By Anthony Kershaw
Ernst Ottensamer is long time Principal Clarinet of the Vienna Philharmonic. Which means he’s the top player in the top spot. Many consider the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra the world’s greatest (me, too), but others claim the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as the finest. Where there is no doubt is that both occupy the zenith of the Western Orchestral Tradition.
The Principal’s seat is so ‘hot’ that the Vienna Philharmonic employs an additional Principal to share the duties. Recently, Ernst Ottensamer’s eldest son Daniel won the position. An amazing family feat. Nepotism may go some way in the corporate world, but, in this orchestra, if you don’t have the heart or chops, you ain’t getting the job. End of.
But, the story continues. Ernst’s youngest lad, Andreas Ottensamer, just won the audition for Principal Clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic at 21 years old! The competition would have been fierce. So much for nepotism. I can’t recall a family tradition on one instrument so strong in such fine orchestras.
They have a CD or two in release where you can hear the family’s artistry on both clarinet and piano.