An Aus­trian shares his pas­sion for the clar­inet in Bei­jing

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By CHENNAN chennan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

An­dreas Ot­ten­samer, the prin­ci­pal clar­inetist of the Berlin Phil­har­monic, just had a hec­tic 48 hours in China.

Shortly af­ter land­ing in Bei­jing, the 27-year-old Aus­trian played ten­nis to re­lax. The next af­ter­noon, he gave a 90-minute master class and sat for in­ter­views, and then played another round of ten­nis. On his last day in the cap­i­tal, he played in a con­cert with Ar­gen­tine pi­anist Jose Gal­lardo on Thursday, dur­ing the on­go­ing 15th Bei­jing Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, the city’s an­nual event de­voted to clas­si­cal mu­sic.

“It’s bor­ing to just have one thing in life to ex­press feel­ings and ex­pe­ri­ences. Sports and mu­sic are two things keep­ing me en­er­getic,” says the clar­inetist.

The per­for­mance he gave in Bei­jing in­cluded his adap­ta­tion of a com­bi­na­tion of jazz and folk, such as Pi­az­zolla’s tango pieces, Car­los Gardel’s Por una Cabeza and Jo­hannes Brahms’ Hun­gar­ian Dance No 6.

“In our time of fast entertainment and un­lim­ited ac­cess to quick in­for­ma­tion and at­trac­tions, clas­si­cal mu­sic some­times seems dusty and strange. Withmy choice of pro­gram, I would like to speak to the younger gen­er­a­tion in par­tic­u­lar and show how ap­peal­ing and at­trac­tive clas­si­cal mu­sic can be,” says Ot­ten­samer.

“I al­ways try to be au­then­tic on­stage. It’s like an­ac­tor, who feeds emo­tion to the au­di­ence.”

Ot­ten­samer has been per­form­ing in China since2014. He sayshe’s al­ways happy to re­turn be­cause Asian coun­tries are en­thu­si­as­tic about clas­si­cal mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

He says that mu­sic is the be­gin­ning of his life. His clar­inet, he says, is like “the voice ofmy mother” — that’s so fa­mil­iar since his youth.

His father, Ernst Ot­ten­samer, and his older brother, Daniel Ot­ten­samer, are both prin­ci­pal clar­inetists with the Vi­enna Phil­har­monic.

In 2005, the father and sons formed a clar­inet trio, tour­ing Aus­tria, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan and the United States. This year, they have re­leased the al­bum The Clar­inotts — Ernst, Daniel & An­dreas Ot­ten­samer, which in­cludes pieces by Men­delssohn, Mozart and Rossini, and fea­tures the Wiener Vir­tu­osen string en­sem­ble.

“The process of learn­ing mu­sic is not merely prac­tic­ing skills. Mu­sic is al­ways there. My fam­ily of­ten plays mu­sic to­gether, which is a lot of fun,” An­dreas Ot­ten­samer says.

Clar­inet was not his first in­stru­ment. He had his first pi­ano lessons at 4 and his sec­ond choice — when he was 10— was the cello.

“One day, I picked up the clar­inet at home andmy father just let me go ahead,” he says.

“I like the sound of the clar­inet, which can be melan­choly, out­go­ing or crazy.

“I am very lucky that I had the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence var­i­ous in­stru­ments. It helps a lot to un­der­stand the dif­fi­cul­ties and pos­si­bil­i­ties of dif­fer­ent in­stru­ments and broad­ens your imag­i­na­tion of sound and in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

The young Aus­trian gained his first or­ches­tral ex­pe­ri­ence with the Vi­enna State Opera and the Vi­enna Phil­har­monic.

In 2009, he in­ter­rupted his Har­vard stud­ies to be­come a scholar of the Or­ches­tra Acad­emy of the Berlin Phil­har­monic. In 2013, he be­came the prin­ci­pal clar­inetist of the Berlin Phil­har­monic.

De­spite his achievements at a young age, the clar­inetist says that he has never had goals in his life “be­cause it’s dan­ger­ous”.

“I just fo­cus on the things I am do­ing, like the show I give in Bei­jing,” he says.

In 2013, he forged an ex­clu­sive record­ing part­ner­ship with Mer­cury Clas­sics/Deutsche Gram­mophon — the first solo clar­inetist to sign an ex­clu­sive deal with the la­bel.

His de­but al­bum, Por­traits — The Clar­inet Al­bum, was re­leased in­ter­na­tion­ally in June 2013. It ex­plores his love for both jazz and clas­si­cal mu­sic, with a pro­gram of wide-rang­ing mu­si­cal styles — from the early-Ro­man­tic in­ten­sity of Louis Spohr to the jazz in­flec­tions of Ge­orge Gersh­win.

He has just fin­ished record­ing a newal­bum, which goes back to the be­gin­ning of the mu­sic pieces writ­ten for clar­inet.

“In 1777, Mozart heard the clar­inet in Mannheim, a small town in Ger­many. Be­ing im­pressed with the in­stru­ment, he wrote a let­ter to his father, say­ing that he would write more mu­sic for this in­stru­ment,” says Ot­ten­samer.

For the newal­bum, he also in­vited his col­leagues at the Berlin Phil­har­monic to join in the record­ing.

“One of the big­gest chal­lenges I faced dur­ing the record­ing was be­ing with­out a con­duc­tor,” he says. “I did the job mostly by my­self and it was fas­ci­nat­ing.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Clar­inetist An­dreas Ot­ten­samer on his re­cent visit to Bei­jing.

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