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.