Berger, Arthur Victor

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BERGER, ARTHUR VICTOR (1912–2003), U.S. composer, critic, and educator. Born in New York, Berger studied at the Longy School of Music, at Harvard (M.A. in musicology, 1936), in Paris with Boulanger and composition with Darius *Milhaud. He taught at Mills College, Brooklyn College, the Juilliard School, and Brandeis University. In 1979 he became a member of the New England Conservatory, from whose composition faculty he retired in 1998.

In the 1940s and 1950s Berger wrote musical criticism for the Boston Transcript, New York Sun, and New York Herald Tribune. He served as editor of the Musical Mercury (1934–37) and was co-founder and editor of Perspectives of New Music (1962–63). He contributed to many music journals (including pieces on Stravinsky, Ives, and *Babbitt), produced a monograph on the music of Aaron *Copland (1953; reissued 1990), and wrote Reflections of an American Composer (2002). He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Arts and Letters.

As a composer, Berger was distinguished for his economy of means, vigor of expression, and strong formal structures. His music in the 1940–57 period shows the influence of Stravinsky's neo-classicism; later works categorizes him as a serial or post-Webern composer. He evolved his own characteristics, especially an interest in musical space, both vertical and horizontal. From 1958 Berger showed increasing stylistic independence and paid increased attention to the use of instrumental color and to revisions of earlier works, utilizing a variety of techniques which range from re-composition to the simultaneous overlay of new materials. His compositions include works for orchestra (such as Ideas of Order, 1952; Polyphony, 1956), chamber music, vocal works, and many piano pieces.


Grove online, s.v.; Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1997); B. Boretz, in: Perspectives of New Music 41 (2003).

[Max Loppert /

Naama Ramot (2nd ed.)]