“Liszt’s Concerto plays fast and loose with form, jettisoning traditional movements in favour of evolving thematic development. The soloist, replacing Lang Lang at short notice, was Alice Sara Ott, who gave the kind of gawp-inducing bravura performance of which legends are made. The heft of her playing contrasts with the elegance of her platform manner.”
“Cancellations can be good news. When Lang Lang called in sick the day before his Barbican appearance, the search went out for someone else who happened to be touting Liszt’s First Piano Concerto around the world. And they found 22-year-old Alice Sara Ott, a German-Japanese pianist who had just played the work in San Francisco, and whose first orchestral recording (Liszt and Tchaikovsky) is hot off the press.
She more than filled the bill. With long black hair, long arms and long fingers, she bestrides the keyboard, and plays with a weight of resonance and authority which belies her years and her slender frame. There’s beauty, and mischief too, in her playing, which rings out with a freedom, fluidity and lack of contrivance which is entirely refreshing.
Ott is a keen chamber musician too. This was revealed in her intimate duetting with the London Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinet, Andrew Marriner – and later with the two leading violins. Dark-voiced diablerie danced out of the third movement wit its tingling triangle, and Ott’s fingers leapt from the keyboard as though scalded by the heat of hell. Little white feet pumped the pedals – Ott walks on and off barefoot. And the sheer joie de vivre of her playing ensured us an encore: an exquisitely turned performance of Chopin’s C sharp minor Nocturne.”
“She was grand and rhetorical (without forcing), lyrical (without cloying), glittering (without bling), fiery (but not of the flamethrower variety) and loving (without smothering), exploiting an affecting range from dramatically potent to caressing. She’s a sensitive accompanist, too. It was that good, and an awful lot happened in nineteen minutes! If youthful exuberance (German-Japanese Ott is but 22) threatened to runaway with the closing bars, the LSO and Harding were with her all the way, and there was nothing stand-in about her playing (Deutsche Grammophon has just issued her recording of the work, made a year ago) – indeed she seemed to savour every moment – or the evident teamwork established in an instant, Andrew Marriner gracing the first movement with some liquid clarinet solos. Ott offered an encore, Chopin’s C sharp minor Nocturne, the one that escaped an opus number, playing it raptly to a hushed audience. She’ll be back!”