Wilhelm Berger

born on 9/8/1861 in Boston, MA, United States

died on 15/1/1911 in Jena, Thüringen, Germany

Wilhelm Berger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Wilhelm Reinhard Berger (9 August 1861 - 16 January 1911) was a German composer, pianist and conductor.


Berger's father, originally a merchant from Bremen, worked in Boston (where Berger was born) as a music shopkeeper and made a name for himself as an author after the family had returned to Bremen in 1862. Early on, his son showed signs of musical interest and aptitude. By the time of his first concert, age fourteen, Wilhelm had already composed a large number of songs and works for the piano. Between 1878 and 1884, Berger studied at the Royal Conservatory in Berlin, under Ernst Rudorff (piano) and Friedrich Kiel (counterpoint). From 1888 to 1903, he was a teacher at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory, a function which he combined, from 1899, with the chief conductorship of the Berlin Musical Society. In addition, he was very active as a concert pianist. In 1903, Berger was made a member of the German Royal Academy of Arts, and in the same year he was appointed 'Hofkapellmeister' in Meiningen as successor of Fritz Steinbach. In 1911 he died at Jena, aged 49, due to complications after a stomach operation.

Musical style

Like most of the composers from the circle of the 'Berlin Academics', Berger developed a great mastery of music theory. Stylistically, his music is very close to that of Johannes Brahms, even though it almost hints at the later works of Max Reger (who was to become Berger's successor as Meiningen Kapellmeister) through its preference for dissonant harmony and counterpoint techniques.

Berger was a prolific composer - his oeuvre numbers well over a hundred works. The Piano Quintet, Op. 95, the Second Symphony and the late compositions for choir are generally considered to be his masterpieces. Long after his death, his work was rated very highly, particularly among musical conservatives. Wilhelm Altmann wrote very positively about Berger in the third volume of his influential Manual for String Quartet Players (Handbuch für Streichquartettspieler).

Selected works

Choral Music

  • Sechs Gesänge für gem. Chor op. 25
    • Es schleicht um Busch und Halde
    • Im Fliederbusch
    • Leise rauscht des Lebens Welle
    • Ständchen
    • Trost der Nacht
    • Wie nun alles stirbt und endet
  • Drei Gesänge für gem. Chor op. 44
    • Ach in diesen blauen Tagen
    • Lenzfahrt
    • Niss Puk
  • Vier geistliche Lieder und Gesänge op. 54
    • Mitten wir im Leben sind
    • Müde, das Lebensboot weiter zu steuern
    • Groß ist der Herr
    • Gebet
  • Drei Gesänge für 6- und 8-stimmigen Chor op. 103
    • Karfreitag
    • Sturmesmythe
    • Von ferne klingen Glocken

(all recorded 2006, Berlin)


  • Symphony No. 1 in B flat major op. 71
  • Symphony No. 2 in B minor (H-moll) op. 80
  • Variations and Fugue on an own Theme, op. 97
  • Serenade for Twelve Wind Players, op. 102

Chamber music

  • Violin Sonata, op. 7
  • Piano Quartet in A major, op. 21
  • Cello Sonata in D minor, op. 28
  • String Trio in G minor, op.69 (1898)
  • String Quintet in E minor, op. 75 (1899)
  • Clarinet Trio in G minor, op. 94 (1903)
  • Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 95

Piano Music

  • Sonata in B major
  • Four Fugues, op. 89

External links

  • A short biography in German
  • Wilhelm Berger Clarinet Trio, Op.94, String Quintet Op.75 & Piano Quintet Op.95 Sound-bites and discussion of works
  • Berger at klassika.info
  • Free scores by Wilhelm Berger in the International Music Score Library Project
  • Free scores by Wilhelm Berger in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  • Quintets, violins, viola, violoncellos, op. 75, E minor (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection)
  • Variationen und Fuge über ein eigenes Thema für Klavier (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection)

Further reading

  • Biography by Max Unger ("Wilhelm Berger: eine Skizze seines Lebens und Schaffens." 24 November 1910 Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, starting page 369)
This page was last modified 11.04.2014 21:43:13

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