International Record Review: outstanding.
It has been said about HK Gruber (b. 1943) that he 'throws off labels as fast as pundits can affix them. Neo-romantic, neo-tonal, neo-expressionistic, neo-Viennese: he isn’t any of these things, so much as a sentient composer who keeps responding to whatever musical stimulus, be it highbrow or lowbrow, 12-tone or 7-tone, bitter or sweet, that comes his way.' The programme on this disc demonstrates many of Gruber's facets. In Rough Music he proves his familiarity with rhythmic serialism as used by Alban Berg, but the main impetus for the work was provided by his reading about a French custom of villagers ostracizing undesirable elements by making noises outside their homes. In Zeitstimmung, he returns to texts by his friend H.C. Artmann – who also provided the libretto for the successful 'pan-demonium' Frankenstein!!! – and creates a mosaic in which golden Chinese dragons, a fat Count complete with eyeglass, Shnorrhabardian the Armenian maker of wooden horses and a Viennese war invalid in the Prater are only some of the ingredients. And in Charivari, finally, Gruber takes up the gauntlet from the Waltz King himself, Johann Strauss II. The incessant ostinato of the latter's Perpetuum Mobile is used as the starting point of what has been interpreted as a scathing exposé of how Austria has suppressed its share of the guilt in various political events, instead concealing itself behind a smug mask. With Gruber himself performing, in his inimitable way, the vocal part in Zeitstimmung, with young percussionist Martin Grubinger and with the Tonkünstler Orchestra under its dynamic principal conductor Kristjan Järvi the scene is set for an exhilarating, troubling, frightening and ultimately indescribable experience.