OBITUARY: Arthur Berger, 91



Photo by Robert Bachrach

Composer, critic, and teacher Arthur Berger died October 7, 2003 in Boston. He was 91. Up until the last months of his life, Berger remained an influential presence in the music community. Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe reports that “according to [Berger’s] personal representative, Rosalie Calabrese, ‘his heart gave out.’ “

As a composer, Berger’s focus was on work for solo piano and chamber music, though his list of works also includes a number of choral and orchestral pieces. He began teaching in 1939 at Mills College. In 1943 he became a music critic for the New York Sun. A few years later, Virgil Thomson asked him to join the New York Herald Tribune, where he served as a full-time daily music reviewer until he resumed teaching in 1953 at Brandeis University. After retiring from Brandeis in 1980, Berger taught at the New England Conservatory of Music until 1999.

Berger was one of the founders of the influential periodical Perspectives of New Music. His book, Reflections of an American Composer (2002), is a collection of essays offering a unique perspective on the changing role of contemporary music in academia and modern society.

Aaron Copland, an early mentor of Berger’s, once wrote that his 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.”