Natanael Berg

I mentioned a few days ago the first symphony of Natanael Berg (the second symphony is rather a more convincing piece, by the way). I thought I was reasonably au fait with Scandinavian composers of the late Romantic period, but this name was quite new to me. He seems to have been something of an unusual figure. Apart from his musical life, he was an officer in the Swedish Army – as a military vetinarian, with particular reponsibility for the well-being of the horses essential for royal pageantry. He would even turn up to conduct concerts dressed in military uniform.

There is always some minor amusement to be had from composers who share the last name of more famous composers. Thus, one can cause some raised eyebrows by referring to “Berg’s Second Symphony”, since the first name that will come to mind will be that of Alban Berg, not exactly a symphonist. Mention of Schuman’s Sixth Symphony can also be puzzling, though when one writes it down, it is obvious from the single “n” that it is William Schuman and not Robert Schumann that is intended. And what about Tchaikovsky’s Cello Concerto? Oh, sorry, I meant Boris Tchaikovsky, of course!

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