Composer, conductor and chansonnier, HK Gruber was born in Vienna in 1943 and sang with the Vienna Boys’ Choir as a child, going on to study at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik. In 1961 he began playing double bass with Ensemble die reihe and from 1969 to 1998 in the Radio Symphonieorchester Wien. Gruber first began performing as a singer/actor with the ‘MOB art and tone ART’ ensemble which he cofounded in 1968 with fellow Viennese composers Kurt Schwertsik and Otto Zykan. Composing in his own highly individual style, his music is performed internationally by the world’s leading artists and orchestras. Gruber was awarded Austria’s most prestigious cultural prize the 2002 Greater Austria State Prize, and in 2009 was announced as an Honorary Member of the Wiener Konzerthaus, following a great tradition of musicians to also receive this accolade, including Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein and Claudio Abbado. Gruber is an Honorary Lifetime Trustee of the Kurt Weill Foundation.
Gruber’s compositions have been written for and performed by the foremost orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker and at Lucerne Festival, Carnegie Hall and BBC Proms. Gruber is particularly noted for his concertos, including Aerial for trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, which has received over 60 performances, two for violinist Ernst Kovacic, the Cello Concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma and premiered at Tanglewood in 1989, Busking for trumpet, accordion, banjo and string orchestra, premiered by Hardenberger in 2008 and his percussion concerti Rough Music and into the open… premiered by Colin Currie in 2015. Orchestral scores include Dancing in the Dark, premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle in 2003. Gruber’s recent works include the opera Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald (Tales from the Vienna Woods) premiered at the Bregenz Festival in 2014 and a major new Piano Concerto for Emanuel Ax, co-commissioned by New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic.
An active conductor with many major international orchestras, highlights of Gruber’s conducting career include engagements with the Vienna Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and he was Composer/Conductor with the BBC Philharmonic from 2009-2015.