Alice Sara Ott releases new album Nightfall, featuring works by Satie, Debussy and Ravel, including Gaspard de la Nuit, one of the greatest challenges of piano literature. The album marks ten years that Ott – one of the world’s most in-demand classical pianists – has been signed as an exclusive recording artist to Deutsche Grammophon.
Ott will tour the recital programme internationally, with European dates including Paris’s La Seine Musicale, Vienna Konzerthaus, Munich Prinzregententheater, Wigmore Hall and Birmingham Symphony Hall, plus a nine-date recital tour across Japan in autumn 2018.
Nightfall takes its inspiration from twilight: the brief, magical time when day meets night, light meets dark. This merging of contrasts is reflected in a programme of works that explores the complex dichotomy existing in every human character.
“I believe that as humans we all carry in us certain elements of light and darkness. On the one hand consciousness and conscience, and on the other the shadow of greed and temptation. Most of the time we can tell the difference between right and wrong, bad and good, but sometimes there are situations and moments when the boundaries cannot be so clearly defined.”
Included on the album is Debussy’s Clair de Lune, one of the most popular works in the piano repertoire, which sets to music the celebrated poem by Paul Verlaine. However, behind the beautiful, dream-like melody, the poem tells of the sadness disguised by the whimsical mask of happiness. Meanwhile Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit sets to music three poems by Aloysius Bertrand who, according to one account – felt he had received the prose from the devil himself. Ravel’s technical Everest is full of allegorical allusions, suggesting that it is in our dreams that our deepest fears arise. From Ondine the mermaid, who faces rejection after a doomed love affair with a human being, to Scarbo, the goblin who attacks artists at night, perhaps hinting at our fear of failure. In Gibet, the heartbeat of the deceased beats throughout the piece, bringing us face to face with loss. Satie’s Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes also feature on the album. Deceptively simple in their minimalist compositional style, the pieces by contrast contain much complexity. Instead of musical instructions, the score features a series of ambiguous, ludic instructions such as “open your head”, or “sculpt something hollow”.
Nightfall features three composers who lived, worked and died in Paris. Three contemporaries, sometimes friends, sometimes rivals, who were all part of a time that gave the art world a new definition and direction. Nightfall is accompanied by two short films, created in Paris, by the Tokyo-based French film director, Julien Lévy.