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May 9, 2019

The internet’s most famous clarinettist is playing with the ASO at Town Hall

A member of the Berlin Philharmonic, the first clarinet player to sign as a solo artist to iconic classical music label, Yellow Label, and with around 80,000 combined followers on Facebook and Instagram, Andreas Ottensamer is heralding a new generation of classical musician.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Supplied

It was inevitable that classical musician Andreas Ottensamer would turn to the clarinet.

His father, Ernst, was a principal clarinetist of the Vienna Philharmonic, for 34 years, and so too was his brother, Daniel. The instrument was so prominent in the Ottensamer household that Andreas recognised its tone before he even knew what it was.


Fond Farewells – Master Series 3
Adelaide Town Hall, King William Street, Adelaide 5000

Two performances:
6:30pm Thursday, 9 May
8pm Friday, 10 May

Tickets available here.

“It’s pretty historic, because I grew up in a family of musicians and the clarinet was just very preeminent, very dominantly there at home within the family,” Andreas says.

“I was already used to and comfortable with the sound of it, so I think it was really natural that curiosity overcame me and I wanted to try it.”

But jobs as are scarce in classical music worldwide, so Andreas kept his options open, maintaining interests outside of music, including sport (he would go on to found an amateur soccer league with his brother and some friends) and other areas of study.

And so it wasn’t until Andreas was around 20 that the opportunity came to move to berlin and pursue music as his main vocation. He started first as principal at the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, before joining the Berlin Philharmonic.

“You always have to be realistic, especially if you grow up in a family like this where you’re used to certain standards of making music,” he says.

“I always saw the danger of, in the end, being frustrated as a musician if I don’t reach what I’m aiming for… if there’s no available jobs or no room for another clarinet player. You might end up doing something you don’t really burn for.

“That was a danger that I took very seriously, so I was ready to do something else to avoid being frustrated with music, because it’s something I love too much to end up not being happy with.”

In the end, “it all settled nicely,” Andreas laughs. As the first solo clarinettist to sign to iconic classical music label, Yellow Label, it certainly seems so.

Andreas is in town to play with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra this week for Fond Farewells, happening on Thursday, 9 May and Friday, 10 May at Town Hall.

It will be his first interaction with the ASO, and he tells CityMag he’s excited to see how their performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto will be enlivened through his and the orchestra’s collaboration.

“It’s always exciting to have a new relationship building up with an orchestra, and to go somewhere for the first time is always a challenge, but it’s exciting because you might discover some new approaches, some new angles, and new musical inspiration,” he says.

“What I eat for breakfast also affects the outcome of the concert. That’s the beauty of the job, you know? It’s so fragile, in a good way, that it’s all so inspired and affected by everything every day – especially if you have 80 musicians giving impulses to you and sharing their musicianship on stage.”

In addition to his accomplishments as a musician, Andreas has also made a point of reaching new audiences in the digital age, sharing his life through social media in a way that not many classical musicians do.

With over 50,000 followers on Facebook and around 30,00 followers on Instagram, he’s been incredibly successful at bridging the divide between classical music and contemporary online culture. But that’s not to say he wants to win everybody over.

“If people are interested in it, then I’m happy to reach them by all kinds of means,” Andreas says.

“It’s always the question – it also doesn’t make sense to lure someone into that by being super hip and trendy, but then actually the people fall asleep in the concert, you know?

“I’m aware that it can pick up the interests of some people who aren’t following [classical music], which is great, which is certainly one of my main incentives, but also, especially on social media, I’m also just sharing my life, in a way, also, with people.

“If I can speak to people by showing my personality and showing them that I’m just like them, also interested in going out and having a drink or whatever…I think it’s a more honest way of approaching a young audience.”

Andreas will appear with ASO for Fond Farewells at Town Hall on Thursday, 9 May and Friday, 10 May. Tickets are available at the ASO’s website.

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