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Composer: Gunnar Berg

Instrument: Flute

Level: Intermediate

Published: 2021

Price: €25.00

Item details

  • Description +
    • Duration: 4 min.

      Three long visits to Salzburg (about one month each) proved crucially important to Gunnar Berg and his work as a musician and a composer, namely first the festivals in 1932 and 1935 and later “The Salzburg Seminar in American Studies” in May 1950 at Schloss Leopoldskron. The theme of the American seminar was music and painting, and among the 50 participants from 12 different countries was the German flutist Gabriele Zimmermann (1926-2011), to whom Gunnar Berg tailored and dedicated his brand new solo piece PASTOURELLE. It is a freely shaped rondo, whose recurring theme is dominated by fourths, and the 4-minute-long piece is reminiscent of both Debussy’s Syrinx (1913) and Honegger’s Danse de la chèvre (1921). The character is improvisational, but the composition is tightly controlled, which applies not least to the richly differentiated rhythmic sequences in the episodes; at the same time, the episodes explore the range of expression open to the modern flute.

      After Gabriele Zimmermann’s death, her personal copy of PASTOURELLE in the composer’s own hand appeared at an auction in Germany. This autograph with its dedication turned out to differ from the hitherto known versions of the work, all of which can be studied at the Royal Library in Copenhagen; consequently, it is published in the present volume, side by side with those other three different versions of PASTOURELLE. Gunnar Berg did not leave any notes or explanations about the background for the differences between the various versions. Having no access to copyists or indeed copying devices at the time, he had to write out a new score himself whenever needed. During this process he may well have taken the opportunity to adjust his composition, so that the entire course of creation from January 1950 to the second half of 1953 or perhaps into 1954 took on the character of ‘work in progress’ - even without this having necessarily been intended from the very beginning.

      Version Paris 1950
      The earliest known version has the character of a sketch and was composed in Paris in January 1950; it is 79 bars long with varying meter signature with durations from 3/16 to 5/4. The fair copy of the score is written on sheet music paper from the Wiener publishing house A-Tempo-Verlag (Karl Wewerka & Co.), which is why the fair copy is presumed to have been made in Salzburg but earlier than Berg’s further work on the piece with his eyes set on Gabriele Zimmermann.

      Version Salzburg 1950
      This version is dated May 1950 in Salzburg, and it too is written on sheet music paper from A-Tempo-Verlag. In this and in the subsequent versions, Berg does not make use of barlines, which helps to emphasize the improvisational character of the work and allows the performer to feel more free. Gunnar Berg’s autograph - with its dedication, “Meiner lieben Gabriele Zimmermann - deren Spiel, einmal gehört, zum Wesenserfreuen wird.” - was sold at Auktionshaus Kiefer in Pforzheim on 30 June 2018.

      Version SACEM, July 1, 1952
      Back in Paris after his stay in Salzburg in 1950, Gunnar Berg had the pleasure of seeing PASTOURELLE being performed on several occasions and by various flutists in Bern, Paris and the United States. Which version of the score was used on any one of these occasions is unknown, but on July 1, 1952, Berg registered his work with the French copyright organization Sacem. The version submitted and preserved in this context is different from the previous two, but corresponds exactly to what can be heard in the Danish flutist Eyvind Rafn’s much later recording for the record company Dacapo (DCCD 9007; 1990); in particular one notes how Berg had now decided to shape the initial ritornello motif as two long phrases.

      Version Paris 1953 or 1954
      Apart from writing ”Salzburg 1950”, Gunnar Berg left no indication of when this fourth and last version of the piece came about nor indeed why or for whom. Here, the slow introduction is divided into four phrases. Based on Berg’s autograph alone, there can be no doubt that this version is the youngest and that it was written after Ejvind Rafn’s concerts in Paris in 1953, perhaps even in 1954. It is this version that can be heard in several recordings on YouTube and which was published by Edition Svitzer in 2008, but which is now to be replaced by the present publication with the four different versions of PASTOURELLE, critically revised and printed in chronological order.

      With support from Koda’s Cultural Funds.

  • Instrumentation +
    • Flute

  • Watch+
    • Performed by Helene Schulthess

  • About the composer +
    • In 2009, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gunnar Berg (1909-1989) sparked a rediscovery and reassessment of the Danish composer as one of the most important Danish representatives of musical modernism on the international scene. More than 50 performances and events were held in Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Ukraine, USA, China, France, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Berg’s music was played, discussed and written about to an extent never experienced by Berg, himself, in his lifetime. His drawings were also exhibited and his music was released both in print and on CD.

      Gunnar Berg was born in St. Gallen in Switzerland on 11 January 1909, the oldest of four siblings. From 1890 his Danish father Sigvard Berg worked on the railway construction in Switzerland, but he died of a heart attack in 1914, only 60 years old. Consequently Berg’s youth in Switzerland and in Denmark was difficult, marked as it was by illness and frequent moves, and without much contact with music. 
          In 1934 Berg graduated from a business school in Copenhagen, despite having been so  deeply affected by a 1931 performance of Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the Royal Theatre that he vowed to devote his life to music. In the summer of 1932 Berg bicycled from Copenhagen to Salzburg, and during the music festival he attended a course given by Austrian music critic Paul Stefan at the Mozarteum. The course opened doors for Berg; he attended rehearsals, concerts and other courses as well as experienced decisive first encounters with the music of composers such as Debussy, Schönberg and Stravinsky. Berg returned to Salzburg in 1935, where he was granted  access to rehearsals and concerts led by Arturo Toscanini and Bruno Walter, and where he attended the conductor course by Herbert von Karajan, with whom he had private meetings.

      Berg’s time in Salzburg was of landmark importance to his musical orientation, for thereafter he was positioned closer to the music culture of Europe rather than to one that embodied a Danish-Nordic aesthetic. His stays in Salzburg certainly contrasted with his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen in 1936 where his idea of establishing a study group for new music was met with blank refusal from the conservatory. He left at the end of the year, but  continued to study piano with the pianist and composer Herman D. Koppel until 1943. From 1944 on Berg studied with Elizabeth Jürgens, an unusually gifted piano teacher of Swedish birth  who had lived in Copenhagen for decades.
          During the German occupation, Berg actively took part in the rescue of Danish Jews - transporting them to Sweden - and in the Danish resistance movement. After the liberation he  was involved in music teaching projects at numerous refugee camps in Denmark and gave concerts featuring his own compositions, classics, and new music including works by Stravinsky, Satie and Honegger.

      Berg’s first works date from the mid-1930s; Zehn japanische Holzschnitte (Ten Japanese  Woodcuts) for voice and piano from 1938 is considered his first major work, and the three sonatas - for flute and clarinet (1942), for violin (1945) and for piano (1945-47) - with which  Berg in the 1940s finally left classical formal structures behind, are significant contributions to this genre within the neoclassical style.
          In January 1945 the autodidact composer debuted in Copenhagen, but Berg won no  recognition for his music so he began to prepare to go abroad, and in autumn 1948 he went to  Paris in order to study with Arthur Honegger at École normale. Berg quickly gained access to the  circle around Olivier Messiaen and thus became part of the international modernist environment  in post-war Europe. In 1950, at the invitation of Darius Milhaud, he attended the Salzburg  Seminar in American Studies, and in 1952 he married the French pianist Béatrice Duffour. They  spent their honeymoon at the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt, where  Berg’s meeting with Karlheinz Stockhausen served to confirm the validity and contemporaneity  of Berg’s own musical experiments. The couple made a number of concert tours around Europe  featuring music of the leading composers of the time. In 1957 and 1958, funded by the French  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they toured Germany and Scandinavia, and then settled in Denmark.  For a number of years thereafter the Berg couple embarked on a unique project with residences,  lectures and concerts at the Danish Folk High Schools. In 1965 they established their first own  home in the old school in Lindved, a very small village located between Horsens and Juelsminde  in Jutland. There they created an unusual cultural venue where the people of the region were  often invited to memorable concerts with contemporary and classical music. Béatrice Berg died  1976, and in 1979 Gunnar Berg returned to Europe and finally settled in Switzerland, where he  experienced a significant surge of interest in his music. Gunnar Berg died in Bern, Switzerland,  on 28 August 1989, and he and Béatrice Berg are both buried at the Rårup churchyard, close to  their home in Lindved.

      The 10-year stay in Paris proved crucial to Berg, and from 1950 he uncompromisingly, yet in his  very own fashion, remained faithful to the complex expressive mode of musical modernism within the theoretical and aesthetic framework of serialism, and, it should be noted, without  turning dogmatic.

      Only very rarely did Gunnar Berg add analytical or explanatory comments to his music: “My works must stand on their own feet, and they must answer for themselves,” he asserted. However, among his posthumous papers there is a wealth of slips of paper with columns of figures and letters, note names, volumes and durations, which provide us some insight into his composition workshop. They also confirm the limited number of analyses of Gunnar Berg’s works that have attempted to map out his working method. Berg’s point of departure was Olivier Messiaen’s division of the twelve chromatic notes of the tempered scale into groups, the so-called “modes with restricted transpositions,” but expanded to apply to all the parameters of the music. The result is a meticulously calculated structuring of durations, pitches, volumes and  instrumentation, which was a major theme in Darmstadt in 1952. Berg described his method as  “static”, and he spoke of ground rules where, by means of techniques such as mirroring, reversal  and transposition, he established a basic body of material to be ordered in his own, personal way. 

      Gunnar Berg came too late to his study of piano to attain a professional career as a pianist.  However, his experiences at the piano decisively influenced his compositional thinking as reflected in his piano compositions – from the numerous small educational pieces to the four virtuoso concertos for piano and symphony orchestra: Essai acoustique (1954), Pour piano et  orchestra (1959), Frise (1961) and Uculang (1967). The two major works for solo piano - Eclatements (1954-88) and Gaffky’s (1958-59) - both large compositions, are among the most  important contributions to Danish piano literature in the second half of the twentieth century.
          This is also the case with his contributions to Danish guitar literature after his meeting  with Maria Kämmerling in 1976 which resulted in Fresque I-IV (1978), Hyperion (1978) for guitar, soprano and 9 instruments, Melos (1979) for solo guitar and Ar-Goat (1984) for guitar-duo.

  • Credits +
    • Foreword (Danish): Jens Rossel
      Translation to English: Svend Ravnkilde
      Photo: Gunnar Berg, Paris 1950
      Front cover: Drawing by Gunnar Berg
      Editing and engraving: CPH Engraving
      Proofreading: Ria Georgiadis and Svend Ravnkilde
      Front cover graphics and layout: Ronni Kot Wenzell
      Published in cooperation with Working Group Gunnar Berg
      Duration: 4 min
      Copyright © Edition Svitzer