Berg, Gunnar (Johnsen)

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Berg, Gunnar (Johnsen)

Berg, Gunnar (Johnsen), Danish composer; b. St. Gallen (of Danish parents), Jan. 11, 1909; d. Bern, Aug. 25, 1989. He was taken to Denmark when he was 12 and began piano lessons. In 1936 he became a student in counterpoint of Jeppesen at the Copenhagen Cons. He later received training in piano from Koppel and Elisabeth Jürgens, and in theory from Herbert Rosenberg. In 1948 he went to Paris to study composition with Honegger at the École Normale de Musique, and he also received training in analysis from Messiaen. Upon his return to Denmark in 1958, he became active in avant-garde circles. Although he was awarded an annual grant by the Danish government in 1965 to pursue creative work, he became frustrated by the lack of acceptance of his music in Denmark and in 1980 he returned to Switzerland. Berg was the first Danish composer to write a serial composition in 1950 with his Suite for Cello. After 1958, he employed a sui generis serial technique in which each theme was a “cell” consisting of five to ten notes, a model suggested by the experiments in cellular biology of the German bacteriologist Georg Gaffky (1850–1918).


DRAMATIC: Ballet: Mouture (1953; rev. 1987). ORCH.: Hymnos for Strings (1946); Passacaille (1948; Århus, Sept. 7, 1980); Essai acoustique III for Piano and Orch. (1954); 5 études for Double String Orch. (1955–56; Stockholm, Sept. 26, 1960); El tríptico gallego (1957; first complete perf., Copenhagen, May 31, 1960); Mutationen (1958; Danish Radio, Nov. 1, 1978); 37 Aspects for Chamber Orch. (1959); Pour piano et orchestre (1959; Danish Radio, Sept. 29, 1966); Frise for Piano and Chamber Orch. (Copenhagen, May 17, 1961); Uculang for Piano and Orch. (1967; Danish Radio, April 15, 1969); Aria for Flute and Orch. (1980–81; Danish Radio, Feb. 2, 1984); Etincelles for Harpsichord andBrass Ensemble (1984–85). CHAMBER: Duetto for Flute and Oboe (1937); Caprice for Violin and Piano (1941; rev. 1951); Sonata for Flute and Clarinet (1942; rev. 1951); Sonata for Solo Violin (1945; rev. 1982); Pièce for Trumpet, Violin, and Piano (1949); Suite for Cello (1950); Filandre for Flute, Clarinet, and Violin (1953); Prosthesis for Saxophone and Piano (1954); Trio d’Anches for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1955); Belem for Percussion and Piano, 4-Hands (1956); 9 Duos for Recorder and Cello (1957; rev. for Recorder and Guitar, 1984); Petite Musique for Flute, String Quartet, and Piano (1958; rev. 1960); Pour 2 violoncelles et piano (1958; rev. 1987); Pour clarinette et violon (1959); Pour violon et piano (1960); Pour quintette à vent (1962); Pour quatuor à cordes (1964–66); Random for Cello and Percussion (1968); Tronqué for Xylophone, Cello, and Piano (1969); Agrégats I for Ondes Martenot (1970); Monologue for Trumpet (1975); Fresques I- IV for Guitar (1976–78); Mouvements for String Quartet (1979); Melos I for Guitar (1979); Aerophones I-II for Winds (1982–83); Ar-Goat for 2 Guitars (1984). keyboard: piano:Fantaisie (1936; rev. 1968); La Boite à musique (1938); Toccata-Interludium-Fuga (1938); Feldspath (1942^i4); Variations sur une daina lithuanienne (1946); Sonata (1945–47); Cahier pour Léonie (1951); Cosmogonie for 2 Pianos (1952); Eclatements I-XV (1954–61; 1987–88); Gaffky’s I-X (1958–59). Organ: Pour orgue (1960); Tantum ergo (1978); Melos II (1979). VOCAL: Le chemin de fer for Voice, Flute, Clarinet, Violin, and Piano, 4-Hands (1945; rev. 1950); Tobrud for Voice, Violin, Clarinet, and Piano (1961); Hyperion for Voice and 10 Instruments (1977); Graphos for Voice, 2 Cellos, Percussion, and Piano (1987); solo songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire