The principal clarinettist of the Vienna Philharmonic, and father to a clarinet dynasty, has died unexpectedly at age 62.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has been rocked by the tragic and unexpected death of its principal clarinettist, Ernst Ottensamer. Ottensamer, who was also principal clarinet of the Vienna State Opera, died of a heart attack on July 22 at age 62.

“The Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic announce with deep sorrow the sudden death of long-time orchestra member Ernst Ottensamer, who has succumbed to a heart attack.” the Vienna State Opera said in a statement on its website. “This loss leaves a deep personal and artistic void. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”

Ernst Ottensamer, The ClarinottsErnst Ottensamer with sons Daniel and Andreas Ottensamer. Photo © Lukas Beck

Ottensamer was born in Wallern in Upper Austria in 1955, studying clarinet first at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz the the Vienna Musikhochschule. He joined the Vienna State Opera Orchestra in 1979 and has been principal clarinet of the Vienna Philharmonic since 1983. He has taught at the Vienna Musikhochschule since 1983 and was made a full professor at the school in 2000.

He has recorded the Mozart, Weber and Spohr Clarinet Concertos on Naxos and founded a number of chamber ensembles, including the Wiener Virtuosen, the Wiener Bläserensemble and the Wiener Solisten Trio. He has performed chamber music with the likes of Sir Simon Rattle, Sir André Previn, Daniel Barenboim, Rudolf Buchbinder, Julian Rachlin, Mischa Maisky and Angelika Kirchschlarge. He has also performed as a soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Budapest Philharmonic, Salzburg Mozarteum, Bruckner Orchester Linz and the Tokyo Philharmonic, working with conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Yutaka Sado, and Sir Colin Davis.

Ottensamer’s sons Daniel and Andreas are also highly successful clarinettists – Daniel is second principal clarinet with the Vienna Philharmonic while Andreas Ottensamer is principal with the Berlin Philharmonic (they have been referred to as the Viennese ‘Royal Family of the Clarinet’.) Father and sons have released several recordings as trio ‘The Clarinotts’, including a 2016 release on Deutsche Grammophon.

“Ernst Ottensamer was a wonderful clarinettist,” said Vienna State Opera Director Dominique Meyer in a report on, “one that informed ears could recognise without seeing him, as we would do with a human voice. I can’t believe I’m never going to hear his Clemenza di Tito or his breakfast scene in Der Rosenkavalier again. Ernst was also a lovely person. He often helped me when I needed it.”


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