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Albrecht Mayer
Albrecht Mayer


Albrecht Mayer
© Holger Hage

Albrecht Mayer’s first encounter with music was as a member of the Cathedral Choir in his home city of Bamberg, an early experience which is perhaps partly responsible for the warm, singing quality of his oboe-playing. His artistry invites superlatives: people talk of a “divine spark” and how he has elevated the “miraculous oboe” to become an “instrument of seduction”.

He 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, while simultaneously achieving huge renown as a concert soloist. Among the most sought-after oboists of our time, he has appeared as soloist with such eminent conductors as Claudio Abbado, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Sir Simon Rattle and François-Xavier Roth. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2007 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and is an enthusiastic chamber player, his partners including Vital Julian Frey, Hélène Grimaud, Leif Ove Andsnes and Lars Vogt.

Awarded Bamberg’s 2006 ETA-Hoffmann Prize, in 2013 Mayer was inducted into the Gramophone “Hall of Fame” and awarded the Bavarian Culture Prize. He has also been honoured with the ECHO-Klassik prize three times, twice as Instrumentalist of the Year, and his recent album Mozart won the 2022 Opus Klassik for Concerto Recording of the Year. His best-selling autobiography, Klangwunder: Wie die Kraft der Musik mich geheilt hat (“The Miracle of Sound: How the Power of Music Healed Me”; written with journalist Heidi Friedrich), was published in September 2022.

Constantly in search of new repertoire, he 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 first DG recording, Lieder ohne Worte, a disc of Bach transcriptions for oboe and orchestra, went straight into the German classical charts at No.2, and he hit the German pop charts with New Seasons, an album presenting music by Handel in a stunning new light by giving opera and oratorio vocal lines to the oboe. In Search of Mozart, recorded with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, topped the German classical charts. In Venice, featuring Baroque concertos by Venetian composers, was followed by Voices of Bach, a selection of works by Bach for oboe, choir and orchestra; Drums ’n’ Chant, a collaboration with 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 anthology of Romantic treasures; and Let it Snow! with the King’s Singers.

2015 saw the release of Lost and Found, a collection of four little-known Classical concertos for oboe and English horn for which Mayer was both soloist and conductor of the Kammerakademie Potsdam. Issued in 2017, meanwhile, Tesori d’Italia featured performances by Mayer and I Musici of long-lost concertos by Giuseppe Sammartini, Domenico Elmi and Giovanni Alberto Ristori alongside Vivaldi’s much-loved Oboe Concerto in C major RV 450. Mayer’s next recording, Longing for Paradise, made with the Bamberger Symphoniker and Jakub Hrůša and released in 2019, featured music for oboe and orchestra by Elgar, Strauss, Ravel and Goossens, works linked by their composers’ experiences of loss and warfare – whether past, present or impending – and by a longing for beauty in the face of tragedy.

Released in April 2021, Mozart (“a feast for the ears” – Wiener Zeitung) is a personal tribute to a composer whose music he has loved for 50 years. Recorded with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and harpsichordist Vital Julian Frey, it features six works arranged for oboe, oboe d’amore or English horn, together with a specially commissioned completion of the fragmentary Oboe Concerto in F major, K 293 (416f). An extended edition of Mozart, presenting six additional tracks (including three transcriptions of arias from Die Zauberflöte), was issued in November 2021.

Mayer’s latest album sees him turn his attention from Mozart to the uniquely talented Bach family. Recorded with the Berliner Barock Solisten and Gottfried von der Goltz (solo violin/concertmaster), it includes works by Johann Sebastian, Johann Christoph, Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach. Bach Generations was released in August 2023.

Among the recent highlights of his touring schedule are appearances at the 2023 Musikwoche Hitzacker as the festival’s outgoing Artistic Director; performances of Peter Ruzicka’s Aulodie at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie with the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg conducted by the composer; and a gala concert with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester as part of Leipzig’s Bach300 Festival, marking the 300th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s appointment as Kantor of the Thomasschule.

His future plans include a chamber recital with friends at the 2023 Edinburgh Festival, featuring works by Mozart, Britten, Goossens and Moeran (August); a performance at the Seoul Arts Center with the Korean National Symphony Orchestra and David Reiland (October); and a series of concerts with the Berliner Barock Solisten featuring repertoire from Bach Generations in Frankfurt, Hanover, Düsseldorf, Bremen, Hamburg, Cologne, Regensburg, Munich and Berlin (December 2023).

Despite the pressures of his schedule, he has also 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 says. “For the very reason that our senses are of unique significance to human beings, I can hardly imagine being obliged to live with fading eyesight or even without any eyesight at all.” Such concern for others’ wellbeing 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 makers Gebrüder Mönnig.

August 2023

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