A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, it’s the album cover of “Para un mejor mundo – For a Better World”, designed by Quadro Nuevo bassist Didi Lowka, the first collaboration between harpist Evelyn Huber with Gregor Hübner and New York’s Sirius Quartet. Two headlands rise from the left and right into the stylized water, on one are the four instruments of a string quartet, on the other is a harp. When you open the digipack, the instruments float from one side to the other under the moonlight. Just as Huber and Hübner draw a line between their very different string instruments, between old and new worlds, between classical music, jazz and world music.
The starting point for this encounter is that Evelyn Huber did not want to be satisfied with what she has achieved, although or perhaps because she belongs to the first generation of harpists and harpists, who freed their instrument from the classical corset, searching for new timbres, forms of expression and forms of use. Parallel to her classical studies at the Munich Music Academy and the subsequent teaching there as well as at the Guildhall School of Music in London, she attended jazz workshops in the USA and began to play with various bands and ensembles, such as the Klezmer King Giora Feidman or the saxophonist Mulo Francel, who finally brought her to Quadro Nuevo in 2008, Germany’s most successful world and salon music band. She has won numerous prizes – among others the Bavarian Culture Prize and twice the Echo Jazz with Quadro Nuevo – continuously on the road and exceptionally successful. A few years ago she wanted to think outside the box and took composition lessons, which went beyond the already incorporated classical music theory. Composer and musicologist Enjott Schneider, a friend of hers, recommended a teacher from the jazz field who had conveniently just started a professorship in Munich: Gregor Hübner.
The violinist and pianist Hübner, originally from Lake Constance, has been living with his family in New York for more than 20 years, probably the most suitable city for a cross-border generalist like him. One who studied classical violin and jazz piano in Vienna, Stuttgart and finally the Manhattan School of Music and who has already performed successfully in various constellations – with Tango Five, one of the most successful ensembles of modern tango, with his brother Veit in the still existing fun band Berta Epple, in the Dominic Duvall String Quartet, or in the Chamber Orchestra Philharmonia Virtuosi. Groundbreaking – especially for a new, successful fusion of classical and jazz – were his years of collaboration with the New York pianist Ritchie Beirach in his trio, among other things for the album “Round About Mompou”, which was nominated for a Grammy. Happy and often Hübner played in Latin bands, but his own ensembles became more and more important, the New York NRG Quartet with Luis Perdomo, Hans Glawischnig and Billy Hart, his project El Violin Latino, which has meanwhile been documented on several albums, and also the equal collective Sirius Quartet , which made its debut in 2007 at the legendary New York Knitting Factory. Here, above all, Hübner’s outstanding compositional talent, which combines improvisation, experimental notation, traditional counterpoint, structures and melodies from pop music with post-tonal and innovative performance practices, is revealed. For years, the winner of the “New World Composers Competition” of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra 2017 has received composition commissions of all kinds and requests as a guest lecturer from all over the world. And exactly the mentioned call as a professor in Munich.
It is not surprising that from the first “lessons” of the two, working on some of Huber’s compositions, the desire for further cooperation quickly arose. The Sirius Quartet in the current lineup with Fung Chern Hwei and Gregor Hübner on the violins, Ron Lawrence on the viola and Jeremy Harman on the cello appeared as the ideal medium for an innovative approach to this probably unrivaled string instrumentation in this stylistically open constellation. After some preparation time, they met – to get along musically and humanely right away. This is how the project “Para un mejor mundo” took shape. Everyone brought along pieces that he considered as an ideal challenge for this line-up: Jeremy Harman, for example, combining his wonderful composition “Currents” with the echoes of medieval music and serial patterns like Philip Glass with rocking force. Fung Chern Hwei his quiet “Ceili”, which packs many sounds and timbres together with Asian elements into a compelling main motif. Evelyn Huber took her song “Nilade”, written two years ago during a stirring visit to Egypt with Quadro Nuevo, a surging bow also to oriental music, but also the melancholic, folky Mulo-Francel composition “Aventure” and the lyrical minimalist “Evelyn’s song”, which pianist Chris Gall has written for her. Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” also became indispensable in the Quintett’s string version. And finally, Gregor Hübner contributed Federico Mompou’s heartbreaking “Impressiones intimas” – and composed the title track, his quite sentimental musical call for a better world.
It all adds up to a magical, dazzling kaleidoscope of musical possibilities, just as the extraordinary, unconditional encounter of a string quartet with a harp provides. Sometimes delicately elaborate tone braids, sometimes spontaneous dialogues between the instruments, sometimes elegiac impressions, sometimes dynamic rhythm attacks. A sound universe that has not yet been heard like that. And the new, indeed, often has what it takes to make the world a little better – “para un mejor mundo”.