Albrecht Mayer | Biography


Albrecht Mayer
© Holger Hage
Please note that because of the Covid−19 pandemic, we are currently unable to provide reliable information about forthcoming live performances.
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, despite his growing 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, Sir Simon Rattle and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2007 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and is an enthusiastic chamber player, his partners including Hélène Grimaud, Leif Ove Andsnes and Lars Vogt.
Awarded Bamberg’s ETA-Hoffmann Prize in December 2006, Mayer has also been honoured with the ECHO-Klassik prize three times, twice as Instrumentalist of the Year. In 2013 he was inducted into the Gramophone “Hall of Fame” and awarded the Bavarian Culture Prize.
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. 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.
His latest album, Mozart, 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 is set for release on 9 April 2021 and 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).
Last season Mayer travelled to Canada to perform concertos by Haydn and Fiala with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as both soloist and conductor; gave concerts in Germany with Camerata Salzburg and performed Koželuh’s Concerto in F major with the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg.
He began the current season with concerts in Potsdam and Dresden, and in early January 2021 joined forces with Vital Julian Frey to present arrangements for oboe and harpsichord of works by Marcello, Vivaldi and J.S. Bach in a special recital streamed on DG Stage. His future plans include concerts featuring repertoire from Mozart with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in Hannover, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Berlin and Frankfurt, and appearances as soloist and conductor at this year’s Musikwoche Hitzacker, of which he is Artistic Director (April/May 2021).
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.
January 2021
Follow Deutsche Grammophon online