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Roman Berger, Polish composer, pianist and theoretician of music, b. 9 Aug. 1930 in Cieszyn. From 1949 he studied theory with Jan Gawlas and piano with Marta Gabryś-Furmanik at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice. In 1952 Stalinist repression forced him to move to Bratislava with his family. He continued his education at the Vysoka Škola Muzickich Umeni, where he studied piano with Frico Kafenda, and, after the latter's death, with Štefan Németh-Šamorinski (degree in 1956), as well as composition with Dezider Kardoš (honours degree in 1965). From 1956 he worked as a piano professor at the Conservatory in Bratislava. In 1967 he began his work for the Slovak Television in Bratislava. He also started lecturing at his alma mater: in 1965-71 he taught classes in modern music, introduction to composition and electronic music at the Department of Theory. In 1980-91 he worked at the Art History Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. From 1984, together with the mathematician Beloslav Riečan, he conducted in the Institute inofficial seminars entitled Music and Mathematics on the application of mathematics in music. From 1989 he was a member of the team preparing a new conception of artistic education at the Ministry of Education as well as a member of an Advisory Body to the Minister of Culture (until March 1991).
He was also involved in the activity of the Union of Slovak Composers, of which he was secretary from 1966. Expelled from the Union in 1968 for his participation in the "Prague Spring", he regained his membership only in 1977, but twelve years later - in 1989 - he resigned it himself. With Mark Kopelent and Alois Piňos, he reactivated the Czechoslovak Section of the ISCM/SIMC. He has also been associated with the Czech section of the Club of Rome and with the "Atelier" group.
Roman Berger has written several hundred theoretical works, philosophical essays and other publications. A selection of his writings from the period 1977-87 was published as Hudba a pravda [Music and Truth] (European Culture Club, the "Pro Slovakia" Foundation, Bratislava 1997), and texts from 1990-1999 - in Dráma hudby. Prolegomena k politickej muzikológii [The drama of music. Prolegomena to political musicology] (Hudobné centrum, Bratislava 2000).
He has received a number of prizes for his compositions, including: in 1967 - the Prize of Czechoslovak Critics for Transformations for large orchestra (1964-65) and the Prize of the Jan Levoslav Bella Slovak Music Fund; in 1974 - an honorable mention in the International Competition for Electroacoustic Music in Bourges for Epitaph for Nicolaus Copernicus for tape (1972-73), in 1980 - 1st prize in the Competition for the Award of the Town Piešt’any for De profundis for bass voice, piano, cello and live electronics (1980), and in 1990 - a diploma of the Czech and Slovak critics for Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" for violin and piano (1988-89). In 1988 the Vienna University honored him with the J.G. v. Herder Prize for all his achievements in composition and theory. In 1999, the General Assembly of the Polish Composers' Union granted Berger an honorary membership.

works

The composer Roman Berger is also an eminent theoretician, or rather, should we say - a philosopher of music. Music preoccupies him not so much in its technical craftsmanship dimension as in its much wider sociocultural context. Even Berger’s thinking about music itself is rather unusual: “For me,” Berger writes, “the starting point is an experience which is virtually absent from music study: the experience of a fascination. In my childhood, it was a fascination with sounds, after the war - a fascination with “the great music” of the past, later - with some works of New Music. What I mean is that my conflict with music studies concerns the very essence of music, not only - its standard aesthetic or ideological interpretation.” And indeed, Berger never treats music with analytic indifference, regardless of the context. His musical analysis never follows the “objective” academic stance. And his own music as well is neither objective, or indifferent, but imbued with passion and the author’s emotional involvement.
Berger has written numerous theoretical, musicological and philosophical works. In 2000, a collection of his twenty-one texts from 1990-1999 entitled Dráma hudby. Prolegomena k politickej muzikológii [The drama of music. Prolegomena to political musicology] was published by the Hudobné centrum in Bratislava 2000. This volume was a continuation of a similar publication with texts from 1977-1987, entitled Hudba a Pravda [Music and Truth]. The recent collection is the outcome of observations made after the November 1989 breakthrough in Czechoslovakia, which provoke the author dramatically to pose the question of the future fate of music and culture in general. The threats differ from those which he described in the previous decade, but they are equally grave. “Culture? Later!” said Václav Klaus, initiating the country’s socio-economic transformation. “Totalitarianism” was pernicious to the culture of spirit and reason, “democracy” continues this destructive work, Berger claims, though the methods are now different. Today we already have that freedom that we craved for so much in the past, but the freedom has gone such a long way that it no longer matters who thinks what, or even if he thinks at all. The struggle for the culture of spirit and reason is a struggle for survival. The titles of the texts included in Dráma hudby speak for themselves: Music and Totalitarianism, Christianity and Nationalism, Depth - A Lost Dimension?, A Change of Perspective, Playing the Game of Democracy, The Structure and Meaning of Heritage, or The Question of Identity.

kompozycje

Fantasia quasi una sonata for piano (1955)
Inventions for piano: I. Five Very Short Pieces (1959)
Sonata “1960” for piano (1960)
Romance for violin and piano (1960)
Inventions for piano: II. Five Piano Studies (1960)
Suite for piano (1961)
Inventions for piano: III. Little Suite (1961)
In the Silence So Dearly Redeemed for mixed choir (1962)
Lullaby for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra (1962)
Trio for flute, clarinet and bassoon (1962)
Suite in the Old Style for strings, percussion and keyboard instruments (1963, 1978)
Transformations for large orchestra * (1964-65)
Black and Red for mixed choir, reciting voice, percussion instruments and live electronics (1967)
Elegy in memoriam Ján Rúčka electroacoustic music for tape (1969)
Convergencies I for violin * (1969)
Convergencies II “Bach Meditations” for viola * (1970)
Sonata (No. 3) “da camera” in memoriam F. Kafenda for piano * (1971)
Epitaph for Mikuláš Kopernik electroacoustic music for tape (1972-73)
Memento. After the Death of Miroslav Filip for large orchestra (1973)
Litany to Trees a triptych for male choir (1974)
Convergencies III for cello * (1975)
Oscillations for violin and percussion (1976-77)
Sonata per organo (1976-77)
En passant electroacoustic music for tape (1979)
De profundis for bass voice, piano and cello + live electronics (1980)
Exodus I – Musica profana. Dies irae for organ (1981)
Exodus II – Labirynth. B-A-C-H. M. Kabeláč’s theme for organ (1981)
Exodus IV – Finale “A Stronghold Firm” for organ (1982)
Sonata with a Motif by Karol Szymanowski for violin and piano * (1982-83)
Adagio for Ján Branny for violin and piano * (1987)
Adagio II “Repentance” for violin and piano * (1988-89)
November Music for piano * (1989)
Wiegenlied for alto and piano (1991-92)
Torso 2 recitatives and 2 arias for alto and piano (1991-92)
Transgressus I electroacoustic music for tape (1993)
Exodus III a psalm for organ (1997)
Requiem da Camera – with a theme by Witold Lutosławski for violin, cello and piano * (1998)

Korczak in memoriam for mezzo-soprano, viola, cello, flute, organ, kettledrums and string quartet *

(2000)
Semplice for piano (2000)
Musica pro defunctis for orchestra font color="red">* (2005)
Improvisation sur Herbert for mezzo-soprano, choir and orchestra * (2006)
Allegro frenetico con reminiscenza for cello (2006)
Pathétique for cello and piano (2006)
Missa pro nobis for mezzo-soprano, reciter, choir, symphony orchestra and CD (2007-10)
Epilog. Omaggio a L. v. B. for clarinet, cello and piano (2010)
Tenebrae for bass and chamber ensemble to text by Paul Celan (2011)

literatura wybrana

Dziadek Magdalena Berger Roman In: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Hg. Ludwig Finscher), Personenteil - Band 2, Bärenreiter Kassel / Metzler, Basel - London - New York - Prag / Stuttgart - Weimar 1999
Pociej Bohdan Roman Berger. Między słowem, pojęciem a muzyką [Roman Berger. Between the Word, Notion and Music] In: Muzyka Źle obecna [Misrepresented Music] (ed. by Krystyna Tarnawska-Kaczorowska), Sekcja Muzykologów Związku Kompozytorów Polskich, Warszawa 1989
Stankiewicz Jerzy Berger Roman In: Encyklopedia Muzyczna PWM (część biograficzna pod red. Elżbiety Dziębowskiej) [The PWM Encyclopaedia of Music - biographical part, ed. by Elżbieta Dziębowska], PWM, Kraków 1998

publikacje

books

The drama of music. Prolegomena to political musicology, Hudobné centrum, Bratislava 2000
Music and Truth, European Culture Club, „Pro Slovakia” Foundation, Bratislava 1997