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NEW CD: Brahms Clarinet Sonatas op. 120 and Piano Pieces op. 119



Described in the German press as a consummate performer and scholar, Nicolai Pfeffer has been praised in the magazine DER SPIEGEL for his distinctive blend of fluid technique, his colourful, brilliant tone, and unique musical voice. Even as a student he was described by the legendary Viennese clarinettist Alfred Prinz as “an excellent clarinettist and a sensitive musician — who plays with both complete technical control and imaginative musicality.” 


Among the younger generation, Nicolai Pfeffer is already in considerable demand, at home and abroad, as a soloist, chamber musician, and a teacher of students at an advanced level. His new editions of masterworks, based on the detailed examination of the composers’ autographs, early copies and prints, and his original arrangements of virtuoso works for the clarinet, have gained international approval and recognition as a result of having been accepted by one of Germany’s most respected music publishers of urtext editions.


Born in 1985 in the city of Fulda, Germany, Nicolai Pfeffer began his formative studies under the guidance of the German-American clarinettist Bruce Edwards. He also caught the attention of the world-renowned Bamberg German clarinet makers Werner Schwenk and Jochen Seggelke, who have supported his career and to whose instruments he remains faithful today. Nicolai Pfeffer studied with Ralph Manno at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne, where he graduated with a Diploma in Clarinet and a Master of Music degree in Solo and Chamber Performance cum laude “with Honours”. He completed his postgraduate studies under Howard Klug at Indiana University Bloomington, (USA). During his studies, he drew great inspiration from his masterclass experiences with Sabine Meyer (Lübeck), Sharon Kam (Hanover), Anthony Spiri (Cologne), Karl Leister (Berlin), Alfred Prinz (Vienna), and Sir Alan Hacker (London).

Nicolai Pfeffer has been the recipient of many prizes, scholarships and grants, including awards from the Oscar and Vera Ritter Foundation, the Xiao Yi Association, the Horst and Gretl Will Foundation, and the International Richard Wagner Scholarship Foundation. His orchestral experience includes tenures with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the Cologne Opera, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and the Bamberg Symphony. He has played in several major concert halls in Germany including Munich's prestigious Herkulessaal, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Cologne Philharmonie, and at many high-profile festivals in Europe, the United States, South America and the Middle East. He is also an enthusiastic soloist and chamber musician, and for many years has performed extensively with the pianist Felix Wahl. Mr. Pfeffer made his solo debut with Milan’s La Scala Orchestra under Maestro Fabio Luisi in the summer of 2018.

Nicolai has frequently participated in concerts with a large group of musicians and chamber ensembles, including pianists Cathy Krier, Michail Lifits, Mariya Kim, Michel Dalberto, Mario Häring, Terhi Dostal, Simone di Crescenzo, George Harliono, Paul Cibis, violinists Ida Bieler, Yury Revich, Niklas Liepe, and cellists Leonid Gorokhov and Benedict Klöckner, as well as singers Ingeborg Danz and Maria Aleida, the Ensemble Clarinesque, the Alinde and Asasello String Quartet, and the Chamber Soloists of Detroit. While playing a broad repertoire Mr. Pfeffer is increasingly committed to the performance and emergence of new music by such composers as Dirk-Michael Kirsch, Greg Bartholomew, and Michael Ostrzyga. In 2019 Mr. Pfeffer will present the premiere of a concerto for clarinet and large orchestra written for him by the Berlin-based Israeli composer Gilad Hochman. During the 2017/18 season he premiered his orchestrations of Italian opera fantasies, some of which are now published by Breitkopf & Härtel. In 2019, he will present a new belcanto-inspired program with the Italian pianist and scholar Simone di Crescenzo.

Nicolai Pfeffer's debut recordings include works by Robert Schumann, Max Reger and Alban Berg, followed by his most recent and highly-acclaimed recording of the two Clarinet Sonatas of Op. 120 by Johannes Brahms (CAvI Music) which, since its release, has received unanimous praise from music critics throughout Europe:

“In woodwind heaven—pure Brahms” (Der Spiegel), “The interpretations of the Pfeffer-Wahl duo radiate with the finest poetry” (German Clarinet Association), “Wahl and Pfeffer give these special pieces a moving humility. Like an intense and captivating dialogue, the subtle interplay of these two musicians conjures up a complex portrait of the mature composer” (Crescendo). “Extraordinary depth” (Klassik heute). “In his portrayal of the sonatas, he has clearly worked out the personal concerns that speaks from the works. He succeeds in balancing a deep understanding, with a lightness of touch.” (Pizzicato Luxemburg) 

The same passion and expertise that drives Mr. Pfeffer’s performances also inspires his musicological research and teaching activities. He is a much-sought instructor at the Grünwald School of Music in Munich, and serves on the clarinet faculties of the prestigious Cologne Hochschule für Musik, the Pre-CollegeCologne, the Hanover für Musik, Tanz und Medien, the Bremen Hochschule für Künste, and Lars Vogt’s ECHO-prize-winning “Rhapsody in School”. He has given masterclasses and lectures at universities and conservatories in Cologne, Frankfurt, Michigan, and many others. This season, Nicolai Pfeffer has been invited to hold masterclasses and lectures in Rouffach (France), Utrechts Conservatorium (Netherlands) and at the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music (China). He’s also a frequent juror in national and international clarinet and chamber music competitions, such as the Concorso Internazionale Saverio Mercandante, held in Bari, Italy.

Nicolai Pfeffer is much involved in the development of new scholarly editions for clarinet chamber music and solo literature. The fruits of these labours are to be found in critical editions published by G. Henle Verlag, Breitkopf & Härtel, Bärenreiter, and Edition Peters, which have collectively received high praise from experts for their exemplary textual criticism. Specially crafted arrangements were also made for leading prominent colleagues Ralph Manno, Jonathan Cohler, Andrew Marriner, Gabor Varga, Pavel Vinnitsky, Sérgio Fernandes Pires, Anette Maiburg, the Signum Saxophone Quartet, Jonas Kaufmann, Guido Schiefen, Sabine Meyer, and many others. Mr. Pfeffer is also a frequent contributor to the international specialist journals “The Clarinet,” “Rohrblatt,” and “Clarinet Didactics”, a pedagogy project of the Lucerne School of Music, Switzerland.

Rounding off his wide-ranging activities are masterclasses for the Baremboim-Said Foundation and radio and television broadcasts for Sky Classica, SRF as well as Germany’s public broadcaster ARD, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and Hessischer Rundfunk. Nicolai Pfeffer is proud to be a Silverstein and Schwenk & Seggelke performing artist.



There is no doubt that we owe the creation of Johannes Brahms' last piano and chamber music works to his meeting with the Meiningen Court Orchestra's exceptional clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, who inspired Brahms to new heights of creativity. The complementary sonatas op. 120, with their interwoven motifs, are full in equal measure of exuberant joy, driving passion and moments of picturesque calm. A kaleidoscope of emotions, and a sublime, pioneering gift for his admirers and musical successors. In a subtle musical dialogue, Nicolai Pfeffer and Felix Wahl present a refreshing, high-contrast image of this late work, full of powerful yet lyrical nuance.

official album trailer:
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Nicolai Pfeffer Klarinettist




Nicolai Pfeffer successfully straddles the performing and scholastic realms of clarinet: The same passion that drives Mr. Pfeffer’s playing also inspires his musicological research. In addition to his numerous performance and educational activities, Nicolai Pfeffer is an ardent proponent for the creation of new scholarly editions of chamber music and solo pieces for the clarinet. The fruits of these labors are manifested in highly-acclaimed critical editions published with Edition Peters, G. Henle, and Breitkopf & Härtel. More of Mr. Pfeffer’s scholastic projects are available below:


Donato Lovreglio’s Fantasia on Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” has enjoyed great popularity with audiences for many years and has justifiably established itself in the standard repertoire for clarinettists. The enchanting blend of the opera’s most popular melodies’ nuanced transposition to the solo instrument, paired with the tremendous virtuosity of the clarinet, brings a brilliant, operatic atmosphere into the concert hall. Nicolai Pfeffer’s arrangement of the Fantasia for clarinet and orchestra represents a valuable enrichment in Italian solo repertoire for the clarinet, and wins the listener over with an extremely vibrant, orchestration appropriate for Verdi’s gorgeous music. The solo voice is taken from the composition’s first edition, published by Ricordi in 1865.


Swedish composer Bernhard Henrik Crusell—a clarinet virtuoso of international acclaim himself—was for many years a well-kept secret among clarinettists. However, his enchanting concertos have slowly found their way to the concert stage and enriched the early Romantic repertoire. Crusell’s works need not shy away from comparisons to Weber’s and Spohr’s clarinet literature. Our Urtext edition of the f-minor concerto marks the beginning of a new publication series of all three clarinet concertos by Crusell, which has been entrusted Nicolai Pfeffer. Since he combines editorial experience with many years of performance practice, the works are in the best possible hands.


As a specialist in Bruch’s later works, musicologist and performer Nicolai Pfeffer has created the first authoritative Urtext edition of Bruch’s long little-known Double Concerto, (op. 88) from 1911. For clarinettists as well as violists, this solo-work is a very attractive addition to the repertoire of the Romantic period. Bruch’s own adaptation of the clarinet part for violin also grants this edition an attractive alternative for instrumentation. Moreover, ​the autograph piano reduction makes it possible to perform the work in more intimate settings. This critical edition includes a detailed foreword and critical commentary, (in both German and English) and a clean, clear layout with optimal page-turns.



The Concert Fantasy (Konzertfantasie) on Themes from Verdi's opera "Rigoletto" is probably the best-known composition of the Italian clarinettist Luigi Bassi (1833-1871). This dramatic work has become a fixture of the clarinettist’s repertoire and remains an audience favorite. Bassi, who served as principal clarinet at La Scala itself, united the lyrical qualities of the clarinet with the captivating virtuosity that characterizes Verdi's music in his opera fantasies. Bassi's compositional output, although primarily built on the genre of opera fantasy, included pedagogical works, clarinet duos and a clarinet concerto in autographed manuscripts. Our edition is grounded in the original manuscript of the Konzertfantasie—dating 1865. This edition also includes another, previously-unknown, Rigoletto adaptation penned by Bassi—an earlier introduction to the quartet "Bella figlia dell'amore"—bringing sophisticated and skillful ornamentation with an unmistakable opera atmosphere to the concert hall. This traditional piano version can be purchased through Breitkopf & Härtel, or rented on-hire as a package for clarinet and full orchestra from Breitkopf & Härtel (Wiesbaden). An arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra can be purchased here.



Along with Robert Schumann’s identically titled op. 73, the Fantasiestücke of 1864 by the Danish composer Niels Wilhelm Gade are an essential part of the repertoire of all clarinettists. Gade lived in Leipzig for a long time and had been among Schumann’s close friends. With this deeply romantic composition, he made an important contribution to establishing the clarinet as a chamber-music soloist. The four pieces in this collection can of course be performed separately, and are ideal teaching material. Our editor, the clarinettist Nicolai Pfeffer, has drawn upon the German and Danish first editions and the autograph in Copenhagen as sources, and consequently has been able to eliminate several discrepancies found in older editions.

More interesting music editions for clarinet can be found on the German version of this site. Please don't hesitate to send an e-mail if you should have any questions about a particular edition.  


After holding a fellowship from Yehudi Menuhin’s ‘Live Music Now’ for three years, Nicolai Pfeffer is now fully engaged in the music educational program ‘Rhapsody in School’—a high-profile, nation-wide project established by the German concert pianist Lars Vogt in 2005. This program provides opportunities in primary and secondary schools for musicians to share and pass on their enthusiasm for classical music. 



Would you like to stay updated about upcoming performances in your area? Please write us an e-mail at or fill out the contact form below. Thank you for your interest. We look forward to your comments and questions!

Nicolai Pfeffer


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