Gregor Huebner

Violinist, pianist and composer

Author

About

Gregor Huebner is an award-winning, Grammy -nominated composer and violinist, celebrated by audiences and critics alike for his visionary work across genres. His music has been described by The New York City Jazz Record as “challenging and vivid… seamlessly incorporat[ing] chamber elements with Avant Garde Jazz,” while All About Jazz describes him as “a virtuoso with broad experience in large and small classical ensembles.” Huebner’s recent El Violin Latino, an album exploring the role of the violin in traditional Latin American music, was praised by The Wall Street Journal as “by turns sexy and sly, impassioned and dreamy, his collection of well-known tunes, unexpected arrangements and original compositions brings together far-flung members of the fiddle diaspora.”

As a composer, Huebner’s unique musical voice variously integrates improvisation, experimental notation, traditional counterpoint, pop song structures, post-tonal gestures and innovative performance techniques within formal compositional frameworks. Recent commissions include “Clockwork Interrupted,” an orchestral work premiered by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and SWR Big Band in July 2014; “Six Songs of Innocence,” a lyrical setting of poems by William Blake premiered by Sirius Quartet and Collegium Iuvenum Stuttgart Boys Choir in June 2014; A violin and a piano concerto premiered by the WDR in Cologne in 2016 and “Ich rufe zu Gott” for choir and violin solo premiered and recorded by Ida Bieler and the Orpheus Vokalensemble in 2016. Huebner has also been commissioned by the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, the State Theater of Fürth and the State Academy of Music Ochsenhausen, among many others. His works have been premiered by major ensembles such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Nova Philharmonic Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. Huebner has been a longstanding member of Sirius Quartet for over a decade. An acclaimed contemporary string ensemble praised by The New York Times for their “versatility and flair with lively improvisations,” Sirius has premiered several of Huebner’s major works, including “New York Suite” for string quartet; “Cuban Impressions” for string quartet and string orchestra; and “Colors of the East” for string quintet and accordion. While in residence at Germany’s State Academy of Music Ochsenhausen, Huebner and Sirius developed 2010’s Racing Mind: New Music for Strings, a full-length album of Huebner’s compositions for string orchestra featuring Sirius Quartet and quartet members on several tracks. Sirius has also released two full-length albums of Huebner’s compositions for the quartet: 1997’s In Between (Cimp Records), 2015’s Colors of the East (Autentico Music/Naxos 2015) and their most recent release Paths become Lines (Autentico Music/Naxos 2016). With Huebner, the group has toured internationally to venues like the Beijing Music Festival, Stuttgart Jazz Fest, Bern University of the Arts, the Andy Warhol Museum, Merkin Concert Hall, Chelsea Music Festival, and repeat visits to the Taichung Jazz Fest, Taiwan’s largest jazz event. A highly sought-after player, Huebner has appeared in many major concert halls and festivals around the globe, including Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Berlin Philharmonie, the Hollywood Bowl, Montreux Jazz Fest, Frauenkirche in Dresden, JVC Jazz and Gewandhaus Leipzig. He has performed and recorded with some of the most respected names in jazz and pop, including Smokey Robinson, Diane Reeves, Billy Hart, Randy Becker, Joe Zawinul and John Patitucci. Huebner’s collaborations with Richie Beirach and George Mraz have yielded three critically acclaimed albums, including the Latin Grammy-nominated Round About Federico Mompou. The Guardian writes, “the excellent violinist Huebner take[s] off in muscular manner… the playing itself is beautiful,” while The Irish Times, reviewing a recording of Huebner, Beirach and saxophonist Charlie Mariano, writes, “violinist Gregor Huebner… is in the kind of mood to blow anyone away… emotionally complex… lovely.”

As a seasoned educator, Huebner has given workshops and master classes on performance, composition and improvisation with esteemed institutions like the Manhattan School of Music, Berlin Music School, Cologne College of Music, Lübeck Academy of Music, the Klagenfurt Music Forum, the Kaufman Music Center and Face the Music. He is currently a guest professor of composition at the University of Music and Theater in Munich, and in 2009 he published his method book for string improvisation, Exercises, Etudes and Concert Pieces, with Advanced Music Publishing/Schott. Huebner received his formal education from the Vienna College of Music, the Stuttgart College of Music, and the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned his master’s degree and was recognized with a “President’s Award.” Huebner was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and is based in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Music is for me to express myself in a world of total freedom where the rules you have in live are not existing and you have the freedom to choose or to create your own rules or no rules

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Of course it is my fantasy and my creativity that leads me to my compositional language.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I don’t know definitely some kind of artist.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

No since I am not in the typical classical business but they should be worried about this.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

The main thing, which has to change in my opinion is the programming of the promoters. If they are worried about the public, they should put a piece by Mozart not together with a piece by Hayden and Beethoven. They should integrate new waves in classical music like the use of electronic as well as improvisation.

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Yes he has to be way more creative in the business aspect of our profession.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

My first major commission followed in 2000 when Dennis Russell and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra asked me to write Russian Sketches. Mr. Davies was a kind of mentor who introduced me into the world of major composition and gave me the change to write for his amazing ensemble three times. These performances intrigued Helmut Rilling and led to a long time standing relationship with him and the International Bach Academy of Stuttgart. My most recent commission for Mr. Rilling was something new to me. Written for Peter von Winhardt, a pianist and professor specialized in contemporary classical music with no experience in improvisation, the concerto for piano and orchestra experimented with sounds created in the piano using techniques from percussion instruments like the conga or the djembe. Earlier commissions, Bach 21 and De Profudis for choir, orchestra and electronics we performed at the Musikfest Stuttgart. They involved improvising soloist and the De Profundis was interwoven with Schumann’s Missa Sacra. Other choral commissions include “Ich rufe zu Gott” for choir and violin solo premiered and recorded by the great violinist Ida Bieler and the Orpheus Vokalensemble in 2016 for the Naxos CD Touched by Strings and “Six Songs of Innocence,” a lyrical setting of poems by William Blake premiered by Sirius Quartet and Collegium Iuvenum Stuttgart Boys Choir in June 2014. Here I combined string quartet with boys choir, writing improvised music for the quartet in both the jazz and classical styles. This was premiered at the beautiful Chelsea Music Festival in New York City.

A recent solo endeavor is my second El Violin Latino album an ethnographic exploration of the role of the violin in traditional Latin American music. The Wall Street Journal praised it as “by turns sexy and sly, impassioned and dreamy, his collection of well-known tunes, unexpected arrangements and original compositions brings together far-flung members of the fiddle diaspora.”

To explore the music of South America, especially Cuba and Argentina, I went to these countries in between 1998 and 2000 several times, doing research and taking lessons on instruments I didn’t know. I learned especially in Cuba how important it is to feel the time and the clave in your body. The best way to learn this is playing the drums. I am about to go into the studio this fall to record Vol.3 of the El Violin Latino series, the Cuban Volume.

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

Any combination works if the concept is right. I just don’t like randomness and all the disciplines have to be on a high level.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

No, I am not assuming or expect anything. Each piece has it’s own dynamic after it’s performed live.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

Very exciting projects are coming up, I am finishing a recording for my El Violin Latino Vol.3 Project by writing a Duo piece for me and the great harpist Edmar Castaneda. In March when the premier of the European New York Jazz Collective which I am playing in and writing for at the Theaterhaus Jazz Festival in Stuttgart happened the audience and us got very excited. Now we try to get this grest project to go different festivals. Very unique collaborations are happening in the fall with Sirius Quartet und Evelyn Huber, the harpist of Quadro Nuevo in September and Sirius Quartet with Marlis Petersen the great soprano in October.

Since Improvisation is a big part in my contemporary classical compositions as well as in my Jazz compositions I always experimenting. This is essential for me, so every performance is new and unique. Long term I am preparing for a commission for the 2020 Beethoven anniversary.