- David Osmond-Smith
- , revised by Ben Earle
(b Oneglia, 1925; d Rome, May 27, 2003). Italian composer. At a relatively early stage in his career, he succeeded in transcending the closed world of the European avant garde to address a wider public. The vivid, gestural idiom that he developed in the 1960s, and the creative consequences that he drew from other, often extra-musical aspects of the culture around him, established for him a world-wide reputation that sustained his subsequent exploration of a wide, and sometimes challenging, arc of musical resources. Of formidable creative energy, he proved one of the most prolific composers of the later 20th century. Berio’s long-established status as the leading Italian composer of his generation remains secure.
He was born into a family of musicians working in the small but busy Ligurian port of Oneglia. Both his father (Ernesto) and grandfather (Adolfo) were organists and composers, and in consequence the young Berio received a thorough musical training at home. By the age of nine, he was participating as a pianist in his father’s chamber music evenings, and by his early teens he was producing occasional compositions. But an injury to his right hand sustained while training as an unwilling conscript to the army of Mussolini’s Republic of Salò changed the focus of his musical activities. When he entered the Milan Conservatory at the end of the war in ...