Gruber: ‘Frankenstein!!’; Nebelsteinmusik (Violin Concerto No. 2); Three Songs from Gomorra; Three MOB Pieces

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COMPOSERS: Gruber
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: ‘Frankenstein!!’; Nebelsteinmusik (Violin Concerto No. 2); Three Songs from Gomorra; Three MOB Pieces
PERFORMER: HK Gruber (baritone/chansonnier), Ernst Kovacic (violin)Camerata Academica Salzburg/Franz Welser-Möst
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56441 2
Dr Frankenstein, transplanting the heart, lungs and brain of a criminal into a child’s doll, is only one of the gallery of ‘heroic villains or villainous heroes’ in the ‘pan-demonium’ by the Viennese composer and double-bass player HK Gruber. Here also are John Wayne, Superman, Batman and Robin (cosily sharing breakfast in bed), and assorted werewolves and vampires. The black humour of HC Artmann’s children’s rhymes is gleefully conveyed in these eclectic settings for a half-speaking, half-crooning ‘chansonnier’ – Gruber himself, with a strong Viennese accent and, it must be said, a less than perfect grasp of Harriett Watts’s English translation – accompanied by an ensemble of a dozen players of conventional and toy instruments.

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This joyful extravaganza, as fresh now as when it was new nearly twenty years ago, is complemented by three further examples of Gruber’s gift for making creative use of elements of popular music: the Second Violin Concerto of 1988, with string orchestra, an ideal vehicle for Ernst Kovacic’s sweet-toned spinning of the melodic line; three deliciously cool miniatures dating originally from Gruber’s work with the ‘MOB art and tone ART’ ensemble in the late Sixties; and three songs, firmly in the tradition of Weill and Eisler, from the 1993 ‘musical spectacle’ Gomorra. With excellent performances by an all-Austrian team, and first-rate recording, there is a great deal here to enjoy. Anthony Burton