLIN, CELLO & PIANO?(1980) 16' C.F. Peters
QUINTET FOR WOODWINDS?(1984)
Commissioned by Harvard Musical Association
14' ms
PERSPECTIVES II?(1985)
2/picc-1-1-1; 1-1-0-0; pf, hp, cel, perc; 2-1-1-1
10' ms
DIPTYCH: COLLAGES 1&2
formerly titled QUINTET (1990, revised 1995)
fl,cl,vln,vlc,pf
14' C.F. Peters
?
COLLAGE III?(1992, revised 1994)
fl,cl,vln,vlc,perc,pf
Commissioned & premiered by Pittsburgh New Music
14' C.F. Peters
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Vocal/Choral Music

"WORDS FOR MUSIC, PERHAPS" (Three Poems of Yeats)
for soprano or mezzo-soprano & piano (1939)
"WORDS FOR MUSIC, PERHAPS"
for soprano or mezzo-soprano with fl, cl, vlc (1940; revised 1987)??????
8' C.F. Peters
GARLANDS?for medium voice & piano (1945) 2' ms
92nd PSALM (TOV L'HODOS)?for chorus a cappella (1946) 3' ms
FIVE SETTINGS OF EUROPEAN POETS?for tenor & piano (1978-79) 15' APNM
"WHEN I AM DEAD"?for soprano & pf (1978) 4' ms
"LOVE, SWEET ANIMAL"?for chamber chorus & piano four hands (1982) 6' ms
"ODE OF RONSARD"?for medium voice & piano (1987) 7' ms
"ODE OF RONSARD"?for mezzo-soprano with fl, vlc, pf (2002) 7' ms
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Berger's well-known [works] serve to reveal again this composer's talent for lyrical passages of birdlike movement and his command of rhythm and spatial intricacy.
Carter HarmanThe New York Times

A Discography

(Three) Bagatelles for Piano CRC 2593
Birthday Cards for Piano CRC 2593
Chamber Music for Thirteen Players CRI 622
Composition for Piano Four-Hands NW 80536-2
Duo for Cello and Piano NW 80360-2
CRI 564
Duo No.1 for Violin and Piano NW 80360-2
Duo for Oboe and Clarinet NW 80360-2
(Two) Episodes for Piano? CRI 622
(Three) Episodes for Piano CRC 2593
Fantasy for Piano CRC 2593
Ideas of Order for Orchestra NW 80605-2
Partita for Piano CRC 2593
Perspectives II for Orchestra NW 80605-2
Perspectives III for Piano NW 80536-2
(Five) Pieces for Piano NW 80308-2/
CRC 2593
(Three) Pieces for Two Pianos CRI 622
Polyphony for Orchestra NW 80605-2
Prelude, Aria and Waltz for Orchestra NW 80605-2
Quartet for Winds NW 80360-2/
CRC 2225
Septet for Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Strings and Piano NWR 80308-2
Serenade Concertante for Small Orchestra CRI 622/
NW 80605-2
String Quartet? CRI 622
Suite for Piano Four-Hands NW 80536-2
Trio for Guitar, Violin and Piano? NW 80360-2
(Three) One-Part Inventions for Piano CRC 2593
(Four) Two-Part Inventions for Piano CRC 2593
?
In everything one hears the same unmistakable voice [of Arthur Berger] -- searching, zestful, witty, certain about the things you can be certain about, and unafraid of mysteries
Richard DyerBoston Globe

Events

6/22/01 PARTITA for Piano
David Holzman; Storm King Music Festival, Cornwall, NY

Summer, 2001?Publication of Music On My Beat, excerpted from forthcoming book (see below)
Provincetown Arts 2001

7/30/01 ARIA & WALTZ (from Prelude, Aria & Waltz) for String Quartet
Greenwood Music Camp, Cummington, MA

Fall 2001?Publication of Aaron Copland's Audience, excerpted from forthcoming book
Partisan Review

10/18/01 Interview and radio play of WOODWIND QUARTET and COLLAGE III
"Harvard Composers" with Anthony Cheung on WHRB-FM, Boston, MA

10/27/01 DIPTYCH: COLLAGES I & II for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano
Empyrean Ensemble; Julia Morgan Theatre, Berkeley, CA

10/28/01 DIPTYCH (repeat performance)
Davis Art Center, Davis, CA

1/19/02 SERENADE and PRELUDE, ARIA & WALTZ
Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor; Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA

3/4/02 CHAMBER MUSIC FOR 13 PLAYERS
Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Andrew Rindfleisch, conductor; Drinko Recital Hall, Cleveland (OH) State University

3/12/02 COLLAGE III for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, piano
North/South Consonance; Christ & St. Stephen's Church, NYC

4/15/02 Colloquium: The Stravinsky group of young composers at Harvard around 1940
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

4/21/02 SEPTET
Collage New Music, David Hoose, conductor; Paine Hall, Harvard University

5/15/02 ARTHUR BERGER'S 90TH BIRTHDAY

6/9/02 TOV L'HODOS
Zamir Chorale, Joshua Jacobson, conductor; Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory

7/15/02 BIRTHDAY CARDS
Lawrence Gingold, pianist; Moiseivitsch Series, Music Festival of the Hamptons,
Bridgehampton, NY

11/17/02 Arthur Berger & His Students concert
Dinosaur Annex; First & Second Church, Boston, MA

Fall 2002 Publication of Reflections Of An American Composer
University of California Press

T/B/A Boston Modern Orchestra Project All-Berger CD conducted by Gil Rose

Centaur CD?of Berger's piano music performed by Geoffrey Burleson

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Arthur Berger's Duo for Oboe and Clarinet...has worn well and seems a thoroughlyingratiating work. It has inviting melodic material handled in an expert contemporary contrapuntal vein, elegant but not superficial.
Edward DownesThe New York Times

Contacts

Association for the Promotion of New Music, Inc. (APNM)
c/o Subito Music
26 Lackawanna Plaza
Montclair, NJ 07042?
(973) 744-7166

Boelke-Bomart, Inc.
c/o Jerona Music Corp.
P.O. Box 671
Englewood, NJ 07631?
(201) 568-8448

Columbia University Music Press (Order Dept.)
136 South Broadway
Irvington, NY 10533?
(800) 944-8648

C. F. Peters Corp./Henmar Press, Inc.
30-70-80th St.
Glendale, NY 11385?
(718) 416-7800

For manuscript (ms) material and further information, contact:
Rosalie Calabrese Management
Box 20580, Park West Station
New York, NY 10025-1521
Tel: (212) 663-6620
Fax: (212) 663-5941
Email:?rcmgt@yahoo.com

ARTHUR BERGER is a member of?ASCAP
1 Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY 10023
(212) 595-3050

Arthur Berger's music is markedly his own; every aspect harmony, rhythm, form reflects his idiosyncratic approach. Because of its distinction and originality, it constitutes a valuable and personal contribution to American music.
Aaron CoplandNational Institute of Arts & Letters