© Gregor Hohenberg
The pianist Sebastian Knauer was born in Hamburg in 1971 where he made his debut aged 14. He now looks back on a career lasting more than 25 years. His intense musicality which characterises his unique style of playing, has led to innumerable successes, establishing his name throughout the international world of music.
He has given performances in more than 50 countries on four continents, each time appearing on the most reputable stages like the Konzerthaus and the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Philharmonie of Cologne and Munich, the Gewandhaus Leipzig, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, London´s Wigmore Hall, the Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Tonhalle Zurich, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Auditori Barcelona, the Sala Verdi in Milano and, looking further afield, the Lincoln Center New York, the Herbst Theater San Francisco, Miami´s Knight Concert Hall, the Téatro Municipal in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the Oriental Concert Hall in Shanghai, the Forbidden City Concert Hall Peking, the Toppan Hall Tokyo and the Performing Arts Center Hong Kong.
For many years he has collaborated with his close friend, the conductor Sir Roger Norrington, and in 2006 Warner Classics published his all-Mozart CD with the Camerata Salzburg under Sir Roger´s baton. The German periodical Die Zeit claimed this as one of the best Mozart recordings of all times. Five years later he recorded for Berlin Classics “Bach & Sons”, this time with the Chamber Orchestra of Zurich, again conducted by Sir Roger Norrington. This recording too won international acclaim. Amongst the reviews were the German magazine Stern with “brilliant”, The Neue Zürcher Zeitung with “fantastic” and Die Presse, Vienna, with “excellent”. Past October saw a third collaboration on CD with Sir Roger Norrington. Sebastian Knauer as soloist and acting as producer recorded piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven under the title “Vienna 1789”. Fono Forum, RBB Berlin and BR Klassik excelled themselves with praises like “Huge Hit”, “Pure Enjoyment” and “Incredibly tasteful touch”.
Other conductors with whom Sebastian Knauer has collaborated are Fabio Luisi, Thomas Hengelbrock, Neeme Järvi, Vladimir Fedosseyew, Vladimir Spivakov, Ingo Metzmacher, John Axelrod, Jesús López Cobos, Simone Young, Michael Sanderling, Philippe Entremont and Jaap van Zweeden, with orchestras like Dresdner Staatskapelle, Bamberg Symphony, NDR Symphony, Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin, Hamburg Philharmonic and Symphony, Orchèstre Les Siècles, Real Filharmonia de Galicia, New York City Opera Orchestra, Russian National Philharmonic, Shanghai Philharmonic, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the chamber orchestras from Basle, Vienna and Tel Aviv.
Another aspect of his creativity is his unique programme planning, such as solo recitals, revealing relevant connections between the different compositions, or many projects in which he performs with his longstanding friend and duo-partner, the violinist Daniel Hope. Whether they appear in Europe, the USA or Japan – this duo earns enthusiastic acclaim from their audiences and the press. Their CD “East meets West”, issued in 2005, was rewarded with nominations for Klassic Echo and Grammy.
Sebastian Knauer has a particular affection for chamber music and has appeared with a number of renowned colleagues like the Emerson String Quartet, Phiharmonia Quartet Berlin, cellists Sol Gabetta and Jan Vogler, singers Anne Sofie von Otter, Bernarda Fink, Michael Schade, Olaf Bär, Hermann Prey, choreograph John Neumeier and Steward Copeland, percussionist of “The Police” in a variety of projects. He is a regular and welcome guest at many Festivals like Schleswig Holstein Musikfestival, Mecklenburg Vorpommern, Rheingau Musikfestival, Klavierfestival Ruhr, Beethovenfest Bonn, Musikfest Bremen, Schubertiade Hohenems, Vienna, Salzburg Festspiele, Gstaad, Vevey/Montreux, Bath, London, Colmar, Lincoln Center New York, Ravinia, Savannah,Santo Domingo and the Shanghai Arts Festival.
His repertoire is exceptionally extensive and multi-facetted. Time and again he is eager to discover new key areas, essential to his work. With his CD of George Gershwin´s entire solo repertoire he celebrated in 1998 the 100th birthday of this great composer, including the solo version for piano of “Rhapsody in Blue”. Another recording from 2001 featured the three great American composers, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber.
Together with the Hamburg Philharmonic Sebastian performed all of Mozart´s 27 piano concertos which he conducted from the piano between the years 1999 and 2002. This concert cycle had been specially designed for him. In 2007 he recorded the hitherto unknown “Sonate Oubliée” by Franz Schubert. A world premier recording, it received the highest praise from the press as being “masterful and a miracle in sheer elegance”.
As well as celebrating in 2009 Felix Mendelssohn´s 200th birthday with a CD entitled “Pure Mendelssohn”, which appeared by Berlin Classics and became the Gramophone Magazine´s “Editor´s choice”, he devised, played and conducted a programme of all of Haydn´s piano concertos on four evenings during the same year together with the Bamberger Symphoniker.
In the course of 14 years Sebastian created 28 programmes, entitled “Wort trifft Musik”. Each time one composer is brought centre-stage and various readings, relevant to his life, are being given alongside the music, performed by Sebastian himself. For these evenings he engages famous German speaking actors such as Hannelore Elsner, Martina Gedeck, Iris Berben, Gudrun Landgrebe, Barbara Auer. For special projects he appears together with the Golden Globe winner Klaus Maria Brandauer. Some of these programmes have been recorded by Deutsche Grammophon, as, for instance “Bettina v. Arnim und Ludwig v.Beethoven in einem Weltmeer von Harmonie”.
There is no stopping Sebastian Knauer when it comes to his enthusiasm for organising events. In 2012 he established his very own Festival mozart@augsburg of which he is artistic director. During the first half of September he offers concerts in Mozart´s city Augsburg, presenting artists like András Schiff, Menahem Pressler, Philippe Entremont, Sir Roger Norrington, Daniel Hope, Jan Vogler, the Emerson String Quartet, Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff, the Artemis Quartet, Hannelore Elsner, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Alfred Brendel, Rudolf Buchbinder, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and the Vienna Concert-Verein.
Sebastian Knauer has retained his home in his birthplace Hamburg, where he has traced his roots back to the 18th century, but by now he has become a true World Citizen.