Concert Reviews – Alice Sara Ott with National Symphony Orchestra

ASO Concert Reviews, News

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23
National Symphony Orchestra and Edo de Waart, conductor
8, 9, 10 June 2017
The Kennedy Center
Hilary Stroh,

“Alice Sara Ott gives off an endearingly youthful charm, from her hurried stride and gracious manner, from the ingénue glamour, to her bare feet. ”

“Her performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no 1. in B flat minor, Op. 23 was notable for its immense power. Can she play with weight! She seemed to relish the very heft of the work, on several occasions, levitating off her chair so as to get the vertical height from which to produce the perfect storm of volume and speed that was needed. The audience, in defiance of concert etiquette, burst into a storm of applause after a magnificent end to the first movement. The second movement had a gentle elegance to it, and portrayed no undue self-indulgence in the matter of pacing. She showed off dazzling micro-movements of fingers in the scherzo part, which was thrilling to watch and listen to. The third movement had fire indeed, and one noticed her foot tapping, in sympathy with its exuberant spirit.”

Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

“Ott, the piano soloist, offered a lot of sleek polish as well. Everything about her was beautiful and elegant and of a piece, from her look (a sparkly column of an evening dress, and no shoes) to the fluidity of her runs up the keyboard.”

“she certainly has technique to burn, and the audience greeted her with a long and insistent ovation that succeeded in wresting from her an encore — Chopin’s waltz in A minor — that she didn’t initially seem to plan to give.”

Charles T. Downey, Washington Classical Review

“Ott took her time with the enigmatic introduction to the first movement. In the several cadenza moments, where she could apply heavy rubato, Ott gave a velvety finish to skilfully separated layers of voices. Her technical accomplishment was impressive, but she tended to pedal the octave sections heavily, blurring them into a cloud, which kept Ott’s signature bare feet in action. Her best playing came in the dreamy second theme, which sounds like a lost episode from one of Tchaikovsky’s ballets (“Clara meets the Icicle Children”). When that melody came back in the final cadenza section, Ott picked it out of the whirring trills in a dreamy, Debussy-like trance.

Ott kept the second movement simple and soft, a strict pacing supported by de Waart, whcih appeared to catch some of the NSO solo musicians off guard at times. She gave the fast section of this movement a fairy-light touch, her technique here the most scintillating, delighting in the circus-like atmosphere. Having taken some liberties earlier, Ott and de Waart ripped through the whirling finale, daring and Mephistophelean in spirit. Ott responded to extended ovations with an encore, a delicate, melancholy rendition of Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, op. posth. ”

photo credit: James McNellis/Twitter

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