Seen and Heard International
Colin Clarke, 29 June 2019
Alice Sara Ott’s Deeply Considered Approach to a Concept Wigmore Hall Recital
“Debussy’s Suite bergamasque held many delights, not least the delicious scale at the end of the second movement (‘Menuet’). The ‘Clair de lune’ was a proper Andante, and absolutely lovely for it, while Ott’s staccato touch in the final ‘Passapied’ was a joy. The most impressive Debussy playing, though, came in the Rêverie, where Ott conjured a perfect haze via impeccable pedal technique, a transitionary, liminal sound that surely mirrored the whole idea of the programme.
Ott’s Satie was lovely, the first of the Gnossiennes coming across as almost Oriental in its language; the famous first Gymnopédie followed, with its superb right-hand legato, a hypnotising one-in-a-bar; the third Gnossienne closed the group with its poignant intervals fully honoured.
And so, to the trio of Chopin pieces, two distinctly nocturnal in both name and nature, one perhaps less so but that works as a concert closer. The first two Nocturnes from Chopin’s Op. 9 worked well, particularly the opening of the first, which eased its way in beautifully and naturally after the Satie. Ott’s octave legato is a wonder. The second of the Op.9 was perfectly chosen, that tightrope between light and dark impeccably negotiated; it also, here, held a sort of crepuscular waltz quality that linked into some passages (the 6/4 section) in the First Ballade. This performance of that infamous First Ballade was, in fact, wonderful, the lyrical second theme emerging as magnificently burnished in its loud(er) chordal statement. Perhaps the dynamic extremes were restrained in accordance with the piece’s bedmates – that is not a criticism, just a statement that there are multiple approaches and that context matters. The coda was notable for once not for its virtuosity – although that aspect was certainly there – but for the repeated, punctuating low chords between the scalic gestures, which here sounded like tolling bells at, indeed, nightfall.
This was a fascinating evening with a deeply considered approach to a concept recital, itself peeling off from a concept album. Like her DG stable mate Grimaud, Ott has a way with combining works to take one on a thought-provoking journey.”
photo credit: Deutsche Grammophon / Ester Haase