Austrian clarinet trio breaks the silence of corona with a huge CD-anthology

“We have never done anything like this before”, says Daniel Ottensamer who is clarinettist in Die Wiener Philharmoniker. In June he released a big CD-anthology including seven CD’s together with two friends.

Klassisk bureau has had a talk with Daniel Ottensamer about what it took to make the project happen and what has been the outcome of it. A project that contains both well known, less well known and totally unknown music in many different genres. It has Danish music, too, and a mystery in 16 bars.

The noisy and forced silence during the corona lockdown didn’t get many roses from any part of the society. For Daniel Ottensamer and his friends, however, a total unexpected and huge production of sound appeared out of the paralycing silence. Actually also a new road in their career.


The three friends have known each other for many years and on a daily basis they unfold on top in the exclusive sphere of classical music in different places – Stephen Konc as a violoncellist in Die Berliner Philharmoniker, Daniel Ottensamer with his clarinet in Die Wiener Philharmoniker and Christoph Traxler as a self-employed pianist. But for some years they have been playing together in Philharmonix which is a modern orchestra with a jazzy take.


The trio-friends Daniel Ottensamer, Stephan Konc og Christoph Traxler love doing many genres with their classical instruments.

Foto: Andrej Grilc

The cover of the album.

During the lock down classical music ended up attracting attention from the three friends and they started rehearsing together which was something new. 

“As a trio we haven’t played together that long. In fact, this CD-box is our debut as a trio. Also, we didn’t see it coming that a bunch of requests for our concerts would appear. In that way the corona pandemic has actually offered us more jobs”, says Daniel Ottensamer who has to prepare concerts with his two friends for the forthcoming autumn and in 2023.

Besides the music itself an intense enthusiasm and the joy of playing are present at the CD-anthology. Most of all it seems like three happy kids getting a free ride in Disney World for a couple of days. “This project is not work for us. We did it of free will. It is three friends having a good time, as simple as that”, Daniel Ottensamer explains.


Like many other musicians he kept an eye and ear on the huge selection of streamings of classical music during the lock down appearing from official as well as unofficial sources.


“I was not very happy for all the outcomes on the internet – videos from the dining room ect. There was a bad athmosphere unworthy for classical music, and many streamings were not of good quality”, Ottensamer sums up. The three friends chose to do something else.


“We started to dive into the stuff for a clarinet trio. That was only possible because of corona”, Ottensamer concludes.


The all-encompassing silence also provided a bridgehead for a most exceptional efficiency in the trio. “It was eight months of rehearsing and recording”, Daniel Ottensamer corrects as Klassisk bureau was out of contact with the facts in this part. “We bought 35 pieces and asked each other: What do we like? Then rehearsal, rehearsal; every time we started playing a new composer, he or she was always the best! We ended up with 27 pieces, and together they represent a range of different sounds for a clarinet trio”, says Ottensamer. All in all it was not a problem to agree on which music to choose for the CD-box that includes music from 25 different composers.


Every CD is a section in the story about the clarinet trio as an ensemble. The seven CD’s follow the chronology of the history of music and represent composers from many countries. At the same time there is a stylistic theme on every CD. Daniel Ottensamer is the man behind that part.


“We’ve placed Beethoven and Brahms in the beginning of the anthology – the two composers who started and established the music for this constellation. Every CD has its own story to tell and I’ve spent much time to arrange each of them”, says Ottensamer. It has been the aim for the trio to mix and keep a good balance between well known and unknown music.


“The last CD is Northern and British and has a very interesting sound. Though, it takes time to get to know this type of music,” Ottensamer assesses. Besides the newest music there are also works by Robert Kahn, Friedrich Cerha and Carl Frühling – music that might be a new experience for most listeners. On CD nr. 6 you find Danish music by Per Nørgaard in his work “Spell”.


Also, the trio has dared to go to the limit of what is technically possible especially in Friedrich Cerhas work. “Not only does he go to the limit. He tries to cross the limit but not in a stupid way,” Daniel Ottensamer puts it. He adds that for him personally music must stay musically. “If music is only sounds it is not enough. Cerha is also very modern but his music is still musically”, Ottensamer points out.

"Every CD has its own story to tell and I’ve spent much time to arrange each of them".

Daniel Ottensamer, clarinettist

The three friends are together in both old and new music and they regard all instruments equal even though they are very different and belong to different groups of instruments in an orchestra.


“We’ve tried to find a good sound that makes it difficult to hear who is actually playing”, Ottensamer tells us about this difference. “At the same time it has been important for us to make the music clear for the audience – especially the more unknown works. The music must be understandable. And this project is only possible because we know each other very well”, he adds.

It seems that the project is personal in more than one way: The solid friendship among the three musicians is the nerve itself in the music. The agreement and tight fellowship are the cohesion and the source for the music.


Then there was the mystery. In 16 bars written by A. Schönberg. He never finished the piece and we don’t know the background of it. The 16 unique bars last around 30 seconds and have never been recorded before. Stylistically, they are similar to A. Zemlinsky and therefore the mystery and Zemlinsky are placed side by side in the anthology.

The music might be looking in many directions.
In "The Clarinet Trio Anthology" however, all roads lead to Vienna somehow.

Foto: Andrej Gilc

On the next CD in line there is another curiosity hidden. That is “Clarinet Trio Opus 120” by G. Fauré, originally meant to be music for a clarinet trio. However, Fauré was advised to change the clarinet into a violin because the violin back then was very popular. Now the clarinet is back and the piece can sparkle in its origin sound.

Last, but not least there is an overall thought in the anthology: Every road leads to Vienna.

“It all started in Vienna where Beethoven and Brahms composed the first music for the clarinet trio”, Ottensamer says. “They are the role models for all later composers and that is why there in general is a special sound of Vienna in every piece – even by Robert Cahn”.


The anthology offers a total play of 7 hours and 42 minutes.

Published on 11 August 2022

Rachel Einarsson

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