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with a good piano."
He recalls competitive games of pool and Ping-Pong. Almost every night he and a fellow composer, Leo Smit, played four-hand renditions of Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven symphonies in the common room, making a din and attracting crowds of fellow artists. One day, Ingrid Bergman, who was then involved with the director Roberto Rosselini, showed up. She was so excited by the four-hand music that she invited the duo to her place for a private concert. "Rosselini was quite mad that she'd asked us over," Mr. Shapero said. "But she was a charmer. Very flirty."
Best of all were the friendships formed with artists from other fields, like the painter Mitchell Siporin, who later became Mr. Shapero's faculty colleague at Brandeis University. The composer Lee Hyla, who spent a year, 1990-1991, at the academy,
was similarly inspired by its stimulating atmosphere.
"Almost every morning there was an event of some kind," Mr. Hyla said recently from Boston. "An art scholar might take us on a lecture tour to some part of Rome. You could go or not. Some talks were terrific. Some were pretty boring. But that's O.K. It was always interesting. Then after lunch, I'd work all day."
Mr. Hylla, whose chamber work "In Double Light" will be performed on Nov. 6, greatly valued being in touch with his native language and culture in the context of a foreign country. While there, he wrote a piece called "Ciao, Manhattan," and a piano concerto.
"Rome influenced my music and altered my language," he said. "It's a somewhat chaotic city. You are continually blasted with things from different time periods:
something from last year and something from 800. It affected the way I think about musical structure." Yet the concerto is still "very much an American piece," he added. "I used a bunch of punk riffs in it."
For the concert series, Mr. Berman tried to select works that reflect the influence of Rome yet affirm qualities that could be deemed "American." What might those be?
Among the common traits, Mr. Berman suggested, are "freshness, inventiveness, rhythmic vigor, an eclectic point of view." He finds it interesting that some of the new works being performed seem traditional. Mr. Beaser's songs on Emily Dickinson texts are "in the lyric vein of the 20th-century American pioneers," Mr. Berman said. Yet some older works seem startlingly fresh, like Billy Jim Layton's "Three Studies for Piano" (1957). "If they'd been sent by David Rakowski," Mr. Berman added, referring to a
technically adroit young American, "I'd believe he had written them."The program on Wednesday involves 11 players and a string quintet, and offers works by Barber, Sessions, Mr. Carter, Lukas Foss, Tamar Diesendruck and Mr. Hartke (the largest work, an exciting piano quartet, "King of the Sun"). On Oct. 16, Mr. Berman plays a solo recital with those fresh-sounding Layton studies, works by Kamran Ince, George Rochberg and Helfer, and a brilliant seven-minute Neo-classical sonata by Mr. Shapero that almost never turns up on recitals.
"It drives me crazy that nobody is hearing this stuff," Mr. Berman said.
He will also play, aptly, that dark brooding Johnson sonata composed at the academy.