HK Gruber, born in Vienna in 1943, was a member of the Vienna Boys' Choir and at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik studied composition with Erwin Ratz and Gottfried von Einem, theory with Hanns Jelinek and double bass with Ludwig Streicher. From 1961 he played double bass with the ensemble 'die reihe' and from 1969 with the ORF-Symphony Orchestra. Since 1997 he has devoted himself to composing, conducting and performance as chansonnier.
In 1968, along with fellow composers Kurt Schwertsik and Otto Zykan, Gruber was involved in the founding of the 'MOB art and tone ART' ensemble, taking on the role of singer and actor for the first time. Gruber's international career became established when in 1978 Simon Rattle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra gave the premiere of Frankenstein!! The work has since been performed throughout the musical world - in the orchestral version, the ensemble version, and as a ballet.
Gruber is particularly noted for his concertos, including Aerial for trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger, which has received over 70 performances since its premiere in 1999, two concertos for violinist Ernst Kovacic, the Cello Concertowritten for Yo-Yo Ma and premiered at Tanglewood in 1989, the percussion concerto Rough Music in the repertoire of Evelyn Glennie and Busking for trumpet, accordion, banjo and string orchestra, premiered by Hardenberger in 2008. Orchestral scores include Dancing in the Dark, premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Simon Rattle in 2003, the orchestral suite Northwind Pictures premiered in 2011 and into the open... for percussion and orchestra, premiered with Colin Currie as soloist at the 2015 BBC Proms. His most recent work is a Piano Concerto for Emanuel Ax, premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 2017 with subsequent performances scheduled in Berlin, Zürich, Stockholm, Vienna and Paris.
Gruber's dramatic works include the apocalyptic opera Gomorra staged at the Vienna Volksoper in 1993. Gloria, a musical version of Rudolf Herfurtner's classic pigtale, was first staged at the 1994 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, followed by performances at the Munich Volkstheater, Wien Modern festival, the Aspen Music Festival, in Hamburg and Berlin, by the New York Philharmonic and on a UK tour in 2014. Der Herr Nordwind to a libretto by HC Artmann, was premiered at Zürich Opera in 2005. Most recently, his opera based on Horváth's Tales from the Vienna Woods was premiered at the Bregenz Festival in 2014 with further performances at the Theater an der Wien in 2015, and new German productions by the Berlin Komische Oper in 2016 and the Theater Hagen in 2017.
As a featured composer, conductor and cabaret artist, Gruber has travelled widely. He regularly performs the chansonnier role in Frankenstein!!internationally and his music theatre repertoire also includes Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Maxwell Davies's Eight Songs for a Mad King, and works by Kagel. He appeared in performances at the Almeida Festival in 1987, took a leading role in the Alternative Vienna series, presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the South Bank Centre in 1993, and was featured at the Grafenegg Festival in 2011 and the Stockholm Konserthuset's International Composer Festival in 2017. His association with the Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern has included a series of widely acclaimed concerts, opera performances and recordings, and he has worked closely with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, holding the post of Composer/Conductor from 2010 until 2015. He continues to be much in demand as conductor with the world's leading orchestras, ensembles and music festivals.