Heinz Karl (HK) Gruber was born in Vienna in 1943. At the age of six he started to play the piano. He sang with the Wiener Sängerknaben, where he received thorough vocal training, laying the foundations of his later work as a chansonnier. Gruber studied the double bass under Alfred Planyavski and Ludwig Streicher. In 1963 he was engaged as solo double bass player by the Tonkünstler Orchestra, and from 1969 to 1998 he was a member of the ORF Symphony Orchestra (now the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra). Since 1961 Gruber has been a member of the ensemble ‘die reihe’, the artistic direction of which he assumed in 1983 and still holds. HK Gruber studied composition under Alfred Uhl and Gottfried von Einem. Of great importance to him in his student years were the courses in anaysis that he undertook under Erwin Ratz, a pupil of Schoenberg.
Gruber made his international break-through as a composer with Frankenstein!!, a ‘pandemonium’ for chansonnier and orchestra to texts by his much admired friend, the poet H.C. Artmann. The first performance of this work, with an English text, was conducted by Simon Rattle in Liverpool in 1978, with the composer as chansonnier. Gruber’s œuvre includes two violin concertos (aus schatten duft gewebt and Nebelsteinmusik), a cello concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma, the trumpet concerto Aerial for Håkan Hardenberger, Zeitfluren for ensemble and Dancing in the Dark, premièred in 2003 by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Among his works of music theatre are the opera Gomorra and the one-act Gloria von Jaxtberg. His setting of H.C. Artmann’s Herr Nordwind was premièred at the Zurich Opera House in 2005.
HK Gruber is also active internationally as a performer. As a conductor he has worked with the Ensemble Modern, Cleveland Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Camerata Salzburg and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. As a chansonnier Gruber has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra and in the Carnegie Hall, New York, in repertoire ranging from Schoenberg to Maxwell Davies. As an interpreter Gruber takes a particular interest in the music of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler.