Yannick Nezet Seguin - Orquesta Filarmónica de Rotterdam,
photo by Quincena Musical
I discovered that the orchestra has a Cyber Monday sale (the Monday after American Thanksgiving) where fans can buy tickets at a good price. I bought three sets of tickets for the three Vienna concerts in January 2016 and invited friends to attend. I was thrilled to revisit these Viennese masters I had been studying and writing about since my two trips to Vienna this summer. (Read my short blog post about Vienna's surprises here.) We heard Strauss, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner, Schumann, Brahms, at these concerts, plus a more recent composer I'd never heard of: HK Gruber.
|This photo is from a 2009 article by Geoffrey Norris in The Telegraph. Read it here:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/geoffrey-norris/4592446/HK-Gruber-a-composer-who|
HK Gruber was born in Vienna, was educated at the music academy there, and lives there now. In the program notes for this concert (1/16/16), Paul Griffiths describes Gruber as an "early postmodern transgressive." Rather than trying to translate that label, I'll describe him as a guy who has a lot of fun with his music and writes some interesting, energetic, and compelling stuff. You can meet him in this video:
Also from Griffiths's program notes, we learn that Gruber's first big-time composition was named Frankenstein!!, and included a part for Gruber himself as narrator in a scary style. That was 1978.
He composed the piece we heard in 1981 (Charivari) when he was obsessed with Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Perpetuum mobile" polka. Here's Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic performing that Strauss piece:
Gruber's piece is a deconstruction of the Strauss polka, and the listener can hear some of the original piece in the newer one. The name Charivari is taken from the title of a French satirical journal from the 1800s and means to bang on pots and generally make noise to annoy people (such as newlyweds). The audience at our concert demanded an encore, so Yannick and his crew performed the Strauss "Perpetuum mobile" polka. We got to hear where the newer piece came from. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra made this recording in 2007:
I really like the idea of programming a selection of music from the same place in a concert or concerts like this. Next year, Yannick Nezet-Seguin plans to take us to PARIS!