Johan Daniel Berlin 1714-1787

When Johan Daniel Berlin came to Trondheim in 1737, his official title was town music laureate. When he died fifty years later, he was remembered respectfully as chief of the fire department. Between these extremes we find an extraordinary life history full of versatility and a good measure of genius.
Berlin was born in what is today Lithuania, but came to Copenhagen at an early age. Here he was an apprentice to the town’s music laureate for seven years. Then he assumed the position in Trondheim in 1737, and would soon come to play a prominent role in the town's music life. The town music laureate had a virtual monopoly on private and public music assignments. Furthermore, he was assigned the position of organist in the Cathedral in 1741, and in Vår Frue [Our Lady] church from 1751. In 1744 he published the first music textbook in Denmark-Norway.
His talents, however, stretched much further than just to music. He soon revealed extraordinary technical insight and was therefore appointed chief of the fire brigade in Trondheim in 1763 and waterworks inspector in 1777. All his undertakings were characterised by his great ability to be innovative. Berlin was an active member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, and was a systematic meteorological observer. He left behind a number of small and large inventions, all made with a view to improving practical life and work.
As time went by he gave less time to his musical engagements, but two of his sons were ready to take on the organist positions when their father's non-musical career took off. However, the elder Berlin retained his great interest in music and culture. When he died in 1787, a special memorial concert was arranged in honour of Johan Daniel Berlin. Throughout 50 years he had put his uniquely versatile stamp on life in Trondheim.

Author: Einar Rædergård