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HK Gruber's Northwind Pictures receives its US premiere with the New World Symphony and the composer himself conducting. The performance of this whimsical operatic suite provides an upbeat to the world premiere of Short Stories from the Vienna Woods in Boston in January.

On November 13, composer HK Gruber leads the New World Symphony in the US premiere of his Northwind Pictures. Multi-hyphenate artist Gruber pulled from his uproarious 2005 fairytale opera Der Herr Nordwind to create Northwind Pictures, a 25-minute standalone orchestral piece using the same whimsical scoring as the opera, including music boxes and a wind machine.

> Nov 13: Northwind Pictures (US premiere) with New World Symphony and HK Gruber, conductor

While the scoring is the same, Gruber explains that the piece is not an operatic suite, but “closer in spirit to a symphonic poem,” focusing on the most illustrative sections of the opera, such as the entrance of the titular Mr. North Wind, dance sequences, and a battle of baseball players. He adds that “the listener doesn’t need to know the story of the opera, but should hopefully discover plenty of attractive orchestral music that can be enjoyed in its own right.”

While the orchestral interludes from the opera remain intact, aria sections have been adapted, often with brass taking over the roles of the vocal soloists, making use of the piece’s expanded brass section. For example, the opera’s final duet between Mr. North Wind and his wife Holla finds their vocal lines allotted to a trombone and trumpet.  

Northwind Pictures has garnered critical acclaim since its world premiere in Grafenegg, Austria in 2011. The Times noted: “There is no mistaking the structural rigour of the four-in-one portmanteau movement. If not a disguised symphony, these pictures are a flagrant concerto for orchestra…” Kurier wrote of a performance: “This was Gruber at his best, the Gruber that we know and love, and this was music that was fun, overcoming all barriers between tonality and avant garde.”

Later this season, the Boston Symphony and conductor Andris Nelsons give the world premiere of Gruber's Short Stories from the Vienna Woods, January 6-8, 2022. This suite is drawn from the composer’s acclaimed 2014 opera Tales from the Vienna Woods, drawing on Ödön von Horváth’s classic play observing the disintegrated Viennese society of the late-1920s. Gruber’s opera has enjoyed stagings at the Bregenz Festival, the Theater an der Wien, the Komische Oper in Berlin and the Theater Hagen. The premiere of Short Stories from the Vienna Woods has been delayed since 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

>  Further information on Work: Northwind Pictures

Photo: Jon Super

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