About Gerhard Gruber
ALEXANDER HORWATH, director of the Austrian Filmmuseum, about Gerhard Grubers music for silent movies:
... Music for silent movies needs a genuine musical partner of the film. The Austrian composer and (improvisation) musician Gerhard Gruber is one of very much, very few representatives of the profession, who meets this only apparently modest, actually however highest requirement. He is the partner par excellence.
The particular situation of silent film music, in which one part is ‘dead’ (which means old and stored on celluloid) and the other part ‘living’ (alive and capable of acting), paradoxically demands a musician who is not satisfied with this situation (with his or her own ‘advantage’), who wants to make the ‘dead’ part just as much alive as he or she is.
Grubers form of modesty is likewise his greatness; because it needs size to subordinate oneself as creative and idea-rich musician to an “uncommon text”. Silent movie music in the sense Grubers is neither an exaggeration of the film, nor the “digestible making” of an “old-fashionable” artifact, neither a vanity nor another simplificati
on of the existing work. It is always a partnership suggestion; in a partnership, which becomes never boring as it is guaranteed.
An “open relationship” including intimate bond of trust.
Blue-Toned Silent Film Dreams - by Author ILSE AICHINGER
He doesn’t wear a Viennese medal of honor, nor does he create a commotion in the parliament and cause guessing games like Michael Jackson. Gerhard Gruber, composer and musician (“the piano player” as I know him), comes from the barren landscape of the Muehlviertel. He improvises on the piano to the silent films in the triangle that I often move in: between the Metro-Kino, the Breitenseer Lichtspiele, and the Filmmuseum—not Bermuda, but still a place where you can safely disappear.
He is the one who first makes each film possible and, at the same time, unnecessary. Those who have seen his hands move on the illuminated keys might even risk forgetting Chaplin to boost their memory of him. In letting yourself go, should you ask how much you have to let go? For Gerhard Gruber that isn’t relevant. Composing is an intellectual act. As he explains, improvisation is an act of love. “It wouldn’t surprise me if my playing changed the film.” And would this man—someone who knows how much the pictures have lost through dialogue cinema—sign a “petition against the talkies”?
“Gruber’s form of modesty is likewise his greatness,” said Alexander Horwath (of the Austrian Filmmuseum). “The particular situation of silent film music, in which one part is ‘dead’ (which means old and stored on celluloid) and the other part ‘living’ (alive and capable of acting), paradoxically demands a musician who is not satisfied with this situation (with his or her own ‘advantage’), who wants to make the ‘dead’ part just as much alive as he or she is.”
“I am still breathing the air, but I don’t know what I should do with it,” stated E. M. Cioran. Those who listen to Gerhard Gruber play the piano can once again trust their own breath. ... And Der Typ vom Grab nebenan (The guy in the next grave) (today at 6 p.m. in Cine-Kino)? You should help him out of there and quickly bring him, together with the others in danger of apparent death, to Breitensee, to Gerhard Gruber.
First published in: Die Presse, 12 March 2005, as “Der Filmerzieher.” Translated by Lisa Rosenblatt.
Voices of Tokyo
The audience was dumb struck by Gruber's dynamic and delicate performance of his magic piano which blended so perfectly with Sawato's masterful benshi-narration. Six film critics and editors have stayed after the presentation to chat with G.Gruber and Midori Sawato. They unanimously praised the duo's high quality performance and the sponsorship of the Austrian embassy for this unique cultural project.
We didn't know what was silent film nor benshi until yesterday.
The story was interesting but because of Mr.Gruber's piano and
Ms. Sawato's narration, we experienced feelings beyond conventional films. We were flabbergasted. Thank you indeed.
Wish such presentation would be shown more to the younger generations.
Actor HERBERT FUX about Gerhard Gruber:
Each time I am surprised how sensitive Gerhard Gruber accompanies silent movies on the piano.
How self-evident he finds appropriate increase and decay for all the changing screen emotions - silent movie and accompaniment as a unique adventure.
REPORT ON SILENCE!
FESTIVAL OF SILENT FILM
ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND APRIL 2008
by Moata McNamara Mitai-Ngatai
The festival, extending over three days 17th-19th April, opened with a Whakatau, a Maori greeting and blessing for the festival, for our distinguished guest pianist Gerhard Gruber, and for extending our knowledge and relationship with Gerhard’s country of origin, Austria. Audiences were immediately impressed by Mr.Gruber’s virtuosity on the piano, knowledge of the genre and by the quality of the Austrian films shown.
While the highlight of the festival was the films and accompaniment, we also enjoyed the depth of discussion around Austrian silent films and filmmakers and the subjects of the films shown.
Local readers translating for the audiences accompanied films with German subtitles, and a local guitarist accompanied one film. Gerhard Gruber also gave a workshop, encouraging other performers and musicians to become involved in working with silent film.
The final showing, of the Michael Curtiz film Sodom and Gomorrha, was introduced by an account of the biblical story by a local Anglican minister. The performance concluded with a response by a Professor from Auckland University of Technology. This opening of discussion around the films proved very interesting and we hope to extend this to other films in the future.
Rotorua has been extraordinarily fortunate to have the privilege of hosting Gerhard Gruber, witnessing his gifts and sharing a delight in the wonderful films from Austria. We would like to thank again the Austrian Embassy in Canberra for giving us the opportunity to hear this amazing pianist, and to let you know that you have an extraordinary ambassador in Gerhard Gruber.