Monday 19 August 2013

Clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer in works by Gershwin, Copeland, Debussy, Cimarosa, Beach and Spohr on his debut disc for Mercury Classics/Deutsche Grammophon

The Austrian clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer is Principal clarinettist of the Berliner Philharmoniker. After studying cello at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, he changed to studying the clarinet under Johann Hindler in 2003. He has been a member of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and deputised with the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 2009 he became a scholar of the Orchestra Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker, and from July 2010 to February 2011 was principal clarinettist with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

Ottensamer has won first prize in competitions for clarinet, cello and piano, and performs as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the world. His artistic partnerships include work with Murray Perahia, Leif Ove Andsnes, Leonidas Kavakos, Janine Jansen, Clemens Hagen and Yo-Yo Ma. In 2005 Andreas Ottensamer founded the clarinet trio The Clarinotts with his father Ernst and brother Daniel, both solo clarinettists in the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic.

His Viennese instrument, with a wider bore than the closely related German-system clarinet, produces a particularly dark, expansive and warm tone, which he exploits to full advantage.

In 2013 this schedule includes performances of the Busoni Clarinet Concertino and Copland Clarinet Concerto at the Seoul Arts Center in Korea (March), concerts with the Brahms Ensemble Berlin in Baden-Baden and Japan, appearances with his own Clarinotts at the Musikverein in Vienna (April), and commitments throughout the year as principal clarinettist with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

In February 2013 Andreas Ottensamer entered an exclusive recording partnership with Mercury Classics/Deutsche Grammophon , making him the first ever solo clarinettist to sign an exclusive agreement with the Yellow Label. His first album, Portraits – The Clarinet Album, was recently released and features concertos by Copland, Spohr and Cimarosa, plus arrangements of short pieces by Gershwin, Debussy and Amy Beach. His partners are the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra  under Yannick Nézet-Séguin .

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George Gershwin’s (1898-1937) Prelude No. 1 arranged from Three Preludes for piano solo by Stephan Koncz is played with flair in this short, jazz inspired piece, where Ottensamer does not ignore the occasional quiet, poetic moments.

Poetry abounds in the beautiful first movement of Aaron Copland’s (1900-1990) Clarinet Concerto, marked Slowly and expressively – cadenza, with Ottensamer providing some lovely long drawn sounds, rich, mellow and beautifully controlled. The cadenza is brilliantly done. I love how Ottensamer carefully moulds every little detail. There is sensitive accompaniment from Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In the rhythmic second movement, marked Rather fast, Ottensamer and the Rotterdam Orchestra are completely inside Copland’s writing. Ottensamer at times plays almost a chamber role with the harp and piano. He certainly knows how to have fun in the jazzier moments with some tremendous articulation and phrasing.

Claude Debussy 1862-1918) wrote his La fille aux cheveux de lin as part of Book 1 of his Preludes for Piano. They are arranged here for clarinet and orchestra by Stephan Koncz. In this well known little piece, Ottensamer again shows his beautiful sense of poetry. His superb control and expressivity brings so much to this little gem particularly with the larger bore Viennese clarinet that he plays, which gives a particularly warm tone.

Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) is more known for his numerous operas but here his Concerto for Clarinet and Strings is ‘freely arranged’ by Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960). There is a lovely little Introduzione, a buoyant Allegro, full of joy, with lovely rapid phrasing, an attractive Siciliana, nicely paced and a flowing Allegro giusto to end, with more fine, intricate playing.

The American composer Amy Beach (1867-1944) wrote her Berceuse as part of her Three Compositions for violin and piano Op.40. Here it played in another arrangement by Stephan Koncz. It is a lightweight, but attractive work given a lovely performance by Ottensamer.

I have on my shelves a recording of Louis Spohr’s (1784-1859) Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 1 in C Minor Op. 26 played by a certain Ernst Ottensamer. This I have discovered is the father of Andreas Ottensamer who performs that same work on this new disc.  Andreas Ottensamer gives a lively performance with his richness of tone often showing in the opening Adagio – Allegro movement, with some terrific articulation in the faster passages. Richness and warmth of tone are applied even more to the Adagio, where Ottensamer adds so much to the lyrical impulse of this movement. Despite its upbeat tempo, there is a gentle quality to the opening of the Rondo Vivace where Ottensamer applies so much care and sensitivity. As the movement progresses, there is some terrific playing, so articulate and full of panache. Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic give terrific support.

Ottensamer is a superb clarinettist with not only a wonderful tone, but a rather special way in which he articulates and moulds phrases. This new disc works well not only as an example of Ottensamer’s musicianship, but as a concert in its own right.

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