Michael Gross

Michael Gross Swim Two Birds
Photo by Sebastian Otto © 2001

Michael Gross
Composer and trumpeter

Born in 1967 in Illingen/Saar, he began playing the trumpet in the local brass band at the age of 9. After winning second prize in the national Jugend Musiziert competition, he became a member of the Saarland State Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra and the European Youth Orchestra. He took his first steps in jazz and rock with the MICHAEL GROSS QUARTETT and the Saarland rock jazz band DREIKLANG. With the “NEUER MUSIKVEREIN ILLINGEN” a serious alternative to local brass music was founded, performing a sophisticated classical program and focusing on new music by the Saarland composer Bernd Thewes.
With him he founded and directed the ILLINGER BURGFEST FÜR NEUE MUSIK (1987-97).

After classical training as a trumpeter at the music colleges in Saarbrücken (with Manfred Endres) and Karlsruhe (with Reinhold Friedrich), he concentrated on all kinds of contemporary music.
From 1989 onwards he worked closely as a trumpeter with the ENSEMBLE MODERN. In 1992/93 he was a member of the MUSIKFABRIK NRW, and in 1994/95 of the KLANGFORUM WIEN. With these ensembles he recorded many CDs, toured all over the world and worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hans Werner Henze, György Ligeti, Maurizio Kagel, Hans Zender, Vinko Globokar, Heiner Goebbels, Frank Zappa and many others.

At the end of 1995 he gave up his permanent job in Vienna to work as a freelancer in Berlin, focusing more on improvisation and composition and to resume his work in jazz and rock projects. From 1996 to 2002 he was a trumpet lecturer at the Berlin Academy of Arts (jazz department).

During his time in Vienna he began to work with the composer Hanns Eisler, which led to the project BRECHT EISLER ELEKTRISCH for the Schwetzinger Festpiele in 1998 (with Corinna Kirchhoff, Mark Scheibe and Cem Arnold Süzer) and the production of the Eisler CD ODE AN DIE LANGEWEILE for the Berlin label NoMansLand Records (also in 1998).

In 2001 he founded the record label ACAPULCO RECORDS with the pianist Mark Scheibe in order to be able to independently publish his own projects and those of friends.

From 1998 he worked as a composer and musical director in theater productions. He wrote the music for “OMICIDI ACROBATICI” by the Compania Elettra de Salvo (1998) and, together with the musician Theo Nabicht, the writer Frank Alkämper and the artist Anke Menck, developed the literary-musical project “BLICKE ERKUNDUNGEN SCHNITTE” about Rolf Dieter Brinkmann for the EXPO 2000 in Hanover.
In 2002 he arranged Hanns Eisler’s music for Brecht’s “DIE MUTTER” for the Berliner Ensemble in a production by Claus Peymann. The MutterOrchester was founded for this occasion, with which Gross has performed regularly since then. He then composed the music for the Brecht plays “DIE HEILIGE JOHANNA DER SCHLACHTHÖFE” and “MANN IST MANN” for Peymann’s Berliner Ensemble, the latter in a production by Manfred Karge, with whom a long-term collaboration began. In 2004 he wrote the music for Büchner’s “WOYZECK” in the production by Christian Vilmar at the Volkstheater Rostock. This was followed by the music for Karge’s piece “PETERSBURG – EINE GOGOLIADE” for the Théatre de Carouge in Geneva (2005) and for Lorca’s “DOÑA ROSITA” at the Théatre des Amandiers in Paris-Nanterre in the production by Matthias Langhoff.

Also in 2005 he wrote the chamber opera “ORLANDO FURIOSO” for 3 singing voices and 5 automatic musical instruments (a project by Roland Olbeter), which premiered in Alicante and was then shown several times in Barcelona.

In 2007 Michael Gross took over the musical direction of the WALLENSTEIN production by Peter Stein (with Klaus Maria Brandauer in the title role) at the Berliner Ensemble.

Furthermore, many chamber music pieces were created over the years, such as the “THREE DRUNKEN WALTZES” for brass instruments, piano music for the radio play “BLUE HEAVEN” (Radio Bremen 2004), the “STRING QUARTET (2009)” dedicated to Hanns Eisler and arrangements of Khatchaturyan’s children’s songs for wind instruments.

He has also continued to work as a trumpeter since moving to Berlin. In addition to other projects in new music ensembles, he has also performed as a soloist (premieres by Georg Friedrich Haas and Manos Tsangaris, among others), played improvised music in various ensembles (including with Butch Morris BERLIN SKYSCRAPER ORCHESTRA, with Elliot Sharp, Robyn Schulkowski, Joey Baron, Leonid Soybelman and many others) and in 2003 began a still ongoing collaboration with the Italian poet Lello Voce, played with Christian Wolff’s ensemble for Merce Cunningham’s Dance Company and toured with the Bremen band “SWIM TWO BIRDS“, with whom he also recorded 3 CDs. He also continues to play trumpet in the mother orchestra, which he leads and for which he writes all the music, including at court concerts in the Berliner Ensemble (2003 and 2004), with the BRECHT GALA there (2006, with Katharina Thalbach, Milva and the Kessler twins, among others), for the opening of the STEYRISCHER HERBST and in the project “FÜR BRECHT” on the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death (with Anja Krabbe and David Bennent as guest soloists).

In 2007, he began a multi-year collaboration with the Armenian orchestra and choir KOHAR, where he took over rehearsal leadership from 2009 and lived alternately in Yerevan/Armenia and Berlin for one and a half years for this purpose. Tours with KOHAR in the role of sound director took him to North America (including Carnegie Hall, New York) and Syria (Damascus and Aleppo).

In Armenia, he also composed for the folk-jazz-rock crossover project KOHARAPAYL, and performances in Yerevan and at the Beirut Jazz Festival followed. The CD “ARMENO JAZZ” was released in early 2012.

Also in 2012, Gross composed the music for the silent film “MUTTER KRAUSENS FAHRT INS GLÜCK” on behalf of ARTE, which was premiered by the MutterOrchester in the Berlin Volksbühne in April 2012. The recording will be broadcast by ARTE in November 2012 and is to be released on a DVD by the Munich Film Museum.