HK Gruber

COMPOSERS: HK Gruber
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Gruber
WORKS: Zeitstimmung; Perpetuum Mobile (J Strauss II)/Charivari; Rough Music
PERFORMER: Martin Grubinger (percussion), HK Gruber (chansonnier); Tonkünstler Orchestra/Kristjan Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1681 (hybrid CD/SACD)
HK Gruber seems to be coming into fashion. In March I reviewed a Chandos release of his music; now here’s BIS with another. Both discs include Charivari, which takes Johann Strauss’s Perpetuum Mobile as a starting point and spins a delirious orchestral fantasy from it. The biggest piece on the new CD is Zeitstimmung, a setting of 14 poems by HC Artmann. These summon a strange and very Viennese world of humorous and sinister make-believe, where things seem ‘desperate but not serious’, to borrow a phrase from the Viennese writer Karl Kraus. The third work, Rough Music, is a percussion concerto with a finale which springs from memories of pieces by Erik Satie and Henri Sauguet; but as both pieces are waltzes, the Viennese mood isn’t disturbed.

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In this era of globalisation it’s wonderful to find there’s still music being written with a sharp and unmistakable ‘spirit of place’. Gruber performs the Artmann settings himself, in a fruitily rhetorical way that evokes the Viennese cabaret of the pre-war era; and because he sings it in his native German, it’s a lot more satisfying as a performance than his thickly accented English rendition of Frankenstein!! on the Chandos disc. Martin Grubinger’s performance of the percussion concerto is just as vividly characterised. Ivan Hewett