BBC appoints Gruber and Knussen to new orchestral posts

Gruber is Philharmonic's Composer/Conductor; Knussen to be BBCSO's new Artist in Association

9 February 2009

HK Gruber

It has been an eventful week for the BBC musical division. Austrian composer HK Gruber has been appointed the BBC Philharmonic's Composer/Conductor, starting from September 2009.  Moreover, a further announcement reveals that Oliver Knussen has become the BBC Symphony Orchestra's new Artist in Association.

Gruber's appointment marks an important change in the BBC Philharmonic's history. Taking the place of celebrated Scottish composer James MacMillan, Gruber's career makes him an excellent successor. His previous achievements include Frankenstein!! (based on poet H.C. Artmann's works) and several collaborations with the Philharmonic itself, such as a recording of Frankenstein!! (Chandos 2005) and the premiere of Dancing in the Dark at the BBC Proms in 2003.

Gruber will debut as a conductor in February 2010 at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (where the BBC Philharmonic is based), for a series of events that includes the premiere of Gruber's concerto for trumpet, accordion, banjo and string orchestra (Busking) and recording sessions for Chandos Records. In addition, the Austrian composer will collaborate with the Royal Northern College of Music, offering his expertise to music students.

Further educational events are on the programme. In fact, Gruber will be involved in the BBC Philharmonic's work within the community of Salford, where the orchestra will be based from 2011.

Gruber is not the only outstanding new name within the BBC musical line-up. In fact, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will also benefit from a new relationship with Oliver Knussen, one of the most acclaimed contemporary British composers and conductors. Knussen boasts a 30- year-long collaboration with the BBC: from 1979, the year in which he had his Third Symphony premiered at the BBC Proms, he has regularly been involved in the Orchestra's projects.

Oliver KnussenFrom the BBC press release, we learn how deep and how relevant the artistic bonds between the British artist and the orchestra are. Paul Hughes, General Manager of the BBSO, declares that 'Oliver Knussen is unique. As one of the finest composers and conductors working today he holds a special place in the history and heart of the BBCSO and it is with the greatest of pleasure that we deepen and strengthen this long-standing relationship when Olly [Knussen] becomes the orchestra's second Artist in Association.' Knussen's response is an enthusiastic one: 'It is an honour for me to accept this position with an orchestra which I regard as a musical national treasure'.

Knussen's artistic relationship with the Orchestra will continue until 2012. During these years, he will conduct at least three concerts during each season, collaborating with the Orchestra both during the Proms and at the Barbican Hall. In addition, a series of broadcast concerts is scheduled for BBC Radio 3.

Both Gruber and Knussen constitute a solid basis on which the BBCSO and BBCPO can start building their projects over the next few years. The strong links between these two artists and the orchestras, and their musical excellence, foster great hopes and expectations for the BBC's artistic plans.

By Marina Romani  

Photos: HK Gruber (Credit: Georg Anderhub) and Oliver Knussen

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