Karl Leister was born in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. His first lessons were with his father, who was a clarinetist with the RIAS-Symphony Orchestra Berlin. Between 1953-1956 he studied at the ‘Hochschule für Musik’ in Berlin and in 1957, by the age of 19, he was already solo clarinetist at the Komische Oper Berlin under Vaclav Neumann and Walter Felsenstein. In 1959, Karl Leister began his work as solo clarinetist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Herbert von Karajan. The 30 years of working together with Karajan was the most important and characterizing time for Karl Leister. At the same time his international career as a soloist and chamber musician began. His chamber music partners were moreover the Amadeus Quartet, Vogler Quartet, Pierre Fournier, Gidon Kremer, Rita Streich, Kathleen Battle, as well as the pianists James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Wilhelm Kempf, Gerhard Oppitz, Christoph Eschenbach, Bruno Canino, Elena Bashkirova, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Paul Gulda, Stefan Vladar and Ferenc Bognar. Furthermore, he played as soloist under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm, Seiji Ozawa, Eugen Jochum, Raphael Kubelik, Aaron Copland, Sir Neville Marriner, Paavo Berglund and Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos. Karl Leister is one of the founders of the ensembles Bläser der Berliner Philharmoniker, Berliner Solisten as well as the Ensemble Wien-Berlin. Since the foundation of the Herbert von Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Karl Leister has been teaching the young generation. Today many of his former students hold important positions with German or international orchestras. Simultaneously Karl Leister is requested at international festivals, concerts and master classes. Karl Leister obtained numerous awards and distinctions at national and international music competitions. Beyond that, he recorded the most important compositions of the clarinet literature on the following labels: Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Philips, Teldec/Warner, Orfeo, BIS, Nimbus, Sony, Camerata Tokyo. In 1987 he became an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music London. Between 1993 and 2002 Karl Leister was professor at the Hochschule für Musik Berlin Hanns Eisler.