Gruber directs an absolutely gripping account, ably supported by the BBC Philharmonic, and Chandos’s first-rate recording manages to prevent even his most overloaded tuttis from congealing into an undifferentiated mass. Warmly recommended to all fans of this extraordinary composer.
Viennese modernism, with its clash of high ideals and decadence, always carried profoundly subversive traits. Those remain alive and well in the character of HK Gruber, whose defiantly unpredictable compositions also hook into German Expressionism, Weimar cabaret and Austrian irony. Does his work speak to Anglo-Saxon audiences? Memorably I’d say, not least because his craziness is universal. Gruber made his name with his ‘pan-demonium’, Frankenstein!!, in 1978. He’s in mesmerising form as singing narrator and conductor in this brilliant, mad, totally inspired BBC Philharmonic production. Definitely one for the adventurous!
Classic FM Magazine
A corker of a disc, splendidly played and recorded.
Gruber secures an unsparing response from the BBC Philharmonic, superbly recorded, and those new to his music will find this an ideal disc to start their exploration.
Gruber himself takes on the role of chansonnier with lip-smacking relish. Artmann’s witty poems about Dracula, Superman, James Bond, Frankenstein et al are actually performed in English, but sometimes it’s hard to tell as Gruber rolls his r’s extravagantly and has a Viennese accent you could cut with a knife. The BBC Philharmonic plays Gruber’s Jazz-cum-Sachertorte music with remarkable delicacy, which makes the raucous moments such as the deliberately vulgar trombone solo in the Finale and Gruber’s mock-romantic kazoo solo stand out all the more vividly… In all this is a CD of sumptuous orchestral and compositional virtuosity.
BBC Music Magazine
Gruber is both the conductor and the soloist, with his unique, mangled Sprechstimme (half-sung, half-spoken vocals) enunciating a mad children’s verse over a dazzling orchestral score that recalls both nightclub and nightmare. The BBC Philharmonic follow with an effervescent account of Johann Strauss’s Perpetuum Mobile, which melts with grotesque steps into his Charivari.
The full-on, madcap antics of H.K. Gruber are at once disorienting, charming, fascinating and perhaps above all utterly addictive. Gruber’s most famous piece, Frankenstein!, acts as the mainstay of this disc… A fascinating and rewarding disc. Although Frankenstein!! Remains Gruber’s most popular piece, it is to Dancing in the Dark that I, for one, will be returning to most often.
…a virtually uncategorizable work, a zanily bedazzling collage of different influences and styles, ranging all the way from bar-room cabaret to operatic declamation … great fun.