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Erik Bergman (Composer)

Born: November 24, 1911 - Uusikaarlepyy (Swedish: Nykarleby), Finland
Died: April 24, 2006 - Helsinki, Finland


Erik (Valdemar) Bergman was an eminent Finnish composer, conductor, music critic, and pedagogue. At Helsinki University in 1931-1933, he studied musicology with the composer and ethnomusicologist Ilmari Krohn - the founder of the discipline in Finland - and literature with the critic and folklorist Yrjö Hirn; concurrently (1931-1938) he was a student at the Helsinki Conservatory - composition with the composer-pianist Erik Furuhjelm and with Bengt Carlson, who had studied under Vincent d'Indy in Paris, and piano with Ilmari Hannikainen, one of the major Finnish pianists. This was followed by further compostion studies with Heinz Tiessen at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1937-1939), and the twelve-tone technique with Wladimir Vogel in Ascona, Switzerland (1942-1943).

Returning to Helsinki, Erik Bergman was conductor of the Catholic Church Choir (1943-1950), the Akademiska Sangf6reningen at the University (1950-1969), and the Sallskapet Muntra Musikanter (1951-1978). As a music critic, he wrote for the Nya Pressen (1945-1947) and Hufvudstadsbladet (1947-1976). From 1963 to 1976 he was professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy. In 1961 he received the International Sibelius Prize of the Wihuri Foundation. In 1982 he was made a Finnish Academician. In 1994 he was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize for his opera Det sjungande trädet (The Singing Tree), which received its premiere in Helsinki on September 3, 1995.

Erik Bergman married first in 1942 Sylvelin Långholm (marriage dissolved 1955), second in 1956 Aulikki Rautawaara (marriage dissolved 1958), third in 1961 Solveig von Schoultz (died 1996), fourth Christina Indrenius-Zalewski.


Erik Bergman was a pioneer of modern music in Finland, ranks among the foremost Finnish composers of his era and one of the most an influential. His roots were in the romantic era, in the 1960ís he was named the enfant terrible of Finnish music and in the 1990ís he was called the grand old man of modernism. Because of his training he was considered as a representative of the avant-garde; he developed for example the twelve-tone techniques of Arnold Schoenberg, and even adopted total serialism in some of his works. Later he arrived at his own, personal style in which tone colours and the search for new expressive means play an important role. His style ranged widely, from Romanticism in his early works (many of which he later prohibited from being performed) to modernism and primitivism, among other genres. He cultivates varied techniques, ranging from medieval modality to serialism. His major works have evolved along expressionistic lines.

Erik Bergman was an exceptionally prolific composer. He composed song cycles, cantatas, a violin concerto, pieces for piano and for organ, a guitar suite, a chamber concert for flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, percussion and piano and further chamber works. He was always fascinated by the human voice. Choral works constitute the majority of his oeuvre and especially male-voice choir a cappella was his core instrument. He has exploited the whole gamut of vocal resources on a sliding scale from speech to song, and his spectrum is remarkable ranging from the mischievous to the mystical. Apart from vocal music has composed a number of works for orchestra which provide a comprehensive cross section of his main stylistic periods. Since the 1970ís Bergman expanded his scale to concertos and chamber music. He was constantly on the move; he had a deep interest in remote cultures and was untiring in his search for the new. His Requiem for a dead poet (1970) and Colori ed improvvisazioni for orchestras (1973) gave him international recognition.

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Fennica Gehrman Website (2003/2006); Wikipedia Website (March 2011); Oibituary in The Guardian (May 9, 2006)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2011)

Erik Bergman: Short Biography | Bach-inspired Piano Works: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Erik Bergman (FIMIC)
Erik Bergman (Fennica Geherman)

Erik Bergman (Wikipedia)
Obituary in The Independebt



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