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HK Gruber: Percussion Concertos

Colin Currie (percussion); BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds, Juanjo Mena (Colin Currie Records)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

HK Gruber
into the open…; Rough Music*
Colin Currie (percussion); BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds, *Juanjo Mena
Colin Currie Records CCR0004   52:42 mins

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Since his ‘pan-demonium’ Frankenstein!! (1978), HK Gruber’s style has become more sophisticated yet retains its iconoclastic glee. Suave Viennese waltzes bump into raucous Berlin cabaret, while a lush, post-Bergian romanticism is off-set by its spikily satirical, Stravinskian framing.

Some 27 years separate his two percussion concertos; while they cover very different emotional ground, both grasp the medium’s potential for eclectic extravagance. Gutsily supported by the BBC Philharmonic, Colin Currie proves a brilliant advocate: indeed, into the open… (2009-10) was written for him. Yet, despite John Storgårds’s clear conducting, this more recent work is one of contrasts not quite comfortably reconciled. The title refers to the death part-way through composition of Gruber’s beloved publisher David Drew, which cast an atypically sombre air of loss onto the work. But the ensuing – and affecting – fading sounds and silences are undercut by somewhat baggily constructed multi-instrument displays.

Far more focused is Rough Music (1982-83), once described by Gruber as ‘percussive noise-making in all its extrovert forms’. With textures bursting at the seams, Currie’s performance matches the composer’s charisma.

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Steph Power