Born: 1943, Vienna, Austria
“Both system and freedom are important to me and, though they seem to be opposites, they act together to provide my musical philosophy.”
Reconciling opposites is an integral part of Gruber’s work, which combines a sincere love of pop and jazz with a deep appreciation for serial procedures. A musical fabulist and satirist, the former boy chorister is also a singer and actor, appearing as soloist in many of his own works. He has also written a number of concertos, including a percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie and a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma.
HK GRUBER, born in Vienna in 1943, was a member of the Vienna Boys' Choir; at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik, he studied composition with Erwin Ratz and Gottfried von Einem, theory with Hanns Jelinek, and double bass with Ludwig Streicher. From 1961 he played double bass with the ensemble die reihe and from 1969 with the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Since 1997 he has devoted himself to composing, conducting, and performance as chansonnier.
In 1968, along with fellow composers Kurt Schwertsik and Otto Zykan, Gruber was involved in the founding of the MOB art & tone ART ensemble, taking on the role of singer and actor for the first time. Gruber's international career became established in 1978 when Simon Rattle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic gave the premiere of Frankenstein!! The work has since been performed throughout the musical world - in the orchestral version, the ensemble version, and as a ballet - and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Gruber is particularly noted for his concertos, including Aerial for trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, which has received over 25 performances since its premiere in 1999; two concertos for violinist Ernst Kovacic; the Cello Concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma and premiered at Tanglewood in 1989; and the percussion concerto Rough Music, in the repertoire of Evelyn Glennie. His dramatic works include the apocalyptic opera Gomorra staged at the Vienna Volksoper in 1993, and Gloria von Jaxtberg, a musical version of Rudolf Herfurtner's classic pigtale, staged at the 1994 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Munich Volkstheater, Wien Modern festival, Munster Theater, and the Aspen Music Festival. Gruber composed music for the TV film Bring Me the Head of Amadeus as part of the Mozart celebrations in 1991.
As a featured composer, conductor, and cabaret artist, Gruber has traveled widely. He regularly performs the chansonnier role in Frankenstein!! internationally and his music theater repertory also includes Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King, and works by Kagel. He appeared in performances at the Almeida Festival in 1987, and took a leading role in the Alternative Vienna series, presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the South Bank Centre in 1993. His close association with the Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern has included a series of widely acclaimed concerts, opera performances, and recordings. He is increasingly in demand as conductor with the world's leading orchestras, ensembles, and music festivals. He will conduct the Cleveland Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, l'Orchestre National de Montpellier, the Bern Symphony, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, and others during the 2003/2004 season.
Gruber's Zeitfluren (Timescapes), a co-commission between the London Sinfonietta, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, and the European Music Month, Basel received its first performances in 2001, and his most recent orchestral work Dancing in the Dark was premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Simon Rattle in January 2003. Future plans include a new BIS CD of Timescapes, the Cello Concerto, and Manhattan Broadcasts, and the composition of a new children's opera commissioned by the Karajan Zentrum in Vienna for premiere by Zürich Opera in 2005.
Gruber, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Welser-Möst (EMI)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1978; 1992)
Kovacic, London Sinfonietta, Gruber (Largo)
Concerto for Cello
Ma, Boston Symphony, Norrington (Sony Video)