Portrait Klaus Huber

Extended Biography 

Like most major figures of postwar music, Klaus Huber has not managed to escape his share of pigeonholing. The less the music and man are known, the simpler it is to create a one-dimensional figure replete with the usual dutifully approbatory stylistic and moral clichés; conversely, though, for those of us fortunate enough to have access to a wider spectrum of his compositional and critical engagement, the full intensity, openness and (dare I say it?) complexity of his historical position is readily apparent. Unlike many of his generation, Huber, although never denying his roots in both mediaeval and serial composition practice, has avoided being pinned down to a marketable set of stylistic fingerprints, each work being both a highly individual response to a clearly focused and technically well-honed set of issues and precise reconsideration of the relationship of contemporary music languages to the real imperfect world in which they are embedded.

Common to all his works is abundant evidence of a superior - indeed, masterful - command of instrumental and textual resources, a deep, natural introversion of expression (sometimes all the more poignant and striking when deliberately projected outward in works of more public dimensions) and a control of musical time second to none. His is a humanistic musical art, in the double sense of fidelity to traditional concepts of craftsmanship and the unremitting demands he (justifiably) makes on music as the ultimate visionary vehicle for ideals of a high ethical endeavour.

At the same time, Huber remains all other than a reclusive late-modern mystic: unlike Adorno, he does not accept the agnostic view that the integral autonomy of the advanced art work is the necessary and sufficient guarantor of its authenticity. On the contrary, his Christian beliefs impel him to address directly what he sees as art’s utopian dual mission, to move the listener to concrete social reflection and embody a hope-filled vision of the just life.

As with the credo, so with the man, as attested by the experience of successive generations of younger composers who, like myself, have witnessed the power of Huber’s pedagogical gifts at first hand, and can thus confirm his complete openness to, and critical tolerance of, a wide diversity of aesthetic positions, cultural backgrounds and envisaged goals. It is to be hoped that Huber’s unique combination of apparent fragility of expression and unremitting strength of purpose will continue to affect the minds and hearts of those willing to expose themselves to this music in the ample spirit in which it was written.


Brian Ferneyhough