Karl Leister is a world-renowned classical clarinet-player. He was born in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. He learnt the clarinet from his father (also a clarinet player) at a very early age and later studied at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. Whilst still a teenager he was accepted to join the Komische Oper Berlin under Vaclav Neumann and Walter Felenstein as a solo clarinet-player.
He joined the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1959 under Herbert von Karajan – this productive musical association was to last for thirty years.