Berg Orchestra

Berg Orchestra (in Czech, Orchestr Berg[1]), initially formed as a group of like-minded music students in 1995 and officially founded in 2001 by Slovak conductor Peter Vrábel,[2] is a professional orchestra in Prague, Czech Republic whose stated objective is "to constantly search for inspiration and accommodate new impulses from every sphere of contemporary life."

Berg Orchestra
Native nameOrchestr Berg
Founded2001 (2001)
LocationPrague, Czech Republic
Principal conductorPeter Vrábel
Music directorPeter Vrábel

Aside from its performances in traditional concert halls, Berg performs in museums and sewage treatment facilities, on theater stages, in churches and synagogues, and sometimes accompanies silent film screenings or dance performances. The orchestra’s director Eva Kesslová says choosing the spaces for the performances is an important aspect of their work.[3]


Vrábel launched his concert career early, collaborating as a student with numerous symphony and chamber orchestras, as well as with Kühn's Children Choir. In 1995 he founded Berg Orchestra as a means of promoting new music, actively collaborating with Czech composers, and creating opportunities for the younger generation of composers and performers through various projects. Berg's enterprises are diverse—despite its concentration on new music, the orchestra also programs older works and is thus occupied with period interpretation. Berg has produced many recordings for Czech Radio and also proven its versatility with jazz and film music.

When Berg held its first season as an independent chamber orchestra in January 2001, the organizers were well acquainted with what they faced. "The music scene could be described as post-socialist," says Vrabel, who became Berg's conductor and artistic director. "Audiences rejected anything that was a bit more avant-garde, and many musicians looked at contemporary music with total disrespect. We had to learn how to live in freedom."[4]

Concomitantly, Vrábel is a guest conductor at the National Theater in Prague.[5]


Collaboration is central to Berg Orchestra. Composers with whom the orchestra has worked closely include Heiner Goebbels,[6][7][8] Fausto Romitelli,[9] Lera Auerbach,[2] Martin Klusák and many others. The orchestra enjoys a longstanding collaborative association with the Spitfire dance theatre company.[10] In 2018, Berg Orchestra collaborated on the world premiere of the Tiger Lillies' Bohemian Nights show in Prague.[11]


In 2009, at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, Berg premiered Jan Dušek's incidental music for E. Mason Hopper's 1922 silent film Hungry Hearts.[12]

Nuberg Award

The Nuberg competition, established in 2006, selects winners from among the newly composed work commissioned by the orchestra during the previous year. Given the short lifespan of individual concerts, it is another means of providing young composers with valuable and generally hard-to-find exposure. The competition gives out one Nuberg Award per year. The jury consists of distinguished figures from the international contemporary music world who, according to Vrábel, are entirely from outside the Czech Republic, and not only for the objectivity they provide. "It’s also for the young composers to have feedback from the international music scene," he told Česká pozice.[2]

Outside awards and recognition

Peter Vrábel is a Gideon Klein Prize holder.[13] In 2010, Vrábel and Berg Orchestra were commended for artistic excellence and the promotion of Czech music by the Czech section of the International Music Council of UNESCO.[14]


  1. von Collas, W., European Music Directory (Munich: K. G. Saur Verlag, 2001), p. 11.
  2. Stein, M., "Sound of the cutting edge", Česká pozice, May 9, 2011.
  3. Volynsky, M., "Berg Orchestra experiments with form and setting of contemporary music", Radio Prague, Feb 26, 2013.
  4. Kuznik, F., "Music Impossible: How the Berg Orchestra Persuaded Prague to Join the 21st Century", Czech Music Quarterly (via Questia), Mar 2015.
  5. Berg Orchestra, official website.
  6. Kuznik, F., "A modern burnish for Prague Spring", Bachtrack, May 26, 2015.
  7. Šuster, K., "Goebbelsův scénický koncert na Pražském jaru ukáže různé prožitky války", Hospodářské noviny, May 25, 2015.
  8. Goebbels, H., Black on White, 2011.
  9. Klepal, B., "Orchestr Berg připomínal kameníka, který z hromady netříděného materiálu postavil perfektní zeď", Hospodářské noviny, Mar 9, 2016.
  10. Čechlovská, M., "Taneční Spitfire Company na jevišti při krocení koní doprovází hudebníci z Orchestru Berg", Hospodářské noviny, Dec 2, 2016.
  11. Johnston, R., "The Tiger Lillies Staging World Premiere in Prague: The British band will perform Bohemian Nights with the Berg Orchestra", Prague TV, Aug 31, 2018.
  12. Hopper, E. M., Hungry Hearts (1922), featuring a live recording of Berg Orchestra premiering Jan Dušek's incidental music, official website.
  13. Mikeš, V., "Peter Vrábel", Czech Music Quarterly, Feb 2009.
  14. Berg Orchestra website, About Peter Vrábel.

Further reading

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