Kristjan Järvi

H.K. Gruber: Zeitstimmung

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The music of H.K. Gruber, a native of Vienna, the birthplace of musical modernism, defies easy categorization. His music just doesn't sound...Germanic enough, or sufficiently grounded in the tenets of modernism. Its rambunctiousness and brightness place it closer to John Adams than to the stereotype of an earnest European modernist. Rough Music, a concerto for percussion and orchestra, contrary to what its title would lead you to believe, is bright, quirky, and brimming with high spirits. This is not facile music, though; under its easy-to-like surface are rhythmic and structural elements of considerable sophistication. Gruber is also a skilled vocal performer whose delivery is a kind of Sprechstimme, but leaning more heavily toward song than speech; he describes himself as a chansonnier. Zeitstimmung is a setting of 13 intriguing texts by H.C. Artmann, a frequent collaborator. Gruber's setting, which flirts with the cabaret sound of Weill, provides him a vehicle for a virtuoso performance of these perplexing but deeply expressive texts. Charivari, derived from one of the composer's film scores, is close in spirit to Johann Strauss II's 1861 orchestral frolic Perpetuum Mobile, and Gruber has recommended that Strauss' piece be played as an introduction to his, as it is on this recording. Hearing them played together without a break, it's not immediately evident where Strauss stops and Gruber begins. Strauss' straightforward humor gets stretched into metrical and harmonic configurations that he couldn't have imagined, but they are impeccably executed, besides being immensely entertaining. The Tonkünstler Orchestra, led by Kristjan Järvi, gives the music a sparkling performance.

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