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Cat. No. CHAN 10404 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10404 - Gruber: Frankenstein!!/ Perpetuum mobile/Charivari/Dancing in the Dark - [in English]
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Available From: 01 February 2007
Frankenstein!! is a modern classic: a witty, yet appropriately twisted portrait of the late 20th Century, which has received hundreds of performances and broadcasts worldwide and described by the composer as a ‘pan-demonium’. Nonetheless, the orchestral version of it receives its premiere recording with this release. Narrated and conducted by HK Gruber, this version is hugely entertaining and devilishly clever! It is a triumph of slightly warped imagination, and is as brilliant as it is unexpected. Gruber is one of the most well-known and well-loved figures in the Austrian contemporary music scene. Composing in his own highly individual style, he has produced works which remain refreshingly unique, stemming from a cabaret style of the Weimar Republic, and often combined with irreverent black humour. The Times described Gruber’s performance as ‘both grisly and bizarre, and altogether an extraordinary conception…The score is often hilarious, but Gruber’s own delivery, a tour de force of vocal gymnastics, reinforces the underlying seriousness”. This satirical song-cycle sets mock nursery rhymes about monsters and superheroes and rats and John Wayne! Rarely has a classical piece been able to make the listener laugh so much, with orchestration ranging from the exquisite to the downright ridiculous.

Coupled with Frankenstein!! are two other orchestral works Dancing in the Dark – a combination between the great Viennese tradition and Fred Astaire, ‘a dizzying cavalcade of musical contrasts’ (The Guardian) and Perpetuum mobile – Charivari in which Gruber’s rich and playful orchestration pays homage to the late-Romantic excesses of Mahler and Strauss. This disc presents the multi-faceted talent of Gruber and will make an ideal introduction to the works of this incredibly talented contemporary composer. If you have a wicked sense of humour, this disc is for you!

Gruber directs an absolutely gripping account, ably supported by the BBC Philharmonic, and Chandos’s first-rate recording manages to prevent even his most overloaded tuttis from congealing into an undifferentiated mass. Warmly recommended to all fans of this extraordinary composer.

Viennese modernism, with its clash of high ideals and decadence, always carried profoundly subversive traits. Those remain alive and well in the character of HK Gruber, whose defiantly unpredictable compositions also hook into German Expressionism, Weimar cabaret and Austrian irony. Does his work speak to Anglo-Saxon audiences? Memorably I’d say, not least because his craziness is universal. Gruber made his name with his ‘pan-demonium’, Frankenstein!!, in 1978. He’s in mesmerising form as singing narrator and conductor in this brilliant, mad, totally inspired BBC Philharmonic production. Definitely one for the adventurous!
Classic FM Magazine

A corker of a disc, splendidly played and recorded.
The Telegraph

Gruber secures an unsparing response from the BBC Philharmonic, superbly recorded, and those new to his music will find this an ideal disc to start their exploration.

Gruber himself takes on the role of chansonnier with lip-smacking relish. Artmann’s witty poems about Dracula, Superman, James Bond, Frankenstein et al are actually performed in English, but sometimes it’s hard to tell as Gruber rolls his r’s extravagantly and has a Viennese accent you could cut with a knife. The BBC Philharmonic plays Gruber’s Jazz-cum-Sachertorte music with remarkable delicacy, which makes the raucous moments such as the deliberately vulgar trombone solo in the Finale and Gruber’s mock-romantic kazoo solo stand out all the more vividly… In all this is a CD of sumptuous orchestral and compositional virtuosity.
BBC Music Magazine

Gruber is both the conductor and the soloist, with his unique, mangled Sprechstimme (half-sung, half-spoken vocals) enunciating a mad children’s verse over a dazzling orchestral score that recalls both nightclub and nightmare. The BBC Philharmonic follow with an effervescent account of Johann Strauss’s Perpetuum Mobile, which melts with grotesque steps into his Charivari.
The Times

The full-on, madcap antics of H.K. Gruber are at once disorienting, charming, fascinating and perhaps above all utterly addictive. Gruber’s most famous piece, Frankenstein!, acts as the mainstay of this disc… A fascinating and rewarding disc. Although Frankenstein!! Remains Gruber’s most popular piece, it is to Dancing in the Dark that I, for one, will be returning to most often.

…a virtually uncategorizable work, a zanily bedazzling collage of different influences and styles, ranging all the way from bar-room cabaret to operatic declamation … great fun.
Classic CD


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