Composer, conductor and chansonnier, HK Gruber was born in Vienna in 1943 and sang with the Vienna Boys’ Choir as a child, going on to study at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik. In 1961 he began playing double bass with Ensemble die reihe and from 1969 to 1998 he played in the Radio Symphonieorchester Wien. Gruber first began performing as a singer/actor with the ‘MOB art and tone ART’ ensemble, which he co-founded in 1968 with fellow Viennese composers Kurt Schwertsik and Otto Zykan. Composing in his own highly individual style, he is one of the most well-loved figures in contemporary music and his music is performed by the world’s leading artists and orchestras. Gruber was awarded the 2002 Greater Austria State Prize (Groβer Österreichischer Staatspreis), Austria’s most prestigious cultural prize, and in 2009 was announced as an Honorary Member of the Wiener Konzerthaus, following a great tradition of musicians to also receive this accolade, including Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein and Claudio Abbado.
Gruber’s compositions have been written for and performed by orchestras at the highest level, including the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker and at Lucerne Festival, Carnegie Hall, BBC Proms and Komische Oper Berlin. Gruber is particularly noted for his concertos, including Aerial for trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, which has received over 60 performances, two for violinist Ernst Kovacic, the Cello Concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma and premiered at Tanglewood in 1989, Percussion Concerto Rough Music, and Busking for trumpet, accordion, banjo and string orchestra, premiered by Hardenberger in 2008. Orchestral scores include Dancing in the Dark, premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle in 2003. Gruber’s recent works include an opera based on Horváth’s Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald (Tales from the Vienna Woods) premiered at the Bregenz Festival in 2014, Percussion Concerto into the open… premiered by Colin Currie at the 2015 BBC Proms and a new Piano Concerto for Emanuel Ax, co-commissioned by New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic.
Gruber has appeared extensively in the role of chansonnier, most notably in Frankenstein!!, his most popular work which he premiered with Sir Simon Rattle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 1978 and has received more than 600 performances since, by major orchestras and conductors around the world. He has also performed and recorded as chansonnier in the works of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler as well as Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King.
An active conductor with many major international orchestras, recent highlights of Gruber’s conducting career include engagements with the Vienna Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Mozarteum Orchester, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Seattle Symphony. He has appeared at festivals such as the BBC Proms, Lucerne, Salzburg and Grafenegg Festival and was Composer/Conductor with the BBC Philharmonic from 2009-2015, conducting concerts, tours and recordings with the orchestra. Most recently Gruber conducted the world premiere of his new opera Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald with the Vienna Symphony at Bregenz Festival in July 2014 and at Theater an der Wien in 2015.
The 2016/17 season sees the world premiere of Gruber’s Piano Concerto written for Emanuel Ax with the New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert in January 2017, followed by the German premiere by Berliner Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle, with future performances by co-commissioners Tonhalle Orchestra and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. Other highlights of the season include conducting the New World Symphony, Bamberg Symphony, Mozarteum Orchester, österreichisches ensemble für neue musik at the Salzburg Festival and conducting and chansonnier appearances at the BBC Proms, Malmo Chamber Music Festival with Mahler Chamber Orchestra,and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. Gruber also completes a recording of Weill’s Marie Galante with Ensemble Modern, with whom Gruber has had a longstanding close association
Gruber’s latest CD release sees him conduct music by Brett Dean with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra for BIS and a release by Chandos of works by fellow Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik with the BBC Philharmonic. He has also recorded a number of his own works for Chandos and BIS.