Alice Sara Ott at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Variations in D on a Minuet by Duport, K573
Piano Sonata No.3 in C, Op.2/3
3 Waltzes, Op.34; Waltz in D flat, Op.64/1 (Minute Waltz); Waltz in C sharp minor, Op.64/2
Etude d’exécution transcendante – No.11 in D flat; No.12 in B flat minor (Chasse-neige)
Concert paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto

Alice Sara Ott (piano)

Reviewed by: John Amis

Reviewed: 22 November, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Alice Sara Ott. Photograph: Felix Broede & DGAlice Sara Ott is a fine young pianist. There was nothing unusual about her programme, but here playing was. Edwin Fischer wrote that performers “made their greatest impact when they played not in accordance with an interpretation all cut and dried beforehand but when they surrendered to the sway of their imagination.” That was the crucial quality of Ott’s performance. How did she acquire such mastery in her twenty-three years? Her technique was never in question; it was perfect, and what is more, she made beautiful sonorities. Her technique was used as a springboard towards making significant music. And in the second half she transported us to a higher plane.

During my long life I have heard Gieseking, Cortot, Lipatti, Horowitz, Richter, Michelangeli, Schnabel, Brendel, Lupu, Perahia and many other great pianists – added to them now is Alice Sara Ott, no doubt about that.

Mozart and Beethoven were both great pianists and played on the same kind of instrument (Beethoven bust strings right and left). Fourteen of Beethoven’s first twenty opuses are for the piano. Liszt played Chopin’s music although Chopin did not return the compliment. Isn’t it curious that the majority of Chopin pianists do not play the music of Liszt, and vice versa? It seems that young Alice may be an exception to the rule.

Too often we hear Chopin’s Waltzes orchestrated for the ballet but their subtleties are not suited for that medium. This rubato – what Fischer was writing about – was what brought life, colour and understanding to Ott’s playing of Opus 34 and Opus 64. In Liszt she performed climaxes of passion and intensity.

I must report on the enthusiasm roused in the audience by this handsome, slim girl in a simple white dress. We would have willingly stayed for more than the two encores she gave us: Beethoven’s Für Elise and Liszt’s La campanella, the former limpid and cantabile, the latter exciting to a degree. Alice Sara Ott is already the mistress of her art and will give future audiences the greatest pleasure.

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