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HK Gruber
, composer / conductor / chansonnier

Short Biography

Composer, conductor, chansonnier HK Gruber is one of the most well-known and well-loved figures in the Austrian contemporary music scene. Born in Vienna in 1943, Gruber sang with the Vienna Boys Choir as a child and in 1961 he began playing double bass with the ensemble die reihe (of which he is now Artistic Director). From 1969 to 1998 he was a member of the Radio Symphony Orchestra-Vienna.

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. Among Gruber’s other compositions are two violin concertos, a cello concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma, the percussion concerto Rough Music, a trumpet concerto Aerial written for Hakan Hardenberger and the BBC Proms and, most recently, Zeitfluren, a 25-minute work for chamber orchestra commissioned jointly by the London Sinfonietta, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. His dramatic works include the apocalyptic opera Gomorra, and Gloria von Jaxtberg. An all-Gruber disk including Frankenstein!! was released by EMI Classics in 1997 featuring the Camerata Academica Salzburg/Welser-Möst and the composer as chansonnier.

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, 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, Camerata Academica Salzburg, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BCMG and the RSO-Wien, among others.

He has appeared extensively as a ‘chansonnier’ most notably in his own work Frankenstein!!, and also in Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King. Passionate about the music of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler, he is a frequent interpreter of their works and has made several recordings with Ensemble Modern for BMG, the most recent of which - Die Dreigroschenoper - won an Echo-Klassik award. He was Artistic Advisor of the South Bank Centre’s Kurt Weill Festival in 1999/2000, and conducted Weill programmes with the London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Dessau, Wiesbaden, and at the Köln Triennale.

Highlights of 2001/2002 include conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig MDR Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Brucknerorchester Linz, and appearances at the Bremen Musikfest, Aspen Music Festival and with the Seattle Symphony. In March he gives performances of Frankenstein!! in Philadelphia and at Carnegie Hall in New York with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, as well as conducting a composer’s portrait concert at Carnegie Hall.

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

December 2001/451 words

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