HK GRUBER - CONDUCTOR / NARRATOR
HK Gruber conducts the Seattle Symphony
“It was with his composer and conductor hats on that Gruber made his Seattle Symphony debut on Thursday. His 1983 percussion concerto, “Rough Music,” intersperses delicate lines on tuned instruments with explosions of rhythmic and dynamic high jinks, entertaining yet fraught with desperately serious undertones. In his most violent passages, creating a sense of chaos that is yet held under magisterial control, Gruber sounds like a more sophisticated and technically proficient Charles Ives. And wielding the meticulously clear beat of a thoroughly experienced conductor, he drew from the obviously energized orchestra a deft and atmospheric setting around principal percussionist Michael A. Werner’s spectacular account of the solo part.
Gruber proved equally adept in evoking the vernacular American rhythmic zest of the symphonic suite from Bernstein’s film score for “On the Waterfront,” framed by evocatively lonely solos from principal horn Jeffrey Fair, and the Russo-French romanticism of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite, played in its 1919 version. The program had opened with “A Jazz Symphony,” by George Antheil (1900-1959), self-styled “bad boy of music,” and in his way no less a maverick than Gruber himself. It’s a diverting trifle, which sounds fresh and individual even in the somewhat toned-down orchestration and texture of the 1955 revision we heard on this occasion.”
Seattle Times, April 2013
HK Gruber conducts the BBC Philharmonic at Wiener Konzerthaus
“In the world of classical music, HK Gruber is a force to be reckoned with. First and foremost because of his compositions, but also – as proved particularly well in his performance at the Konzerthaus – because of the wit and liveliness with which ‘Nali’ conducts.
The main piece of the programme provided the serious side of the concert. Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio “Oedipus Rex” has always fascinated audiences through its subject matter. Jean Cocteau condensed Sophocles’ myth about King Oedipus for Stravinsky, and Jean Daniélou translated it into Latin.
HK Gruber is currently Composer and Conductor in Residence at the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which was on fine form for this performance. They demonstrated most clearly Stravinsky’s characteristic emphasis on the brass instruments over the string section.
Ian Bostridge as Oedipus and Angelika Kirchschlager as Iokaste were filled with the tragedy of their fates. They didn’t even attempt to hide the difficulties inherent in the roles. Stravinsky’s piece was preceded by Gruber’s ‘Northwind Pictures’ and Kurt Schwertsik’s rich ‘Nachtmusiken’ (2009).”
“Für die Klassikszene ist HK Gruber durch und durch ein Gewinn. Natürlich zuallererst wegen seiner Kompositionen. Aber auch - und das war im Konzerthaus besonders schön mitzuerleben - aufgrund des Esprits und der Lebendigkeit,mit welcher "Nali" agiert. Den notwendigen Ernst lieferte das Hauptwerk des Abends. Dem Opernoratorium "Oedipus rex" von Igor Strawinsky eilt durch den Stoff eine besondere Faszination voraus. Für Strawinsky kondensierte Jean Cocteau den Mythos von Sophokles über König Oedipus. Von Jean Danielou stammt die lateinische Übertragung. HK Gruber ist derzeit Composer und Conductor in Residence beim BBC Philharmonie Orchestra, welches sich in guter Form präsentierte. Ein Merkmal von Strawinksys Orchesterstil hier ist das Übergewicht sämtlicher Blasinstrumente über die Streicher. Ian Bostridge (Oedipus)und Angelika Kirchschlager (lokaste) waren erfüllt von der Tragik ihrer Schicksale. Die Anstrengungen der Partien versuchten sie erst gar nicht zu verbergen. Strawinsky waren noch Grubers "Northwind Pictures" und Kurt Schwertsiks inhaltsvolle "Nachtmusiken" (2009) vorausgegangen.”
Der Kurier, March 2013
“Under Gruber’s resolute and vigorous conducting, Oedipus Rex was full of drama and rich contrasts. Gruber and the BBC musicians performed Gruber’s own ‘Northwind’ with a dense atmosphere and undulating colours; and Schwertsik’s ‘Nachtmusiken’ with sensitive phrasing and delicate shading. The ‘Wienerlied’ with accordion was simply enchanting.”
"Oedipus Rex" unter Grubers entschlossenem Zupacken war voller Dramatik und schöner Kontrastzeichnung…Für dichte Stimmungen und wogende Farbigkeit sorgte Gruber mit den BBC Musikern beim eigenen "Northwind", für feine Strukturen und delicate Schattierungen in Schwertsiks "Nachtmusiken". Hinreißend das "Wienerlied" mit Akkordeon.”
Kronenzeitung, March 2013
“...it is under Gruber that the orchestra gave its first guest concert in Vienna. Naturally, he performed his own pieces: on the first evening it was his ‘Northwind Pictures’, an eloquent symphonic poem compiled of material from his opera ‘Der Herr Norwind’, to a libretto by Artmann, and premiered in Zurich in 2005. On the second evening, he performed his orchestra opus ‘Dancing in the Dark’, premiered by Simon Rattle in 2003, inspired by the sound worlds of Bruckner, Mahler and Berg, and punctuated by numerous pithy dance and jazz passages.
The performance of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Serenade’, inspired by symbolism of nature, was more impressive, not least due to the excellent soloists, tenor Ian Bostridge and horn player Stefan Dohr. And the British musicians gave an equally exciting performance of Stravinsky’s two act opera-oratorio ‘Oedipus Rex’, with Gruber also acting as narrator, the once again excellent and clearly enunciating Ian Bostridge in the title role, and Angelika Kirchschlager as an equally impressive Iokaste.”
“Mit Gruber bestritt BBC Philharmonic, sein erstes Wien-Gastspiel. Klarerweise auch mit eigenen Werken: am ersten Abend seine „Northwind Pictures“, eine aus dem Material seiner 2005 in Zürich uraufgeführten Artmann-Oper „Der Herr Nordwind“ kompilierte, beredte symphonische Dichtung, am zweiten Abend sein aus der Bruckner-Mahler-Berg-Klangwelt inspiriertes, 2003 unter Rattle erstmals aufgeführtes Orchesteropus „Dancing in the Dark“, mit zahlreichen pointierten Tanz- und Jazzepisoden.
Beeindruckender gelang Benjamin Brittens von Natursymbolismus inspirierte Serenade, nicht zuletzt wegen der exzellenten Solisten, dem Tenor Ian Bostridge und dem Hornisten Stefan Dohr. Und genauso spannend vermittelten die Briten – unter dem hier auch als Rezitator auftretenden Gruber – die packende Botschaft von Strawinskys zweiaktigem Opernoratorium „Oedipus Rex“ mit dem neuerlich exzellent wortdeutlichen Ian Bostridge in der Titelpartie und Angelika Kirchschlager als ebenso beeindruckender Iokaste.”
Die Presse, March 2013
HK Gruber conducts the BBC Philharmonic at the Bridgewater Hall
“The main work was Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex. Gruber made much of the piece's mixture of artifice and intensity, so we were constantly aware of how its formal rigidity both offsets and highlights its emotional violence. The playing was terrific and shot through with savagery, the orchestral colours suggesting the hardness of metal and stone. There was breathtaking singing from the Hallé Choir, too.
Gruber also managed to assemble one of the most impressive casts heard in the piece for a while. Oedipus was played by Ian Bostridge, who aspirated his coloratura at times; but Stravinskyan stylisation suits him rather well, and he charted the progression from hauteur to debasement with passion and commitment. Jocasta lies a bit low for Angelika Kirchschlager, though her histrionic powers were in ample evidence. Matthew Best was the suitably uptight Tiresias, Timothy Robinson the sorrowing Shepherd.
Its companion pieces were the interludes from James MacMillan's opera The Sacrifice and Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. MacMillan's debt to Britten – Peter Grimes in particular – was never in doubt. Gruber's decision to deploy a huge body of strings made the Serenade sound very sensual. Richard Watkins was the superb horn player, Timothy Robinson the ecstatic tenor, rapturously at ease with Britten's high-lying vocal writing. Bliss.”
Guardian, March 2013
HK Gruber conducts the BBC Philharmonic
“Gruber’s own Viennese experience, whatever else it may have done, has developed in him an anarchic, typically black humour, one of whose musical manifest¬ations is a vast textural exuberance. His orchestral scores are prodigiously multi¬layered in a way that seems to reflect the atonal complexity of post-war Austro-German music while, as it were, tonally “correcting” it. For Gruber, cabaret, jazz, pop and even rock are as vital to serious composition as the nevertheless unspurned devices of the serial composers. His synthesis is patently effective — his large, complex statements never at the expense of realistic aural clarity — boisterously enjoyable and polemical, even political. This is the music of the Third Viennese School, the disaffectedly democratic one.”
“Gruber’s own item was the first British airing of Northwind Pictures (2011), a fantastical 25-minute excursion from his comic opera der herr nordwind, premiered in Grafenegg, Austria, last year. A wind machine plays its part in the real¬isation of this story, in which Mr North Wind is a forceful character, but exact whirls of figuration also serve — and, while there is a bewildering diversity of effects (including four musical boxes playing “behind the arras”) and colours (a brightness of saxophones), there is no mistaking the structural rigour of the four-in-one portmanteau movement. If not a disguised symphony, these pictures are a flagrant concerto for orchestra…”
Paul Driver, Times, February 2012
HK Gruber performs Frankenstein!! with the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert
“Don’t let the presence of toy instruments in HK Gruber’s Frankenstein!! fool you. Mr. Gruber calls the work “a pan-demonium for chansonnier and orchestra after children’s rhymes by H. C. Artmann,” but lurid and bloody, these are fairy tales for adults, closer to Grimm than to Disney.
Except for the first violinist all 12 players in Frankenstein!! double on toys, including whistles, paper bags they inflate and burst, and “bird warblers,” bendy plastic tubes that make haunting high-pitched sounds when swung like lassos. Even the conductor — here, Alan Gilbert — joins in on kazoo. At one point the whole ensemble speak-sings along with the chansonnier, a role that demands a virtuosic blend of reading, singing, crooning and shouting, as well as a kind of mad cadenza on the couplet “a little mi ma monsterlet/ is dancing round our house.” Pop culture is seen as through a fun-house mirror. There is an “Itsy Bitsy Spider” knockoff featuring Goldfinger and James Bond; Batman and Robin are gay lovers. With its extremes of gentleness and savagery, its delirious tangos and bossa novas, and Mr. Gruber’s surprisingly bitter toy-saxophone riffs, the surreal 30-minute work captures the energy of a Weimar cabaret gone terribly weird and wrong, which is one way of looking at the story of the 20th century.”
New York Times, December 2011
“Frankenstein!! is something of a postmodern classic. Gruber is a tremendously persuasive and uninhibited performer, willing to make all manner of vocal noises, from hushed Sprechstimme and silly nonsense word games to cabaret singing and horrifying shrieks. Even the more stoic of the Philharmonic’s musicians wore ear-to-ear grins by the conclusion of the piece. Gilbert got in on the act, singing in an ad hoc chorus and playing the kazoo. Gruber, Gilbert and the musicians received a standing ovation.When was the last time you saw a group of kazoo players received so well?”
HK Gruber conducts the World Premiere of his Northwind Pictures at the 2011 Grafenegg Festival
„Doch HK Gruber verarbeitet hier nicht nur einfach Motive aus der Oper; er hat ein eigenständiges, höchst effektvolles Stück geschaffen. Da dreht sich die Windmaschine, da rauscht das Wellblech, da gibt es jazzige Einschübe, groß auftrumpfende Bläser, ein exzellentes Cello-Solo - und die Konzertmeisterin muss fast schuhplatteln. Gruber in Bestform und wie man ihn kennt. Musik, die auch Spaß machen darf, die alle Grenzen zwischen Tonalität und Avantgarde überwindet.“
“HK Gruber has not simply reworked the motifs from the opera: he has created a highly effective, stand-alone piece. The windmachine blew, the corrugated iron roared, there were moments of pure jazz, of jubilant brass, and an excellent cello solo –and the first violinist practically had to tap dance. This was Gruber at his best, the Gruber that we know and love, and this was music that was fun, overcoming all barriers between tonality and avant garde.”
Kurier, September 2011
“2005 wurde in Zürich „der herr nordwind“, Grubers Oper nach Texten von H. C. Artmann, uraufgeführt. Aus dem verbliebenen musikalischen Material ließ sich problemlos eine halbstündige symphonische Fantasie kreieren – das zeigte HK Gruber mit seinen stark rhythmisch profilierten Northwind Pictures, die er an der Spitze des Tonkünstler-Orchesters Niederösterreich auch selbst im Auditorium von Grafenegg aus der Taufe hob. Die spezifische Pointe dieses Stücks liegt darin, dass Instrumente die Sängerparts der Oper übernehmen, sich mit effektvollen ariosen Momenten einstellen. Ein bei allem Schwung kunstvoll erdachtes, auf einer originellen Reihe und gregorianischen Melodie basierendes Orchestertableau.
Dass sich konzeptionelle Klarheit mit individuellem Pointenreichtum unterhaltend kombinieren lässt, hat Gruber schon in früheren Werken bewiesen. Etwa mit dem Pandämonium Frankenstein!!, dessen Chansonnier-Part er wie kein Zweiter wiedergeben kann, wie er Mitte August im Grafenegger Wolkenturm wieder einmal demonstriert hat.”
“Der Herr Nordwind, Gruber’s opera set to texts by H. C. Artmann, was premiered in Zurich in 2005. From that musical material, Gruber created a half-hour symphonic fantasy: the strongly rhythmical Northwind Pictures, which he himself christened at the head of the Tonkünstler-Orchesters Niederösterreich in the Grafenegg Auditorium. The punchline of the piece was that the instruments picked up the vocal lines from the opera, creating effective arioso moments. This was an artistically well thought-out orchestral tableau, based on a combination of original tone rows and Gregorian chant.
Gruber had already proved in earlier works the feasibility of combining conceptual clarity and individual wit to produce an entertaining whole. A great example is his Pandemonium Frankenstein!!, in which he performs the part of the Chansonnier like no other could, as he proved once again earlier in August at the Grafenegger Wolkenturm.”
Die Presse, September 2011
“Aus der 2005 uraufgeführten und auf einem Libretto von H. C. Artmann beruhenden Oper “Der Herr Nordwind” hat HK Gruber eine Art symphonische Dichtung herausdestilliert. Die Northwind Pictures sind jedoch weder Potpourri noch Suite, sondern ein durchaus eigenständiges Stück, voluminös gestrickt, opulent, eruptiv und schlieβlich zu infernalischem Getöse anwachsend. Auch beim folgenden , erstmals seit seiner Uraufführung 2002 wieder zu hören, zieht Gruber sämtliche Register, lässt es – typisch für die energiegeladene Gruber’sche Ausdrucksart – gewaltig brodeln. Blech und Schlagsinstrumente liefern sich heftige Gefechte mit den Streichern, Blasmusik und Big-Band-Jazz wehen herein.
Taking his opera Der Herr Nordwind, set to a libretto by H. C. Artmann and premiered in 2005, as a starting point, HK Gruber has distilled a sort of symphonic poem. And yet the Northwind Pictures are neither potpourri nor suite, but rather a complete stand-alone piece, densely woven, opulent, eruptive, building up into an infernal din. In the following piece Dancing in the Dark, performed for the first time since its premiere in 2002, Gruber once again pulled out all the stops and let it all bubble away furiously – typical of Gruber’s energetic expressiveness. The brass and percussion fought valiantly with the strings, whilst brass band music and big band jazz also entered the fray.”
APA Defacto, September 2011
With the Ensemble Modern at the 2011 Kurt Weill Festival
“HK Gruber and the Ensemble Modern gave a thrilling performance. The applause must have been fairly impressive when the spotlights really did go on in Berlin for the first performance of ‘Berlin in the Spotlight’, which Kurt Weill composed for a mass rally of the city’s department of works. However, it cannot have been much greater than the applause which greeted this festival’s final concert.
The applause began to surge as HK Gruber, well-known and well-loved in Dessau, bounded onto the stage. Was the audience jumping the gun a little? If they were, they were certainly proved right by the end of the concert, two hours later.
HK Gruber was a most effective and concentrated conductor. Exuding Viennese charm, he spoke both knowledgably and amusingly about the evening’s two composers, Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and Hanns Eisler (1898-1962). And if that wasn’t enough, he shone in his role as Chansonnier, with his large and tremendously versatile voice, and equally large gestures.”
Volksstimme, March 2011
BIS Records releases Gruber’s Busking (with Håkan Hardenberger) and his two violin concertos
“Both [violin] concertos benefit... from Gruber’s skill as a conductor shaping the intensely fluid rhythmic scenarios of these deceptively ingratiating scores.”
Gramophone, February 2011
“The three concertos here – one for trumpet, two for violin – range right across HK Gruber's composing career: from the late 1970s, when the First Violin Concerto was written, to 2007 for Busking, in which the solo trumpet forms a kind of concertante group with a banjo and accordion set against a small body of strings. Nebelsteinmusik, effectively Gruber's second violin concerto and one of his finest achievements, dates from 1988. All of them are instantly identifiable as products of the same quizzically original mind. Each of the two violin concertos inhabits a rather Bergian world: the first is haunted by a love song Gruber had written earlier, which finally emerges in the closing bars; Nebelsteinmusik is dedicated to Gruber's teacher Gottfried von Einem, and is full of references to his music, while also using a theme from Berg's Lyric Suite. Busking was composed for Håkan Hardenberger, and makes full use of his phenomenal virtuosity, weaving themes from Gruber's operas into a dazzling cross-cut fabric of competing rhythms, with the banjo and accordion adding a brittle, almost sardonic edge.”
Guardian, February 2011
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
“As a conductor, Gruber is in his element when it comes to Weill's quintessential mix of Bach and ballroom, and his performance of Little Threepenny Music was louchely sensual and classically poised. The Stravinsky, meanwhile, sounded dark and heavyweight, but was thrilling in its rhythmic precision and exactitude. The BBC Philharmonic's response to Gruber is tangibly enthusiastic: the partnership is off to a fine start.”
Guardian, March 2010
Frankenstein!! with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra at the North Norway Festival
“HK Gruber’s interpretation of these rhymes was hysterically funny, and as a framework for his buffoonery the orchestra delivered a performance which was truly world-class.”
Harstad Tidende, June 2009
“The performance couldn’t have called for anything less than a standing ovation. How often can you see a conductor sing while simultaneously conducting an orchestra and playing toy instruments? It was amazing fun to watch. Who says that classical music has to be serious?”
NRK News, June 2009
“HK Gruber, the 67-year-old world-famous chansonnier, composer and conductor amused, shocked and impressed us with his performance of his own work Frankenstein! He drew us into a world of heroes, demons and villains, and got the orchestra to play instruments which would be better suited to a children’s nursery than to a concert hall. Nevertheless, music was successfully produced by the small horn instruments and rubber tubes. This was a musical experience full of invention, fantasy and rhythm. It was contemporary music in the truest sense of the word. It was a truly electrifying musical experience which created enormous excitement.”
www.nordlys.no, June 2009
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
“HK Gruber once again led the orchestra through the complex structures with the utmost calm, creating space for the excellent soloists of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.”
Leipzig Almanach, March 2009
“At the Usher Hall we heard Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny – massive undertaking and a considerable achievement by all concerned… the performance was exhilarating, especially in its choral and orchestral constituents. Conducted by H K Gruber (nowadays ‘the legendary’), players and singers kept alert and responsive; cohesion and momentum were unfalteringly sustained.”
Opera Now, November/December 2008
“Gruber secures an unsparing response from the BBC Philharmonic, superbly recorded”
Gramophone, May 2007
“The combination of Gruber’s alternately amiable and ominous delivery with his evocative music largely holds the attention. ... A thought provoking composer.”
Gramophone, January 2007
"The Viennese HK Gruber conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers in an astonishing late Prom that framed bold, blackly satirical choral items by Weill and Eisler with his own orchestral work. His vocalisation (while beating time and playing toy instruments) of the early, madcap poem sequence Frankenstein!! was riotous. The new, 10-minute Hidden Agenda took his preferred modes of polyphonic density and relentless, Bergian, jazz-inflected tutti to a scarcely credible extreme. This was music as tantalising as it was substantial. "
Sunday Times, August 2006
"Gruber’s self-conducted concert with the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra was riveting. Bertolt Brecht’s faux-naif political poetry was tailor-made for musical treatment by his friends Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler: the series of songs which Gruber selected packed an extraordinarily gamey punch... Finally, Gruber gave a stunning performance in his popular Frankenstein!!. It wasn’t just the paper bags burst and flung into the audience. It was the lovable madness of the whole charade."
Independent, August 2006
“Gruber’s infectious conducting style, which saw him dancing around the podium at times, gave the BBCPO players an almost Viennese sense of luxurious abandon.”
Guardian, August 2004
“Heinz Karl Gruber, an inventively eclectic composer generally known as H. K. Gruber, has long been drawn to works of Kurt Weill. He has made fine recordings of them both as a singer (for the short-lived Largo label) and as a conductor (one notable outing being a "Dreigroschenoper" with the Ensemble Modern for RCA).
Mr. Gruber has a good sense of the century's second quarter, and he conducts the Berlin Palast Orchester with a graceful swing that brings the spirit of the music and of the era to life.”
New York Times, March 2002
“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.”
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 marvelously vital chansonnier, lucid and vividly expressive."
Daily Telegraph, May 1998
HK GRUBER - COMPOSER
New York Philharmonic and Juilliard students perform Gruber’s Gloria – A Pig Tale, conducted by Alan Gilbert
“For much of the festival, Gilbert acted the beaming uncle, drifting from event to event but sitting in the audience. When he did take the podium, he obviously enjoyed himself hugely, especially during the Doug Fitch production of HK Gruber’s Gloria—A Pig Tale. The opera tells the story of life on a pig farm from a porcine point of view: It’s a tragedy, in other words, lightened by clever rhymes and adorable barnyard costumes. The title character doesn’t meet the knife; instead, she becomes a wife, boring her swaggering boar of a spouse to death while she squeals over her piglets. Forgive the cuteness—it’s infectious, though Gruber stirs it together with ground glass. The score sounds as if he’d smashed a Kurt Weill show on a rock and reassembled its shards, leaving seams and gaps and shredded edges. It’s a workout for the tuba, a tour de force of oompah-pah-pahing, with a few extra pahs thrown in here and there along with some rusty-gearshift dissonances to give the music that lurching, listing, post-binge blear. Gilbert, leading a scorching ensemble of Juilliard students, was in his element.”
New York Magazine, June 2014
Rough Music with Colin Currie and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie under Andrés Orozco-Estrada
„Der Wiener HK Gruber spielt in den «Rauen Tönen» das nächtlich-lärmige Gespenstertreiben durch, mit dem man auf dem Lande schon im Mittelalter missliebige Mitbewohner erschreckte. Das Arsenal dieses Stückes für Percussion ist gewaltig, hier in vier Gruppen aufgebaut. So etwas stellt riesige Anforderungen an den Schlagzeuger, der zudem mit dem Orchester einig gehen muss. Der Schotte Colin Currie löste diese vielfarbige, vielrhythmische Aufgabe glänzend. Selbst leichte Walzerseligkeit wurde schneidend konterkariert. In diesem Hexenkessel blieb dem Publikum schier der Atem weg.”
“The Viennese HK Gruber portrays the noisy, nocturnal, ghostly goings-on in “Rough Music”, a method used in the countryside in medieval times to scare unpopular residents. The instrumental set-up for this piece for percussion is enormous, arranged on stage in four groups. Something like this is incredibly demanding for the percussion soloist, who also has to synchronise perfectly with the orchestra. Scotsman Colin Currie solved this multicoloured, multi-rhythmic task brilliantly. Even simple waltz-phrases were edgily performed. This witch’s cauldron took the audience’s breath away.”
Frankfurter Neue Presse, January 2011
„Der schottische Perkussionist Colin Currie bewegte sich katzengewandt von einem Schlagzeugset zum andern, brachte Marimba, Vibrafon, Trommeln, Becken, Glocken und Pauken in raschem Wechsel zum rhythmischen Einsatz. Zwischen Kitsch und Krach, ätherischen und brutalen Klängen pendelt diese Musik, die sich als effektvolles Spektakel erweist, das im letzten Satz gar mit Walzerzitaten aufwartet, bevor es mit einem donnernden Wirbel auf der großen Trommel endet. Tadellos funktionierte dank des umsichtigen Dirigenten die Koordination von Solist und Orchester.“
“Colin Currie moved like a cat from one set of drums to another as he changed rapidly between marimba, vibraphone, cymbals, bells and timpani. This music, which proved an effective spectacle, fluctuated between kitsch and noise, ethereal and brutal sounds. In the last movement the music even quoted a waltz, before it ended with a thundering roll on the bass drum. The coordination of soloist and orchestra was impeccable, especially thanks to the prudent conductor.”
Echo Online, January 2011
Aeriel with New York Philharmonic & Hakan Hardenberger
“In the second of the work’s two movements, Mr. Gruber’s writing for both trumpet and orchestra is more assertive and stylistically far flung. His inspiration here was a fantasy of Earth, seen from space, abandoned but for a sign bearing the movement’s title, “Gone Dancing.” And what he offers is a global party piece drawing on the trumpet’s affinity for ornately decorative lines with a jazz accent. But he also makes extensive, if subtle, use of the orchestra’s percussion section, and in its final pages, the movement morphs into an exotic, modal Balkan dance.”
New York Times, June 2010
"Then came a deeply sensitive account of HK Gruber's second violin concerto, Nebelsteinmusik, a work in which light music and constructivism miraculously coincide."
Sunday Times, February 2007
"H.K. Gruber's 1988 Nebelsteinmusik [is] a muscular, fast-striding composition, ecstatically sonorous in places, that pays homage to Gruber's mentor, the 20th-century German composer Gottfried von Einem, through a quirky postmodern prism of jazz influences."
Times, February 2007
"The UK premiere of the strikingly scored Hidden Agenda suggests an inspirational turn towards Berg."
Tim Ashley, Guardian, August 2006
“The new, 10-minute Hidden Agenda took his preferred modes of polyphonic density and relentless, Bergian, jazz-inflected tutti to a scarcely credible extreme. This was music as tantalising as it was substantial."
Paul Driver, Sunday Times, August 2006
3 MOB Pieces
"…it's always good to hear that dazzling trumpeter Håken Hardenberger cascading through the James-Last-goes-neoclassical romps of HK Gruber's Three MOB Pieces ."
Times, August 2004
"Say what you like about Gruber, but it would take a heart of stone to actively dislike this engaging pastiche of bossa nova, Beatles and baroque, especially in Hardenberger's hands."
Guardian, August 2004
"These are two scores of infinite fascination, superbly presented. Definitely one of my discs of the year."
Times, October 2003
“Gruber's music is a serious response to the Viennese traditions he was born into, but his ever-present grin outweighs any solemnity."
Evening Standard, August 2003
Dancing in the Dark
"The Helsinki Philharmonic began with a scorching account of HK Gruber's recent Dancing in the Dark, that comically ferocious elegy for gemütlich Viennese music."
Financial Times, March 2004
"Dancing in the Dark …is monstrously touching with its incessant 1920s and 1930s overtones."
Financial Times, August 2003
"First came a multilayered dirge, then a slow-motion foxtrot, plus a bizarre, even menacing, homage to Fred Astaire's tap-dancing feet. I couldn't detect Arthur Schwartz's title song in the stew, but Mahler, yes, and Berg, and other glories of the Viennese tradition whisked to the edge of madness…The BBC Phil, at any rate, gave this trembling and troubled new score a rousing send-off."
Times, August 2003
"The British premiere of the Viennese HK Gruber's profound, neo-Mahlerian, neo-Ivesian diptych, Dancing in the Dark …"
Sunday Times, August 2003
"HK Gruber paid us a welcome return visit last week. At the season's final Green Umbrella he unfurled his Zeitfluren, a new piece co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic…Its major strength is its marvellous scoring and the clarity as inner voices seem suspended in space. Wit and wisdom form an impeccable counterpoint…"
LA Weekly, May 2003
"HK Gruber conducted the world premiere of his Zeitfluren, a totally absorbing work contrasting an overtly Romantic nocturne with one of his typically raucous orgies of dance music as finale."
BBC Music Magazine, February 2002
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
"HK Gruber, conducting the BBC Philharmonic, is second to none in this music, playing up to its amalgamation of jazz and neo-classicism for all it is worth."
Guardian, September 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
"What raises Frankenstein!! to "classical" status is its combination of brilliant word-setting with uncannily apt, thoroughly "composed" music, fraught with suggestion and macabre humour - like Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with more jokes."
Financial Times, August 2006
"Frankenstein!! is an event, a piece of theatre as much as of music. It needs to be experienced live. Frankenstein!! was first performed nearly thirty years ago, but is still fresh and vivid."
Musicweb International, August 2006
"Gruber's delivery was no less a tour de force. Employing a "speech-song" vocal style and armed with an array of toy instruments, Gruber's merriment was contagious."
Winnipeg Saturday Free Press, February 2000
"Frankenstein!! is a virtually uncategorizable work, a zanily bedazzling collge of different influences and styles, ranging all the way from bar-room cabaret to parodies of operatic declamation."
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."
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
"The highlight of the BBC Proms Brass Day was Håkan Hardenberger's scintillating account of a modern classic among trumpet concertos, HK Gruber's Aerial."
Daily Telegraph, July 2007
"Irresistible fun, and as usual, Gruber's idiosyncratic harmonies lend it a strange poignancy."
Financial Times, August 1999
"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."
Times, August 1999