Pianist Sebastian Knauer has performed all of Mozart's piano concertos, conducting them from the keyboard. He is also known for performances and recordings of unusual repertory and novel programs.
Knauer was born in Hamburg on July 29, 1971, into an old North German mercantile family. He has lived for his entire life in that city. His father was a journalist and broadcaster, and his mother worked in the nonprofit sector. Knauer took up the piano at five, was recognized as a prodigy, and gave his debut in 1984 at Hamburg's Laeiszhalle. He studied in Hamburg with Gernot Kahl (a student of Edwin Fischer and Géza Anda), Karl Heinz Kämmerling, and finally Philippe Entremont, a mentor who played duo piano works with his young student. He also took master classes with András Schiff and Alexis Weissenberg. By the early 1990s, his career was in full swing, and he had begun a career of appearances with top orchestras including the NDR Symphony Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Between 1990 and 2001, he performed a complete cycle of Mozart's 27 piano concertos, conducting the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg from the keyboard. He followed that up with a Haydn concerto cycle with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Knauer has given solo recitals in more than 50 countries on five continents. For many years, conductor Roger Norrington was a close collaborator. The later part of Knauer's career has featured unusual programs, some of them under the rubric Wort trifft Klassik (Words Meet Classical Music), in which he collaborated with Klaus Maria Brandauer and other well-known German actors.
Knauer has recorded mostly for the Berlin Classics label, recording not only Mozart, Haydn, and the sons of J.S. Bach but also music by Bernstein, Copland, and Barber. He has issued two albums in collaboration with composer Arash Safaian: ÜberBach (2016) and This Is (Not) Beethoven (2020).