Albrecht Mayer’s first encounter with music was as a child, singing in the Cathedral Choir in his home city of Bamberg, and perhaps it was this early experience that still imbues his oboe playing with a warm singing quality that has audiences and critics alike paying homage to a remarkable player. His music-making constantly invites superlatives: people talk of a “divine spark” and how he has elevated the “miraculous oboe” to become an “instrument of seduction”.
He studied with Gerhard Scheuer, Georg Meerwein, Maurice Bourgue and Ingo Goritzki and began his professional career in 1990 as principal oboist of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Since 1992 he has occupied the same position with the Berliner Philharmoniker, despite his growing renown as a concert soloist. Among the most sought-after oboists of our time, he has appeared as a soloist with Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. In 2007 he made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Chamber music is also important to Mayer, and he performs it regularly in concert.
Albrecht Mayer constantly searches for new repertoire for his instrument and is fascinated by the idea of lending the voice of his oboe to pieces written for other instruments or for singers. He is especially attracted to the human voice, as the most “natural” of all instruments. His recording Lieder ohne Worte – Bach transcriptions for oboe and orchestra – immediately entered the German classical charts at number 2, and New Seasons entered the German pop charts, presenting music by Handel in a stunning new light by giving the vocal lines of operas and oratorios to the oboe. In Search of Mozart, recorded with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, made it to the top of the German classical charts. The album In Venice featured Baroque oboe concertos by Venetian composers. It was followed by Voices of Bach, with works of J. S. Bach for oboe, choir and orchestra; Drums ’n’ Chants, his collaboration with the young Austrian percussionist Martin Grubinger; Bonjour Paris, an album of music by Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Fauré, D´Indy and Françaix; Songs of the Reeds, a winning collection of Romantic treasures; and Let it Snow! with the King’s Singers. February 2015 sees the release of Lost and Found, four concertos of Mozart’s time for oboe and English horn.
He was awarded the ETA-Hoffmann Prize by his home town of Bamberg, Germany, in December 2006. He has been honoured with the Echo Prize by the German Phono-Akademie three times, twice as Instrumentalist of the Year. In 2013 he was inducted into the Gramophone “Hall of Fame” and also awarded the Bavarian Culture Prize.
Albrecht Mayer has an extensive touring schedule. After concerts in Rio de Janeiro and Săo Paulo in autumn 2014, his schedule takes in appearances throughout Germany and in Zurich and Copenhagen, including performances of Strauss and Mozart oboe concertos and many recital programmes. In addition to his work as a soloist, Mayer also conducts frequently, and in January 2015 will be acting as both conductor and soloist in a programme of Bach and Beethoven with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice in France.
Despite the pressures of his schedule, he found time to establish the Albrecht Mayer Foundation, a project that raises funds to save eyesight. “To me as a musician, hearing is of paramount importance in my life,” he said. “For the very reason that our senses are of unique significance to human beings, I can hardly imagine to be obliged to live with fading eyesight or even without any eyesight at all.” His concern for the well-being of others is the hallmark of a man whose emotionally charged music-making continues to bring great joy to audiences worldwide.
Albrecht Mayer plays an oboe and oboe d’amore by German maker Gebrüder Mönnig.