Arthur Berger (May 15, 1912 - October 7, 2003) was an influential composer,
critic and teacher for more than half a century. His early music was
heavily influenced by Stravinsky and neoclassicism, while his later works
were both serial and diatonic in nature. Although Berger made notable
contributions to the orchestral repertory, he devoted the major share
of his compositional activities to chamber and solo piano music. He
is grouped in the "Boston school" along with Lukas Foss, Irving Fine,
Claudio Spies, Leonard Bernstein, Ingolf Dahl, John Lessard, and Louise Talma. (Names
on this page which are links refer to my Interviews elsewhere on my website.
Born in 1912 in New York City, Berger received his musical education at New York and Harvard Universities, pursuing further studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and at the Sorbonne. In his early twenties he was 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 principal spokesmen of music from the United States for that period. He wrote numerous critical and analytical articles on such composers as Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, and Aaron Copland.
Berger received a number of awards and honors, including those from the Guggenheim, Fromm, Coolidge, Naumburg and Fulbright Foundations, the NEA, League of Composers, and Massachusetts Council on the Arts & Humanities. He was a fellow of both the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Berger began his teaching career in 1939 at Mills College in Oakland, California. In 1943 he 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 music reviewer in New York City, he resumed teaching in 1953 at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts during the formation of its graduate music program. After retiring from Brandeis in 1980, Berger taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston until 1999. His music is recorded on the CRI and New World labels, and his book Reflections of an American Composer (2002) was recently published by the University of California Press.
||Robert Helps in a 20th
Century compendium "New Music for the Piano: 24 Contemporary Composers,"
Ingolf Dahl's Fanfares (1958), Arthur
Berger's Two Episodes (1933),
Two Preludes (1951), Samuel Adler's Capriccio (1954), Hall Overton's Polarities No. 1 (1958), Milton Babbit's
Partitions (1957), Miriam Gideon's Piano Suite No. 3 (1951), Sol Berkowitz's
Syncopations (1958), Ben Weber's
Humoreske op. 49 (1958), Leo Kraft's Allegro Giocoso (1957), Paul A. Pisk's Nocturnal Interlude (undated), Mel Powell's Etude (1957), Morton Gould's Rag-Blues-Rag (undated), Vivian Fine's Sinfonia and Fugato (undated), Alan Hovhaness' Allegro on a Pakistan Little Tune op. 104 No.
6 (1952), George Perle's
Six Preludes op. 20B (1946),
Norman Cazden's Sonata op. 53 No.3
(1950), Joseph Prostakoff's Two Bagatelles
(undated), Ernst Bacon's
The Pig Town Fling (undated),
Helps's Image (1957), Mark Brunswick's
Six Bagatelles (1958), Earl Kim's Two Bagatelles (1950/1948), and Josef Alexander's Incantation (1964). Underwritten by The
Abbey Whiteside Foundation. Cover art is by Sid Maurer. Glossy full-size
10-page booklet with extensive notes on all composers and works featured
herein, written by Joseph Prostakoff. The RCA LP was originally issued
in 1966, and later re-issued on CRI in 1971. When it was re-mastered and
issued on a CRI CD in 2001, the works by Berger, Kraft, and Fine were omitted.
© 1987 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded on the telephone on March 28, 1987. Portions were broadcast on WNIB about six weeks later, and again in 1992 and 1997. A copy of the unedited audio was placed in the Archive of Contemporary Music at Northwestern University. This transcription was made in 2017, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.