Tragic news: Vienna Philharmonic principal suffers fatal heart attack

Tragic news: Vienna Philharmonic principal suffers fatal heart attack


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2017

We have been informed of the sudden, unexpected death of Ernst Ottensamer, principal clarinet of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera. Ernst, who was 61, suffered a heart attack last night and could not be revived.

His loss will be felt across the summits of the orchestra world, and far beyond.

His eldest son Daniel Ottensamer is second principal clarinet with the Vienna Philharmonic.

His second son, Andreas, is principal clarinet with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Our sympathies to his grieving family, his colleagues and his students. Ernst Ottensamer was a named that commanded universal respect.


UPDATE: Dominique Meyer, director of the Staatsoper, writes: Ernst Ottensamer was a wonderful clarinetist, one that informed ears could recognize 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.

UPDATE2: Statement from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra:

The Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera announce with deep sorrow the sudden death of long-time orchestra member Ernst Ottensamer, who has succumbed to a heart attack.

This loss leaves a deep personal and artistic void. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time. Ernst Ottensamer was born in Upper Austria in 1955 and studied clarinet at the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna. In 1979 he joined the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and since 1983 he has made his artistic mark as principal clarinetist of the Vienna Philharmonic. He began his teaching career at the Vienna University of Music in 1986 and became a full professor in 2000.

Ernst Ottensamer formed several chamber music ensembles, foremost the Wiener Virtuosen, the Wiener Bläserensemble, the Wiener Solisten Trio and, together with his sons Daniel and Andreas, The Clarinotts. He has performed as chamber musician and soloist with the most prominent ensembles, orchestras and conductors.



  • Benedict Lea says:

    Very sad news. May he rest in peace

  • Wilfried Berk says:

    So sorry … our thoughts are with his family

  • Wai kit leung says:

    This is terrible.

  • Sue says:

    Terrible news. Just awful. What a loss to the musical world of Vienna and his wonderfully close and talented family.

  • Thomasina says:

    Nooooon!! He is my favorite! drown in tears…

  • Alexis Hauser says:

    My deepest, heartfelt sympathy to Ernst Ottensamer’s family and to the Vienna Philharmonic for this immensely tragic and unexpected loss! Over the years, I was privileged to enjoy Ernst Ottensamer’s artistry in countless subscription concerts of the VPO. One of the most memorable events happened a few years ago when Ernst performed the Clarinet Concerto by Louis Spohr while his son Daniel played the 1st Clarinet Solo in Mendelssohn’s “Fingal’s Cave” – Overture.Father and Son
    on the highest imaginable level of true artistry and musicianship. Ernst will be terribly missed by the music world, but he will live on in both his sons Daniel and Andreas. Thank you, Ernst Ottensamer! May you rest in peace!

  • Heinz Haunold says:

    Bin sehr betroffen
    Ein feiner Kollege , fabelhafter Musiker und hochgeschätzter Pädagoge
    Wir beide OÖer , gleich alt , 40 Jahr’ im G’schäft , was er IMMER als Privileg
    empfand …….
    Du gehst Viel zu Früh …………., das war nicht der Plan !
    Mein Beileid Deiner Familie
    Du und Dein Spirit leben weiter in Andreas & Daniel …..- auch DAS ist Fügung

    Danke Ernst

    Heinz Haunold Bruckner Orchester

  • Prof. Hans Hofer says:

    Meine Gedanken sind bei seine Familie und seinen Söhnen. Ein grosses Kapital der Klarinettengesichte geht zu Ende.
    In grosser Anteilnahme
    Prof. Hans Hofer

  • Eleanor says:

    Deeply saddened to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing – a great loss to us all.

  • Sean O Riada says:

    I recall Ernst Ottensamer and Stefan Vladar playing the two Brahms clarinet sonatas many years ago, their recording is superb.

    With deepest respect, I dedicate this poem by James Joyce to his memory.

    At that hour when all things have repose,
    O lonely watcher of the skies,
    Do you hear the night wind and the sighs
    Of harps playing unto Love to unclose
    The pale gates of sunrise?

    When all things repose, do you alone
    Awake to hear the sweet harps play
    To Love before him on his way,
    And the night wind answering in antiphon
    Till night is overgone?

    Play on, invisible harps, unto Love,
    Whose way in heaven is aglow
    At that hour when soft lights come and go,
    Soft sweet music in the air above
    And in the earth below.

    • Constance Scheurer says:

      Beautiful tribute, thank you ; “And flights of Angels Sing thee to thy Rest”, Shakespeare

  • Sabrina Levinson says:

    Lets not forget that Ottensamer was part of an orchestra that still discriminates against women, Asians, black people, and whose cooperation with the Nazis was never fully disclosed.
    That orchestra should have in any case been disbanded after the war. ( The same goes for the Berlin Philharmonic. )

    • Gila Perach Hirsh says:

      While I can understand your sentiments, Ernst Ottensamer was the antithesis of those bad elements that for a time held sway over a magnificent orchestra. His only wife was a foreigner, his sons, at the highest level of clarient playing in the world also found time to play Klezmer music at Jewish old age homes. I knew him personally peripherally. He was a star in the firmament of human beings, family men, musicians, clarinetists, teachers. His offering to the world was enormous. May his memory be for blessings. A quiet thoughtful man he was hard-working, focused, dedicated and his stunning musical artistry was available to all everywhere. Losing him is an enormous loss to all who understand and enjoy the uplifting power of the music of the spheres. Gd bless Otti’s family and may his soul receive a groise Aliya.

    • Sue says:

      Dreadful comments, altogether.

    • DESR says:

      Let’s not forget that it is SJWs like you who, while virtue-signalling about your pet hobby horses, betray your basic lack of humanity and feeling. In what world is Herr Ottensamer responsible for the actions of his orchestra’s management years before he joined it? And what happened to nil nisi bonum?

    • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

      Yeah …

    • Bviolinistic says:

      @Sabrina Levinson, there is no discrimination in the orchestra. Anyone who is qualified may apply for an audition.

    • Thomasina says:

      I just wonder if you always attack or criticize without considering the feelings of other people.

    • Keith MacLeod says:

      A family and friends are in mourning and you put this shit out there!! Your are crap.

    • Flyingcat says:

      They have women players since 1992. They had Seiji Ozawa as their principal conductor. Why do you think the WPO still discriminates against them?

      • Bob Marley says:

        They have no black musicians, the ratio between female and male is nowhere near 50% and there seem to be mainly Austrians in the orchestra.
        A far cry from a multicultural, open minded and democratic institution.

        • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

          An Austrian orchestra with Austrian musician, where is the problem?
          Respect must be earned. Not everybody automatically deserves respect.

          • Sue says:

            This isn’t the place because we’re talking about the death of Ernst Ottensamer, but I would think the Vienna Philharmonic should not be prevented (by fair means or foul) from expressing its European identity. That’s entirely consistent with the flavour of the month; identity politics. It’s just that hurts people that taking pride in being European and being almost exclusively Viennese in particular is entirely consistent with identity politics but not what they particularly want – a game this orchestra didn’t start playing themselves. The Vienna Philharmonic is 175 years old and I think they should keep doing that thing they do. I love them all and I’m grieving the loss of Ernst Ottensamer just as I did when Gerhart Hetzel died in 2002.

    • Keith MacLeod says:

      A really thoughtless and cruel comment to a family suffering the loss of a loved one. Herr Ottensamer was a deeply daring and compassionate man. You are just mean person.

  • Alceste de Léon-Trégor says:

    Most sad and unexpected news. RIP…. Luckily we still have his recordings, notably the Ludwig Spohr complete and wonderful works for clarinet & orchestra (Naxos 8.550688 & 8.550689, and his Weber’s too (Naxos 8.550378). They would have deserved far more prestigious label and, may be, subtler orchestra accompaniment, for their own musical quality. A great loss for the Wiener Philharmoniker, without any doubt, and for all of us who endear the sound of clarinet.

  • Gloria Laube says:

    Immensely saddened by the loss of this outstanding musician and human being. My thoughts and feelings are with his wife and sons.

  • Leon Pollak says:

    Ein edler, feiner Mensch und ein großer Musiker ist von uns viel zu früh gegangen.
    Was für ein Verlust. Ernst Ottensamer hat so
    vielen Menschen mit seiner großen Kunst eine große Freude bereitet. Es ist so traurig, dass Er nicht mehr da ist und uns mit seinem Spiel nicht mehr erfreuen kann. Diese Meisterschaft lebt weiter in seinen zwei Söhnen. Was für ein Glück!.
    In großer Anteilnahme,
    Leon Pollak(Musiker, Leiter des Ensemble Klesmer Wien)

  • Anthony James Aquilina says:

    I am a Canadian retired from the Canadian Military Central Band; 32 years playing the Clarinet.

    I am deeply sad to learn about this sad new, I met the gentleman, also attended
    his Mozart Clarinet Concerto. May God gives him peace

  • Art Marshall says:

    The master has rested his clarinet on earth to continue to play angelic music in the true sense of the word.

    I wish his family strength in accepting this.

    Art Marshall

  • Amelia Rampini says:

    Anche se non ho avuto il piacere di ascoltarlo ed applaudirlo in teatro; ascolto ora un pezzo di Mozart, da me preferito; eseguito da lui e dai fhilharmonihen, ora andrà a farsi applaudire in paradiso ! Pace eterna, che il terreno gli sia lieve !

  • Guy Doyon says:

    Very sad, all our condolences to the family

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Terrible news. May he be granted eternal rest.

  • Keith MacLeod says:

    I am so deeply sorry to here of Ernst Ottensamer’s sudden passing. He was an outstanding musician and the definition of perfection. His tone and great musicianship was unsurpassed and profoundly inspiring.

    To his family I can only offer you my thorough condolences and thoughts. You have lost so much that the world owes you endless gratitude for sharing Ernst with us.

    With greatest respect.

    Keith MacLeod, Solo Clarinet, Victoria Symphony Orchestra

  • Benedict Lea says:

    @Sue, it is unbelievable but on the 29th of July it will be 25 years since Hetzel’s accident..

    • Sue says:

      Yes, I realized I’d got it wrong the minute I wrote that!! It was, of course,1992. There have been other notable deaths in the orchestra since then, of course.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    A wonderful musician, an inspiring perfectionist – and a great family. He will be missed. RIP

  • Samuel Pemberton says:

    I was saddened to hear of you loss. He and his progeny have given the world a legacy of beautiful music that will last forever. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.

    -Sam Pemberton
    Gallup, New Mexico, United States

  • Paul says:

    One of the truly great clarinetists and musicians of our time. I never met him but have been listening to him on recordings for many years and always with a sense of wonder at his technical and interpretive gifts.

    A terrible loss for his friends and family and, in the grander scheme of things, for everyone who loves music. He is gone but he shall continue to inspire.

  • Kathryn Densmore says:

    What a terrible loss.

  • Vincent de Luise MD says:

    Ernst Ottensamer
    One of the greatest clarinetists of our time.
    Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

  • Patrick says:

    My condolences to the Ottensamer family. May he rest in peace as we continue to listen to his awesome, God-given talent through his recordings. The world was blessed by his artistry.