Customer Review

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killer coupling of two popular piano concertos, 31 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Tchaikovsky & Liszt: First Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
When releasing a disc with two multi-recorded concertos like the Tchaikovsky and Liszt First Piano Concertos, a young artist is taking huge risks. The Deutsche Grammophon label or not behind you, when you have to face the competition of a Horowitz, Gilels, Richter, Weissenberg, Argerich and so many other giants and lesser gods for Tchaikovsky, and again Richter, Janis, Zimerman, Argerich, among others for Liszt, you have to know what you are doing. But then again, 22-year old Alice Sara Ott has been a pleasantly surprising artist who seems to know where she's going, as could be experienced from her miraculous take on the Chopin Waltzes and her equally brilliant Lizst Etudes d'exécution transcendante.

And here again, Alice Sara Ott surprises in the most felicitous manner by giving us a recording that proves fascinating from start to end. Tired of hearing Tchaikovsky's 1st piano concerto? Nothing more to say about it? It's mega-popular so it's boring, right? Well, not exactly. Alice Sara Ott with her poised youthful enthusiasm and controlled abandon might be the perfect antidote against such feelings. From the ravishingly phrased opening, which for once doesn't slap you in the face, you realize she is inviting us for a thoroughly enjoyable ride, which promises to shed a refreshing light at about every corner or stop on a work deemed oh so familiar. And promise is kept. Listening to her Tchaikovsky was indeed like visiting an old friend who all of the sudden appeared much younger, brighter and more enchanting than one ever imagined.

Ms. Ott calls Tchaikovsky's piano concert in B flat minor "revolutionary" and she makes us hear and understand why. It's more than just the formal experimentation of the piece which she rightly emphasizes in the liner notes. It's, even more, through her own intelligent analysis of the canvas of emotional states that the concerto holds and which place it among the greatest of its kind, but which very few artists manage to disclose in such a captivating way, that she makes the strongest case for it. She doesn't sound mannered, capricious, vulgar, or just out to be different, everything seems to flow naturally from the feeling of the moment. (The Tchaikovsky was recorded live.) And that is a tremendous achievement for an artist of her age. Moreover, as could be heard in her earlier discs the quality and precision of her piano toucher is totally ravishing (and what an impressive recording DG gives us here). Every note sounds exactly right, possessing the right meaning, and while the more exuberant passages are undeniably thrillingly played, they are balanced by that equally impressively molded sonority which made her Chopin and Liszt such a treat. In this respect Thomas Hengelbrock and the Münchner Philharmoniker provide the ideal accompaniment. The second movement is a gorgeous moment, softly nostalgic and lyrical, with Tchaikovsky's orchestration sounding more beautiful than ever.

Alice Sara Ott's rendition of Liszt's 1st Piano Concerto is of the same calibre. Soloist and conductor avoid the pitfall of empty virtuosity, but it's above all Ott's stylistic accuracy and emotional flexibility which strike this convincing balance and hoist the piece above banality. We know from her Etudes she commands Liszt's range of colors like none else. It's the delicate, nocturnal quality of the quasi adagio which lingers on as much as the full-blooded bravura passages.

A sublime disc that makes me look out for the Second Piano Concertos.
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