WORKS: Cello Concerto; Zeitfluren; Manhattan Broadcasts
PERFORMER: Robert Cohen (cello); Swedish CO/HK Gruber
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1341
HK Gruber’s music is like the man: exuberant, generous, absolutely in-your-face. Though it has to be said that the very first sounds on this CD might not seem that way. They’re the angular, quietly melancholy opening notes of the Cello Concerto. A typically ‘modern music’ opening, you might think, but how quickly those enigmatic held notes start to suggest warm, jazzy harmonies. That’s a pattern often found in these pieces. There are plenty of strangely bare moments, when the fabric of the music seems to be torn away; but soon it returns to its natural state of refulgent fullness, made up of expressive lines unfolding over harmonies that are almost embarrassingly rich.
It’s enormously challenging music to play, because it’s virtuosic on many levels. There’s the thicket of changing metres, which become hugely complicated in the most recent piece on the disc, called Zeitfluren (Timescapes); there’s the weave of expressive lines, which have to be clear and yet blended; and there are the sly references to popular idioms, which have to be subtly played so as not to sound arch. By all these measures the performances are a triumph, and the recording, too, is an ideal blend of clarity and warmth. Ivan Hewett