Arthur Berger (1912-2003) 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.

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.


Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | May 16, 2014
Distler Performance Hall at Tufts University | January 30, 2011
Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College | January 29, 2011
Studzinski Recital Hall at Bowdoin College | January 28, 2011
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | November 13, 2010
John Knowles Paine Hall at Harvard University | March 22, 2007
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | January 19, 2002
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | January 20, 2001
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | January 14, 2000
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | May 8, 1999


News and Press

[CD Review] La Folia reviews Arthur Berger: Words for Music, Perhaps

BMOP expands the Berger discography with chamber music. The three Yeats poems require female voice plus trio of flute, clarinet and cello. Chamber Music and Septet make explicit their numbers. Berger’s notes reveal his struggles to forge an American serial style outside of Stravinsky’s influence. Chamber Music is one of the results of that development, an elegant combination which looks to Webern. Profoundly evident in these lucid works is Berger’s splendid handling of sonority.

La Folia Full review
[Concert Review] Not at all Monsters of Modernism

Gil Rose, who has included Tufts University as one of the bases of his Boston Modern Orchestra Project, brought a group of nineteen of Boston’s best freelancers to Distler Hall on Sunday afternoon, January 30, for a program of vivid (and not at all monstrous) American works for small orchestra and chamber groups. BMOP gave the same program at Bowdoin College and Wellesley College before this well-seasoned wrap-up. The audience was smaller than it ought to have been, but the weather was certainly much to blame for that.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer Full review
[Concert Review] Fuse Classical reviews BMOP's "Virtuosity’s Velocity"

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) kicked off its season with a Jordan Hall program on November 13. Entitled “Virtuosity’s Velocity,” the concert was devoted to five American works for chamber orchestra. The music was demanding and difficult, but conductor Gil Rose did indeed elicit plenty of virtuosity from his ensemble.

The Arts Fuse Full review
[Concert Review] All-American electricity

For its seasonal opener “Virtuosity’s Velocity,” on Saturday, November 13 at Jordan Hall, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project chose to present an all-American program in a chamber-orchestra size. (In the old days, there were more players on stage than audience members.) The program included works by John Coolidge Adams, Arthur Berger, Ross Lee Finney, and Scott Wheeler. All these composers except Wheeler flirted with serial techniques, only to abandon them later.

The Boston Musical Intelligencer Full review
[Concert Review] Vigorous BMOP romps through Adams symphonies and more

For its season-opening concert, “Virtuosity’s Velocity,” the Boston Modern Orchestra Project trained its sights on the chamber orchestra — an ensemble whose unique flexibility can incorporate the weight and timbral range of the orchestra and the responsiveness of chamber music. All the music was American, creating a sort of microhistory of the genre’s many iterations.

The Boston Globe Full review
[Concert Review] Dulcimer, dances mark Fromm event

CAMBRIDGE -- Pull enough threads in American contemporary music of the last 50 years and you’ll arrive at the Fromm Foundation, which has funded commissions from many of the 20th century’s most distinguished composers. Paul Fromm (1906-1987) was an emigre who fled Nazi Germany and settled in this country, establishing a successful wine importing business in Chicago and, later, a foundation pledged “to restore to the composer his rightful position at the center of musical life.”

The Boston Globe Full review
[Press Release] The Boston Modern Orchestra Project performs in 2007 Fromm Players at Harvard Festival

Presented by Harvard University's Department of Music, this year's "Fromm Players at Harvard" music series features works of five composers to be performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's only orchestra dedicated to performing, commissioning, and recording new music of the 21st century. Curated by British composer and Harvard faculty member Julian Anderson, the 2007 Fromm Festival takes places Thursday, March 22nd, and Friday, March 23rd @ 8:00pm, in the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall at Harvard University (Oxford Street, Cambridge).

Full review
[News Coverage] The best classical CDs of 2003

Boston Modern Orchestra Project,
conducted by Gil Rose (New World)

“The Boston-based composer Arthur Berger died in October at 91, and this beautiful recording of his complete orchestral music makes a fitting testimonial. The five works range over 33 years, from the New-Classical Ideas of Order (1952) to the serialist Perspectives II (1985), and each abounds in pungent harmonic writing, transparent textures, and urbane sassiness.”

- Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

The New York Times Full review