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Gunnar BERG (1909-1989)
Piano and Orchestra - Volume 1

Essai acoustique (1954)
- pour piano et orchestre (1959)
Frise (1961)
Uculang (1967)
Aloys Kontarsky (piano)
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Ole Schmidt
rec. 7 Oct 1977 (Essai)
Béatrice Berg (piano)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Miltiades Caridis
rec. 28 Sept 1966 (-pour)
Elisabeth Klein (piano)
members of Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Tamás Vetö
rec. 18 Oct 1977 (Frise)
Béatrice Berg (piano)
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Kari Tikka
rec. 7 Oct 1977 (Uculang)
ADD variously from LP releases (Unicorn, DMA) and Danish Radio studio recordings.
DANACORD DACOCD 611-612 [44.48+47.55]


Gunnar Berg was born in Switzerland studying in Salzburg and at the Royal Danish Academy. At one stage he studied piano with Herman Koppel whose seven symphonies are being issued on Dacapo. Berg lived in Paris 1948-57 and married the pianist Béatrice Berg in 1952 the same year that he attended one of the Darmstadt summer courses. During 1957-80 he lived in Denmark then, until his death, in Switzerland. Béatrice, whose spirit sustained Berg through many years of neglect, died in 1976.

This music bristles with avant-garde incident. Its unashamed bearing is rooted in the splash and scatter of Darmstadt fragmentation with whispers, shudders, brittle dashes and microscopic scuttles, furious romps, belligerent shouts and vehement percussive protests. This is not music of the epic marathon but of the micro-mosaic. Long lines and melody have been banished although they sometimes put in a crippled and fractured appearance in Uculang. More usually shreds and shards fly around the listener.

It seems that all these pieces are notated so we are not in aleatory-land. The music recalls the Elliot Carter Piano Concerto which I remember from Jacob Lateiner's RCA recording. These pieces would fit like a glove into London's Roundhouse experiments of the 1970s.

The two disc set, the first of a Berg series, has been sponsored by the estate of the Bergs' own Maecenas, Aage Damgaard (1917-1991). It is published in collaboration with the Gunnar Berg Working Group which includes the composer, Tage Nielsen, Mogens Anderson, musicologist, Erik Kaltoft, pianist and Jens Rossel, music adviser.

This is music of pointillist modernism rattling with explosive discontinuity. It is not for the faint-hearted or the melody-reliant. It is all superbly documented and well presented especially given the audio provenance of some of these recordings. There is some audience noise but nothing deleterious.

Rob Barnett


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