Comparisons with the human voice immediately leap to mind whenever Andreas Ottensamer breathes life into his instrument. The Austrian artist's eloquence, virtuosity and beauty of sound combine to create music made with rare insight and soul. Ottensamer's celebrated tone – rich, warm, and infinite in its variety of colours – flows from the extraordinary empathy he has for his favoured Viennese instrument and is complemented by a peerless technique and uncommon musical wisdom.
Born in Vienna in 1989 into a distinguished family of Austro-Hungarian musicians, his late father Ernst was principal clarinet of the Vienna Staatsoper and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He took piano lessons before studying cello at Vienna's University of Music and Performing Arts. He soon stopped playing the cello after beginning clarinet lessons in 2003 with Johann Hindler, a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He was rewarded for the decision by competition successes and, at the age of sixteen, a first appearance as substitute with the Vienna Staatsoper Orchestra. After finishing school in Vienna, he enrolled as an undergraduate at Harvard University, but interrupted his studies there to become a scholar of the Berliner Philharmoniker's Orchestra Academy in 2009. He launched his orchestral career the following year as principal clarinet of the Deutsches-Sinfonie Orchester Berlin and was appointed to the same position with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2011.
In 2013, Ottensamer became the first clarinettist ever to sign an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. His debut disc for the Yellow Label, Portraits – The Clarinet Album, included spellbinding readings of concertos by Cimarosa, Spohr and Copland, made in partnership with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The album also contained miniatures by Gershwin, Debussy, and Amy Beach. It was followed in 2015 by Brahms – The Hungarian Connection, a personal exploration of Brahms's Clarinet Quintet presented in the context of works inspired by Hungarian folk music and was recognised with the coveted ECHO Klassik award for Instrumentalist of the Year. He also recorded an album for the Yellow Label in 2016 with The Clarinotts, the ensemble he formed with his father and his older brother Daniel, who is co-principal clarinettist of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Ottensamer has reached out to work with musicians in other genres, including Tori Amos, and has cultivated chamber music partnerships with, among others, Yuja Wang, Leonidas Kavakos, Janine Jansen, Lisa Batiashvili, Nemanja Radulović, Sol Gabetta and Nicolas Altstaedt. He has also performed at a Yellow Lounge club night in Shanghai with Yuja Wang – part of an Asian tour that featured recitals in Japan and performances with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra – with whom he also made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2019. Alongside his extensive work as concerto soloist and chamber musician, he is also the co-artistic director of the Bürgenstock Festival in Switzerland and artistic director of Berlin's Artström Festival.