Berger, Arthur (Victor)

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Berger, Arthur (Victor)

Berger, Arthur (Victor), respected American composer and writer on music; b. N.Y., May 15, 1912. He studied piano (1923–28) and began composing while still in high school. After attending the City Coll. of N.Y. (1928–30), he studied composition with Vincent Jones at N.Y. Univ. (B.S., 1934). He then continued his training at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. (1935–37), and concurrently was a pupil of Piston, Davison, and Leichtentritt at Harvard Univ. (M.A., 1937). After further studies with Boulanger at the École Normale de Musique in Paris (1937–39), he taught at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. (1939–42), where he also had composition lessons with Milhaud; then taught at Brooklyn Coll. (1942–43), the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y., Brandéis Univ. (1953–80), and at the New England Cons, of Music in Boston (from 1979). He served as ed. of the Musical Mercury (1934–37) and as co-founder and ed. of Perspectives of New Music (1962–63); also was a music critic for the Boston Transcript (1943–47), N.Y. Sun (1943–46), and N.Y. Herald Tribune (1946–53). In addition to many articles in journals, he publ. a monograph on Copland (N.Y., 1953). In 1960 he held a Fulbright fellowship and in 1975–76 a Guggenheim fellowship. His musical idiom reveals the influence of divergent schools, including a sui generis serialism and the neoclassical pragmatism of Stravinsky. His works, in whatever idiom, are characterized by strong formal structures; the title of one of his most cogent scores, Ideas of Order (1952), is a declaration of principles.


ORCH: Serenade Concertante for Violin and Chamber Orch. (1944; Rochester, N.Y., Oct. 24, 1945); 3 Pieces for Strings (1945; N.Y., Jan. 26, 1946); Ideas of Order (1952; N.Y., April 11, 1953); Polyphony (Louisville, Nov. 17, 1956); Chamber Concerto (1960; N.Y., May 13, 1962; 3rd movement rev. as Movement for Orch., 1964; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd movements rev. as Perspectives I, II, and III, 1978). CHAMBER: Woodwind Quartet (1941); 3 Pieces for String Quartet (1945); Duo No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1948), No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1950), No. 3 for Cello and Piano (1951), and No. 4 for Oboe and Clarinet (1952; arr. for Clarinet and Piano, 1957); Chamber Music for 12 Instruments (1956); String Quartet (1958); Septet for Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1965–66; Washington, D.C., Nov. 25, 1966); Trio for Guitar, Violin, and Piano (1972); Piano Trio (1980); Woodwind Quintet (1984); Diptych for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1990); Collage III for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion, and Piano (1992). Piano: 2 Episodes (1933); Entertainment Pieces, ballet music (1940); Fantasy (1942); Rondo (1945); Capriccio (1945); 3 Bagatelles (1946); Partita (1947); Intermezzo (1948); 4 2-part inventions (1948–49); 1-part invention (1954); 3 Pieces for 2 Prepared Pianos (1961); 5 Pieces (1969); Composition for Piano, 4-Hands (1976); An Improvisation for A[aron] C[opland] (1981). VOCAL: Words for Music, Perhaps for Soprano or Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Clarinet, and Cello (1939–40); Garlands for Mezzo-soprano and Piano (1945); Psalm XCII for 4 Voices (1946); Boo Hoo at the Zoo: Tails of Woe for 2 Voices (1978); 5 Songs for Tenor and Piano (1978–79); Love, Sweet Animal for 4 Voices and Piano, 4-Hands (1982); Ode of Ronsard for Soprano and Piano (1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire