Alice Sara Ott review

AN EMOTIONAL STANDING OVATION AT SYMPHONY HALL


Alice Sara Ott at Symphony Hall ***

She began the year celebrating ten years of recording with Deutsche Grammophon and undertaking a world-wide tour to promote her latest album Nightfall. Subsequent cancellations and health problems were explained when the thirty-year-old pianist was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. All music lovers wish her well and hope that she has many years of recital and recordings to come – exemplified by the small but enthusiastic audience's emotional standing ovation. The original recital plan was curtailed with Ravel's fiendishly demanding Gaspard de la nuit dropped, the interval omitted and a shortened programme played straight through.

There were no signs of any technical compromises or diminution of executant ability: trills crisp and clear, no excessive pedal, and the thunderous double octave run down the keyboard in Chopin Ballade No 1 was thrilling. My reservations were about interpretation not technique. With the platform hung in black and hall lights extinguished a certain elegant somnolence prevailed. It was perfect for the languorous Satie Gymnopedie No 1 but disconcerting when Chopin Nocturnes Op 9 No 1 & 2 were delivered in a similar style, elegant but slightly vapid. Debussy's Clair de Lune shimmered beautifully but Ott never found the poignancy of Arrau's perceptively probing reading. The other Suite Bergamasque pieces were slightly under-characterized and even Debussy's Rêverie has more to it than just placid beauty. Satie's Gnossienne No 1 can be intriguingly disturbing – listen to Aldo Ciccolini's recording – but here, as elsewhere, asperities were smoothed out, possibilities unexplored, all subsumed under a glossy sheen of sound.

Norman Stinchcombe

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