Georg Berg

(b ?1730sd London1775). English composer and organist of German origin. He may also have been a chemist who experimented in musical glassmaking. It is strange that a composer who published so much should be mentioned so little by his contemporaries and not at all by Burney or Hawkins. Sainsbury, whose other information is incorrect, said in his Dictionary of Music that he was German, and W.H. Husk (Grove1) said that he was a pupil of Pepusch. Berg probably played either the organ or the violin at Ranelagh Gardens in the late 1750s; he published six books of Ranelagh songs then, many of them for John Beard to sing. The scarcity of surviving copies may suggest that they were never very popular. No doubt Berg’s op.1 concerti grossi were also written for Ranelagh; though rather conventional as music, the idiomatic violin writing suggests a composer-performer. As 19 organists in the London area subscribed to this publication, Berg was also clearly popular in the organ world and may have already held a church appointment. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Musicians in 1763, and in the same year was listed in Thomas Mortimer’s The Universal Director as ‘composer & teacher on the harpsichord, Lincoln’s Inn Fields’. By 1771 he was organist at St Mary-at-Hill in the City of London. Thereafter he published no more music. Following his death, his extensive music library was sold by Christie’s (1776), in a joint sale with the business effects of the keyboard instrument maker Samuel Gillespy.

Nothing survives of Berg’s operas, his oratorio, The Cure of Saul, or of his ode, The Invitation, but he published some glees, and in 1763 won a prize with one, On softest beds. His op.7 sonatas were among the earliest to be published as for harpsichord or piano, but their style is less progressive than their title suggests. The galant works are somewhat clichéd, with numerous Alberti basses; the more traditional sonatas, however, have greater individuality. Each sonata has three movements, and seven of the ten end with minuets.

 

From The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

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