Alice Sara Ott – review

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

No one expects a pianist in her early 20s, however prodigiously talented, to be the finished article. Yet Alice Sara Ott's recital was still a bit of a disappointment, not because of any weaknesses in the German-Japanese pianist's playing – her technique is as buoyantly brilliant as her recordings suggest – but because too often, even in a programme that had clearly been chosen to showcase the extrovert side of her pianism, it allowed her to skate over the surface of the music without hinting at what lay beneath.

The most substantial work in the recital, Beethoven's C major Sonata Op 2 No 3, was the main casualty. Ott had begun with a poised, gleaming account of Mozart's guileless Duport Variations, K573, whose mostly unruffled surfaces hardly seem like late Mozart at all, and then launched into the Beethoven with relish. But it wasn't just that she omitted the first movement's repeat, or didn't give the slow movement the space it needed, that made the performance seem undersized – there was something perfunctory about the way everything was presented, with no sense of music threatening to redefine the boundaries of classical sonata form as Beethoven did in these early works.

Chopin and Liszt took up the second half. The Chopin featured two groups of waltzes – Op 34 and Op 64 – which had a lovely fluency without much in the way of charm or, in the A minor Op 34 No 2, the music's unique weary sadness. The Liszt was the last two of the 12 Transcendental Studies and the Rigoletto Paraphrase. Ott was in her element here, dauntless in confronting the technical challenges of the Studies, if rather underplaying the climactic grandeur of Harmonies du Soir. Following such barnstormers with an encore of Beethoven's A minor Bagatelle, aka Für Elise, was unexpected to say the least.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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