7 Oct 2019

64 years between visits but HK Gruber will never forget Wellington

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 7 October 2019

Composer HK Gruber is back in New Zealand for the first time since 1955 when he toured here as part of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. 

H K Gruber

H K Gruber Photo: Priska Ketterer

This time he's here to conduct the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and to sing in his most famous work Frankenstein!!  which has the orchestral players also taking up toy instruments.

He surprises David Morriss with an impromptu performance of some of the score, showing his voice is just as good sixty-four years on.    

Composer HK Gruber was last in New Zealand with the Vienna Boys’ Choir in 1955.  

He remembers it vividly because the flying boat the choir was leaving Wellington on developed engine problems half an hour into the flight and returned to Evan's Bay in a hurry. The boys watched it catch fire soon after they had safely disembarked. 

This time Gruber is here to sing in the first performance in this country of his orchestral cantata Frankenstein!! which the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performs this Thursday in Wellington and in Auckland on Friday.

The composer/ conductor, who likes to be addressed by his nickname, Nali, has performed the work over a thousand times since it was first done in 1978 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under a young Simon Rattle.

He calls Frankenstein!! a "pan-demonium": it’s a set of children's poems in which the players perform on toy instruments and whirl plastic hoses above their heads.

Gruber will also conduct his trumpet concerto, Aerial, with the NZSO featuring the man who commissioned it Håkan Hardenberger; he's played the concerto more than 80 times since Gruber wrote it for him twenty years ago. 

But it's Frankenstein!! that has become his calling card. Håkan Hardenberger will conduct when Gruber switches to chansonnier for the subversive and playful work. 

Håkan Hardenberger

Håkan Hardenberger Photo: www.marcoborggreve.com