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The Vienna Konzerthaus plays host to the Austrian premiere of HK Gruber’s orchestral suite Short Stories from the Vienna Woods on 22 April, with the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna conducted by the composer.

HK Gruber conducts a programme of his music with the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna on 22 April, including the Austrian premiere of Short Stories from the Vienna Woods. This orchestral suite is drawn from his highly successful opera Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald (Tales from the Vienna Woods), premiered in 2014 and lauded as a summatory work in the composer’s output. The concert at the Vienna Konzerthaus also features Gruber’s Manhattan Broadcasts and his much-travelled trumpet concerto Aerial with Selina Ott as soloist.

> Visit the ORF RSO Vienna website

Gruber’s bitter-sweet opera Tales from the Vienna Woods draws on Ödön von Horváth’s classic play observing the disintegrated Viennese society of the late-1920s. It was unveiled at the 2014 Bregenz Festival and has since enjoyed stagings at the Theater an der Wien, the Komische Oper in Berlin and the Theater Hagen. The Süddeutsche Zeitung described the opera as “a dance on the edge of the abyss, full of lust and greed” while Opera magazine noted how “Gruber could not resist weaving deconstructed snatches of the famous Strauss waltz into his fascinating, often beguiling orchestral fabric... this new, very well made opera deserves to travel as much as Horváth's play."

The orchestral suite Short Stories from the Vienna Woods was crafted together by Gruber in 2019 but suffered a string of postponements and cancellations due to the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021. It was finally rescheduled and performed in a shortened form by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons in January 2022, followed by its first complete performance by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Cristian Macelaru later that year. A further German performance took place in Mainz earlier this year leading up to its Austrian premiere – a homecoming for the composer and the score – in April.

"...a wonderfully rich layering of Viennese musical traditions from Beethoven to Berg, each of them distorted yet still legible. The ear listens like the eye might peer through a set of photographic negatives stacked on top of each other. But the composer’s signature wit also permeates this score; his smiling eyes soften its provocation. At the end of the day, this is music not of the barricades but of the theater."
Boston Globe

Short Stories from the Vienna Woods consists of seven movements drawn from the opera, with a total duration of 30 minutes. Gruber offers options for shorter suites, with the opening Introduction & Song of the Wachau and the closing Polka infernale remaining as bookends, while a number of the intervening movements may be omitted.

The rest of the Vienna programme includes Gruber’s popular parody of American dance band music Manhattan Broadcasts for light orchestra, and his trumpet concerto Aeria, championed around the world by Håkan Hardenberger and performed at the Konzerthaus by the award-winning young Austrian trumpeter Selina Ott. Aerial has enjoyed over 90 performances across a quarter of a century since its premiere in 1999 at the BBC Proms.

A further orchestral suite drawn from a Gruber opera is available with Northwind Pictures, a 25-minute collection of music from his 2005 fantasy stagework Der Herr Nordwind. Premiered at the Grafenegg Festival in 2011, the US premiere was presented by the New World Symphony in 2021, both under the baton of the composer.

>  Further information on Work: Short Stories from the Vienna Woods

Photo: John Super

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