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Musical World

HK Gruber

  • Composer
  • Conductor


HK Gruber press reviews

“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 BBC Philharmonic's response to Gruber is tangibly enthusiastic: the partnership is off to a fine start.”
- The Guardian

New York Philharmonic & Hakan Hardenberger / Aerial
“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

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.”
The Guardian, March 2010

Mahler Chamber Orchestra / Frankenstein!! 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, 22 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, 20 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.”, 21 June 2009

“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, 5 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. "
The 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."
The 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.”
The 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.”
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 marvelously vital chansonnier, lucid and vividly expressive."
The Daily Telegraph, May 1998

"Then came a deeply sensitive account of HK Gruber's second violin concerto, Nebelsteinmusik, a work in which light music and constructivism miraculously coincide."
The 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."
The Times, February 2007

Hidden Agenda
"The UK premiere of the strikingly scored Hidden Agenda suggests an inspirational turn towards Berg." 
The Guardian, August 2006