click photo to enlarge HK Grubercomposer/conductor/chansonnier

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Composer, conductor, chansonnier and double bass player HK Gruber is one of the most well-known and well-loved figures in the Austrian contemporary music scene, and yet he remains something of an enigma. Composing in his own highly individual style, he has been labelled ‘new-Romantic’, ‘neo-tonal’, ‘neo-expressionistic’ and ‘neo-Viennese’, but his music remains refreshingly non-doctrinaire - a deceptively simple and darkly ironic idiom which often includes a heavy dose of black humour. Berg, Stravinsky, cabaret and pop music are all influences, but whatever stylistic ingredients he uses in his works, he remains inimitably himself: one of the major talents of post-war music.

Catherine Petherbridge Artist Manager/
Promotions Manager

Stephen Chamberlain
Assistant to Artist Manager/
Promotions Assistant

Born in Vienna in 1943, Gruber sang with the Vienna Boys Choir as a child and then studied at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik -- double bass with Ludwig Streicher, theory with Hanns Jelinek, and composition with Erwin Ratz and Gottfried von Einem. In 1961 he began playing double bass with the ensemble die reihe (and is currently their Artistic Director) and from 1969 to 1998 he played in the Radio Symphony Orchestra-Vienna.

Boosey & Hawkes

Newsletter/Spring 2001:
HK Gruber conducts trumpet concerto

Newsletter/Spring 2001:
Record Shelf

Newsletter/Autumn 2000:
Intermusica at the Proms 2000

Newsletter/Autumn 2000:
Orchestral Touring Highlights

Newsletter/Spring 2000:
HK Gruber celebrates Kurt Weill centenary

Newsletter/Spring 2000:
Orchestral Touring Highlights

Newsletter/Autumn 1999:
BBC Proms 1999

Newsletter/Autumn 1999:
Record Shelf

Newsletter/Spring 1999:
HK Gruber opens Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella season

Newsletter/Autumn 1998:
Record Shelf

Newsletter/Spring 1998:
The Return of Frankenstein!!

Gruber’s most popular and beloved composition, the neo-gothic ‘pan-demonium’ Frankenstein!!, was premiered in 1978 by Simon Rattle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then it has travelled across several continents in several languages and in different guises: in concert, in staged performances, on television, and on film. In 1997 the work was released on CD by EMI Classics with the Camerata Academica Salzburg and Franz Welser-Möst, featuring the composer as chansonnier. Among Gruber’s other compositions are two violin concertos written for Ernst Kovacic, a cello concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma (premiered at Tanglewood in 1989), the percussion concerto Rough Music, a trumpet concerto Aerial written for Hakan Hardenberger, commissioned by the BBC Proms and, most recently, Zeitfluren, a 25-minute work for chamber orchestra commissioned jointly by the London Sinfonietta, Europaische Musikmonat Basel, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. His dramatic works include the apocalyptic opera Gomorra, staged at the Vienna Volksoper in 1993, and Gloria, staged at the 1994 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and the Munich Volkstheater. Gruber’s next major work is a Concerto for Orchestra commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonic, to be premiered in January 2003 conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

As a conductor, Gruber works regularly with groups such as Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. He has also conducted the RSO-Frankfurt, BBC Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig MDR Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Hamburg Philharmonic, Stuttgart Staatsorchester, Iceland Symphony, Berner Symphonie-Orchester, Flemish Radio Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New York’s Eos Orchestra, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Klangforum Wien, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and the RSO-Wien, among others. In 1998/99 and 1999/2000, Jeunesse presented a series at the Vienna Konzerthaus called "Musical Xchanges with HK Gruber" - one-hour concerts of adventurous programmes, introduced by Gruber, aimed at younger audiences.

Conducting highlights of 2002/2003 include the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Berliner Staatskappelle, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, BBC Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Orchestre National d’Ille de France, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia and two concerts at the Vienna Konzerthaus to mark his 60th birthday.

He first began performing as a singer/actor with the ‘MOB art and tone ART’ ensemble, a group he co-founded in 1968 with fellow Viennese composers Kurt Schwertsik and
Otto Zykan. Since then he has appeared extensively in this role, most notably in his own work Frankenstein!!, and also in Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King. Recent performances of Frankenstein!! have included with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Seattle Symphony, and in 2002/3 he will perform the work on tour with the Cleveland Orchestra as well as with the Vancouver Symphony and Zurich Chamber Orchestra.

Passionate about the music of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler, he is a frequent interpreter of their works and has recorded Roaring Eisler and Die Dreigroschenoper for BMG, as well as Weill’s Berlin im Licht (Largo), all with Ensemble Modern. He also recorded a disc for BMG of Weill songs arranged for dance band with the Palast Orchester and Max Raabe, which received a Deutschen Schallplattenkritik award in 2001. In 1999/00 Gruber was Artistic Advisor of the South Bank Centre’s Weill Festival, in which he conducted programmes with Ensemble Modern and the London Sinfonietta. Other Weill performances during the Centenary year include Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Aldeburgh, Dessau, Milan, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, concert performances of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the BBC Proms, Lucerne Festival and Bremen Musikfest, and semi-staged performances of Die Dreigroschenoper with Ensemble Modern in Rome.

As part of the bicentenary tribute to his compatriot Mozart, Gruber devised, scored and acted in Barrie Gavin’s television film Bring me the head of Amadeus. His performance of Frankenstein!! at London’s Almeida Festival was televised by the BBC and he is also featured in documentary films about Eisler (the award-winning Solidarity Song: The Hanns Eisler Story) and von Einem (Ich habe immer Gluck gehabt). In 1993 Gruber and Schwertsik were the focus of the South Bank Centre’s ‘Alternative Vienna’ festival, which showcased composers who have changed the face of Viennese music over the past two decades.

The works of HK Gruber are published by Boosey & Hawkes.

December 2001

short bio

German bio

For further publicity information on this artist, please click here

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view full repertoire here (7 pages in Microsoft Word)

chansonnier repertoire
BRITTEN Paul Bunyan songs (Interludes)
CERHA Keintate I (Ernst Kein)
Keintate II (Ernst Kein)
Eine Art Chansons (Jandl, Rühm, Schwitters etc.)
Eine letzte Art Chansons (Achleitner)
Lichtenberg-Splitter (Lichtenberg)
Requiem für Hollensteiner (Thomas Bernhard)
DESSAU various songs
EISLER various songs
GRUBER Frankenstein!! (H.C. Artmann)
(for chansonnier and orchestra or ensemble)
Zeitstimmung (H.C. Artmann)
(for chansonnier and orchestra)
Diverse Songs from Gomorra and Gloria von Jaxtberg
MAXWELL DAVIS 8 Songs for a Mad King
RIHM Wölfli-Lieder
SCHOENBERG Pierrot Lunaire
SCHWERTSIK Starckdeutscher Lieder & Tänze (Matthias Koeppel)
(for chansonnier and orchestra)
Da uhu schaud me so draurech au..., 5 Viennese songs (H.C. Artmann)
WEILL Vom Tod in Wald (Brecht)
Berlin im Licht (Weill)
Öl-Musik (Leo Lania)
Songs from Johny Johnson
Songs from Happy End
Songs from Dreigroschenoper
Klops-Lied (Weill)
Algi-Song (Weill)
Any parts for male voice from Weill's works
Commission expected from David del Tredici.

narrator repertoire
DESSAU Der anachronistische Zug (Brecht)
EISLER German Symphony
POULENC Rapsodie nègre
Masked Ball
PROKOFIEV Peter & the Wolf
SCHOENBERG Ode to Napoleon
Ein Überlebender aus Warschau
Moses & Aaron
Kol Nidre
SHOSTAKOVICH Michaelangelo Sonnets
My Dear Fatherland
STRAVINSKY L'histoire du Soldat
TORSTENSSON The Last Diary, for low reciting voice & large ensemble

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HK Gruber's latest release has been awarded the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik:

Charming Weill
RCA/BMG 09026 63513 2
Georges Antheil Breaking Waves
Ensemble Modern
HK Gruber, conductor
Martyn Hill, tenor
Jagdish Mistry, violin
Hermann Kretzchmar, piano
BMG 09026 68066 2
Friedrich Cerha Eine Art Chansons
HK Gruber, chansonnier
Martin Jones, piano
Robin McGee, double bass
James Holland, percussion
Largo 5126
Christoph Cech,
Lukas Ligeti,
Thomas Daniel Schlee
Piano Concerto No 1
The Chinese Wall
Ricercare for large orchestra Op 31
Radio Symphonieorchester Wien
HK Gruber, conductor
Robert Lehrbaumer, piano
Edition Zeitton
ORF CD 46 LC-5130
Hanns Eisler Roaring Eisler
Ensemble Modern
HK Gruber, conductor/chansonnier
RCA/BMG 74321
HK Gruber Frankenstein!!*
Nebelsteinmusik,* 3 Mob Pieces,
3 Songs from Gomorra
Camerata Academica Salzburg
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor*
HK Gruber, conductor/chansonnier
Ernst Kovacic, violin
EMI Classics
CDC5 56441 2 (English)
CDC5 56451 2 (German)
HK Gruber ...aus schatten duft gewebt...
London Sinfonietta
HK Gruber, conductor
Ernst Kovacic, violin
Paul Crossley, piano
Largo 5124
Mathias Rüegg Sunaris
die reihe
HK Gruber, conductor
Amadeo / Verve / Polygram 537098-2
Kurt Schwertsik House & Court Music
Radio Symphonieorchester Wien
HK Gruber, conductor
Largo 5137
Kurt Schwertsik,
HK Gruber,
Gottfried von Einem,
Herbert Willi
Tag und Nachtweisen, Op 34
Concerto for Orchestra, Op 31
Concerto for Orchestra, Op 4
Konzert für Orchester
Radio Symphonieorchester Wien
HK Gruber, conductor
Edition Zeitton
ORF-CD 160 LC 5103
Kurt Schwertsik Baumgesänge für Orchester, Op 65
Instant Music, Op 40
Starkdeutsche Lieder & Tänze, Op 44*
Radio Symphonieorchester Wien
HK Gruber, conductor/chansonnier
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Edition Zeitton
ORF-CD 217
Kurt Weill Berlin im Licht
Ensemble Modern
HK Gruber, conductor/chansonnier
Rosemary Hardy, soprano
Largo 5114
Kurt Weill Die Dreigroschenoper
Ensemble Modern
HK Gruber, conductor
Cast: Max Raabe, HK Gruber, Nina Hagen, Sona MacDonald, Winnie Böwe, Timna Brauer, Hannes Hellmann, Jürgen Holtz
74321 661332
Kurt Weill Der Silbersee
London Sinfonietta
Markus Stenz, conductor
Cast: Heinz Kruse, HK Gruber, Juanita Lascarro, Graham Clark, Helga Dernesch, Heinz Zednik, etc.
RCA/BMG 09026 63447 2
Kurt Weill Charming Weill
Palast Orchester
Max Raabe, HK Gruber

RCA/BMG 09026 63513 2

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On Frankenstein!!

"a virtually uncategorizable work, a zanily bedazzling collage of different influences and styles, ranging all the way from bar-room cabaret to parodies of operatic declamation….great fun."
Classic CD, January 1998

"both grisly and bizarre, and altogether an extraordinary conception….The score is often hilarious, but Gruber’s own delivery, a tour de force of vocal gymnastics, reinforces the underlying seriousness."
The Times, December 1997

"hugely entertaining and devilishly clever…..How to describe it to anyone who has never heard it? The music touches all those areas of culture to which the texts (in which Frankenstein and Dracula rub shoulders with James Bond and Goldfinger) refer. So pop music and hints of folk-song, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler are all thrown into the mix to fuse with Stravinskian neo-classicism and the long tradition of Viennese cabaret. The humour is black but quizzically genial, Gruber’s own performance is gleefully exuberant, but there’s something to the musical style of Frankenstein!! which taps deep roots and protects it from being no more than an entertaining jeu d’esprit."
Gramophone, November 1997

On Weill and Eisler

"The inimitable Viennese composer, conductor and ‘chansonnier’ HK Gruber was in his element, launching the evening with the doomed jollity of ‘Berlin im Licht,’ a celebration of a great city on the verge of economic and social disaster. His distinctive vocal tones, if a little over-amplified, seemed just right….The presciently sardonic attack against multinationals, ‘Mussels from Margate,’ was delivered maniacally by the irrepressible Mr Gruber. His penetrating tones were put to more sombre use in the Sprechgesang of Vom Tod im Wald, one of Weill’s memorable settings of Brecht."
The Independent, March 2000

"he made the music and the Ensemble Modern quiver with instrumental detail….this was a carefully crafted texture of sound, pointedly articulated so that such evocative sonorities as the plink-plonk of the banjo and the whine of the saxophone peeked through and asserted their piquancy."
Daily Telegraph, October 1999

"HK Gruber, who conducted this concert, is in some respects a spiritual heir of Eisler, both as a composer and as a performer of Eisler’s works. In the jazzy overture and songs for Johann Nestroy’s play Höllenangst and in Die Mutter, Gruber was a marvellously vital chansonnier, lucid and vividly expressive."
Daily Telegraph, May 1998

On Aerial

"irresistible fun; and as usual, Gruber’s idiosyncratic harmonies lend it a strange poignancy."
Financial Times, August 2000

"Gruber weaves a musical tapestry bristling with wit and invention, punctuated with telling silences and animated by syncopations that suggest a world out of kilter….a dazzling display of compositional technique.
The Times, August 1999

"just the mixture of sly wit and Austrian obliquity you would expect from this archetypically Viennese composer….This one can expect to become a major addition to the repertoire."
The Independent, August 1999

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