Ottensamer and Wang, Together on "Blue Hour"

Jun 3, 2019

Andreas Ottensamer revels in the clarinet’s songful intimacy alongside pianist Yuja Wang in pieces by Brahms and Mendelssohn on this week's CD of the Week.

Andreas Ottensamer is a natural with the clarinet. He says that when he’s playing he inhales and exhales almost exactly as he does in normal life. His “normal life” features not only the kind of breathing required for long and autumnal phrases by Brahms, but also for professional-class soccer, tennis, and golf. Ottensamer truly seems to be living his best life, touring the globe with the world’s greatest musicians while holding his seat as principal clarinetist with the Berlin Philharmonic. He also runs a music festival and makes recordings.

Ottensamer's latest CD focuses on the clarinet’s mysterious and beguiling songfulness. He has teamed up with his own orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and his friend, pianist Yuja Wang, for a CD called Blue Hour – a constellation of arrangements by Ottensamer himself of Mendelssohn and Brahms piano pieces, and one of Brahms’s touching songs. These are anchored by a sparkling performance of Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 1 and his virtuoso Grand Duo Concertant.

The opening track is stunning, and it sets the recording’s intimate tone. Brahms’s Intermezzo, Op. 118, is universally loved for the way that it unveils the very essence of heartache. With Ottensamer and Wang trading off between melody and shadow, the whole piece seems new.

The same effect kicks in with group of Mendelssohn’s solo piano pieces called Songs without Words. These intimate jewels take on a new dimension on this recording; Ottensamer says that he reveled in the collaborative changes of mind that came up when working with Yuja Wang.

In Brahms’s song “Wie Melodien zieht es mir durch den Sinn,” Ottensamer simply takes the voice part – always aware of the poetry’s references to grey mist, spring flowers, and hidden fragrances – and the lyricism of his playing gets to shine in a wistful spotlight.

Ottensamer and Wang have profound imaginations for sound, and they’re able to imitate one another in a heartwarming way. Conductor Mariss Jansons brings just the right depth and balance to Weber’s concerto. These musicians understand the complex intelligence of the Romantic composers and the natural, heartfelt result they used it for.

Turn the lights out for this one.

Watch a trailer for Blue Hour:

For more information and to purchase this album, visit ArkivMusic.