Composer and Conductor HK Gruber Brings Frights and Fun to Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Symphony with a Twist™ Concerts, October 19 and 20
Program features Gruber's Frankenstein!!, a collection of comedic songs for chansonnier and orchestra
Baltimore, Md. (September 4, 2007)- Halloween arrives a little early this year as Austrian composer, conductor and chansonnier HK Gruber brings his beloved work Frankenstein!! to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, October 19 at the Music Center at Strathmore and October 20 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. These Symphony with a Twist™ concerts will feature Gruber conducting, singing and acting in his own "Pandemonium for Chansonnier and Orchestra," Frankenstein!!, a collection of humorous songs depicting characters including Dracula, Superman, Frankenstein and others often associated with the spooky holiday (as well as some that are not). Gruber will also lead the BSO in Beethoven's jesting Symphony No. 8 and Camille Saint-Saëns' haunting Danse macabre. In addition to these performances, on October 17, HK Gruber will participate in the BSO's "Composers in Conversation," a new lecture series offering patrons a unique opportunity to engage with 11 of the contemporary composers featured in the 2007-2008 season. See below for complete program information.
HK Gruber's Frankenstein!! is a visual and aural feast, complete with virtuosic orchestral arrangements, an outlandish libretto by H.C. Artmann, kitschy toy instruments and Gruber's own theatrical rendition of his songs, which The Independent described as "lovable madness." Gruber will conduct the BSO as he sings and acts out songs including "Miss Dracula," "Goldfinger and Bond," "John Wayne," "The Green-haired Man," and "Frankenstein," among others. Gruber's performances have been praised as "stunning," "riotous" and "tantalizing." In addition to standard orchestral instruments, Gruber's score calls on members of the orchestra to play items including plastic hosepipes, kazoos, a toy trumpet and motor horns. The work, originally written for chansonnier (singer) and chamber ensemble in 1971, was re-orchestrated for full orchestra six years later. The BSO performed the original chamber version of the work with Gruber as soloist in the inaugural concert of the Discovery Series in 1986, but these concerts mark the BSO's first performance of the full orchestral arrangement.
Danse macabre is one of composer Camille Saint-Saëns' most frequently performed and best known orchestral works. Based on a Henri Cazalis poem rife with macabre images, the piece is often associated with Halloween, and is frequently used in horror movie scores and haunted houses. The programmatic work begins with the Devil tuning up his fiddle, represented by a solo violin with an out of tune E-string. As the work continues, chilling melodies depict Cazalis' moaning trees and dancing skeletons, and the xylophone plays a prominent role in depicting the skeletons' rattling bones. As more skeletons arise from their graves and begin to fly, more and more sections of the orchestra join in the madness. Finally, the oboe sounds the rooster's call, dawn breaks and the skeletons return to their graves as the piece comes to a quiet conclusion.
The program will conclude with Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 in F Major, composed in 1812. The work, the shortest of Beethoven's symphonies, is generally upbeat and light-hearted despite the strife and turmoil in Beethoven's life at the time of the work's composition. Beethoven's hearing was fading quickly and he was involved in a lengthy dispute with his brother. Also in 1812, Beethoven wrote the so-called "Immortal Beloved" letters. These letters, written to an unidentified woman, represent Beethoven's frustration and despair over not being with her. The Eighth Symphony appears to be totally removed from this unhappiness however. Energetic melodies and bouncing rhythms pervade the work, and the second movement's steady rhythmic pulse, often perceived as a playful joke, is an homage to Beethoven's friend Johann Mälzel, inventor of the portable metronome.
The concerts at both the Meyerhoff and at Strathmore mark the BSO's first College Nights of the 2007-2008 season. Voted "Best College Night" by Johns Hopkins University students, the evening features a post-concert party, refreshments, prize giveaways and a chance to mingle with musicians of the BSO. Tickets for College Night are $10 with a university ID.
These Symphony with a Twist ™ concerts are part of the BSO's 2007-2008 "Year of the Composer," which features works by 11 contemporary composers, paired with all nine Beethoven symphonies. HK Gruber is among five composers who will also conduct the Orchestra their own works this season.
HK Gruber, conductor, composer and chansonnier
Composing in his own highly individual style, HK Gruber has been labeled new-Romantic, neo-tonal, neo-expressionistic and neo-Viennese, but his music remains refreshingly non-doctrinaire - a deceptively simple and darkly ironic idiom which often includes a heavy dose of black humor. Gruber was recently awarded Austria's most prestigious cultural prize, the 2002 Greater Austria State Prize (Grober Österreichischer Staatspreis).
HK Gruber first began performing as a singer/actor with the MOB art and tone ART ensemble, a group he co-founded in 1968 with fellow Viennese composers Kurt Schwertsik and Otto Zykan. Since then he has appeared extensively in this role, most notably in his own work Frankenstein!!, and also in Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King, as well as in the works of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler. Among Gruber's other compositions are two violin concertos written for Ernst Kovacic, a cello concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma (premiered at Tanglewood in 1989), two dramatic works, and the orchestral work Dancing in the Dark, which was commissioned and premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle in 2003. His most recent premiere, the orchestral work Hidden Agenda, was premiered at the Lucerne Festival where Gruber was Composer-in-Residence in 2006.
HK Gruber is in demand internationally as a conductor, having conducted orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and the New World Symphony. He has appeared at festivals such as the BBC Proms, Lucerne, Gstaad and Musica Nova. During the 2007-2008 season Gruber will conduct at Carnegie Hall as part of the Berlin Festival.
COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION
Symphony with a Twist™: Frankenstein!!
Friday, October 19, 2007 at 8:00 p.m.- The Music Center at Strathmore
Saturday, October 20 at 8:00 p.m.-Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
HK Gruber, conductor, composer and chansonnier S
aint-Saëns: Danse macabre
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8
Special anniversary pricing for the 2007-2008 season at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall is made possible by generous underwriting from the PNC Foundation.
Tickets for these performances range from $15 to $84 and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, www.BSOmusic.org, 877.BSO.1444 or 410.783.8000.