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. 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.
Born in Vienna in 1943, Gruber sang with the Vienna Boys Choir as a child and studied at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik. In 1961 he began playing double bass with the ensemble die reihe and from 1969 to 1998 he played in the Radio Symphony Orchestra-Vienna.
Gruber’s most popular and beloved composition, Frankenstein!!, was premiered in 1978 by Sir Simon Rattle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Other compositions include concertos for violin, percussion, cello (written for Yo-Yo Ma) and trumpet (written for Hakan Hardenberger) and the opera Der Herr Nordwind, premiered at Zurich Opera in 2005 by Gruber. Most recently, Gruber premiered a new orchestral work Hidden Agenda at the Lucerne Festival and BBC Proms, while other works for orchestra include Zeitfluren and Dancing in the Dark, commissioned and premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic with Rattle in 2003 and receiving its US premiere with the Cleveland Orchestra and Gruber later that year.
HK Gruber regularly conducts and performs with orchestras around the world, such as the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Baltimore Symphony, and has built particularly strong relationships with the BBC Philharmonic, Ensemble Modern, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Essen Philharmonie. He was Composer in Residence at the 2006 Lucerne Festival where he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time.
The works of HK Gruber are published by Boosey & Hawkes.