ROMAN BERGER (b 1930 )
The composer, theoretician and writer Roman Berger was born in 1930 in Cieszyn, on the Czech-Polish border, to the family of a Lutheran priest. Following his school graduation, he was enrolled in the State Academy of Music in Katowice, to the north of his home town, where he studied piano and music theory. Following the 1948 communist coup in Czechoslovakia, Berger’s father was put under pressure to move his family to the Slovak capital Bratislava. There Berger continued his studies at the VŠMU (Academy of Performing Arts), taking piano classes with Frico Kafenda (1883–1963) and Štefan Németh-Šamorínsky (1896–1975). Following his graduation, he joined the teaching staff at the Academy; and from 1959, decided to devote himself to composition. Although he wished to return to Katowice to study with the leading Polish composer Bolesław Woytowicz (1899–1980), he was not granted permission to travel; and therefore enrolled again at VŠMU, where he attended the class of Dezider Kardoš (1914–1991). He completed his studies with distinction in 1965 with the cycle Transformations, 4 Pieces for Large Orchestra. After a successful performance at the ISCM Festival in Prague in 1967, Transformations was to be included in the programme for the Warsaw Autumn Festival. However, on hearing of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the so-called Warsaw Pact armies (Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany and Poland), Berger refused to send the score of his work to Warsaw, in protest.
Berger’s works have been heard regularly at festivals at home and abroad, particularly since the late 1970s. A selection of his writings has also been published, combining earlier and more recent articles on music theory and philosophy, analysis and interpretation, which are characterised by their broad scholarly outlook and nontraditional approach. He holds a number of awards for both his compositions and publications, including the University of Vienna’s Herder Prize (1988), the Honorary Cross for merit of the President of the Polish Republic (2011), the Prize of the Union of Polish Composers (2012), and the Diploma of the Papal Council for Culture (2013).