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Classical - Released July 30, 2021 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Pianist Alice Sara Ott offers a complete set of Chopin's preludes for piano here, in order, but framed and interspersed with short contemporary piano compositions. These appear at the beginning and end (the latter composed by Ott) and then after each group of four preludes. The concept isn't one that Chopin or Liszt would have found too unfamiliar, and Ott is a strong Chopin pianist with the ability to draw listeners in without being excessive about tempo rubato. Try one of the famous pieces like the Prelude No. 4 in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4, which has a fresh feeling despite the work's ubiquity. Ott suggests extramusical associations for both the Chopin pieces and the modern works, and while, of course, her reactions are her own, it may be that this device works a bit less well for the preludes than for Chopin's works in other genres. More than other Chopin works, the preludes are intricately technical pieces, with some of the most daring harmonic moves in the whole Chopin canon. In this technical sense, though, Ott's program succeeds beautifully. In her hands, the range of Chopin's influence in the 20th century is revealed to be startlingly wide, extending from the cinematic semi-pop of Nino Rota and Chilly Gonzales to Ligeti's modernism to Arvo Pärt's minimalism. The whole program has a delightful sense that one is exploring Chopin and then pausing periodically to look forward in time as if to see what hidden secrets time might reveal in his music. A typically imaginative release from this fine pianist. © TiVo
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Classical - Released July 5, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott is a performer who appears to care more about the score and the composer than about her image and interpretations. After promoting Lang-Lang, a pianist of maximal technique but debatable taste, DG has given Ott an exclusive recording contract, and her first release, the complete waltzes of Chopin, shows her to be a pianist of taste and restraint. That is not to say that her performances here are ever less than dazzling, because she plays with supreme ease, or any less than affecting, because she brings out everything in the scores, from sparkling wit to darkest melancholy. But Ott is not interested in demonstrating her technique or in grandstanding her interpretations. Everything here is in the score: the tender countermelodies, the long legato phrasing, the exquisite harmonic balances, and the lilting rubato. It sounds fresh and natural because Ott herself seems fresh and natural, and apparently not at all a showoff. Though by no means the greatest performances of the waltzes ever recorded -- Dinu Lipatti's EMI recording is now and likely always will be the most beautiful, the most masterful, and the most moving version of these works -- Ott's recording is well worth hearing by anyone who loves the music. The sound of DG's digital recording is limpid. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 24, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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The German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott is one of several young artists trying to break out from the pack of young recitalists, with creatively enjoyable results for listeners. She cultivates a high-fashion look and, still unusually in the concert music realm, uses videos to promote her music. Here she takes a venerable theme, that of the musical nocturne, and tries to bring fresh approaches to some familiar works. Partly it's that some of the music isn't conventionally thought of as "night music"; the Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies of Satie don't specifically refer to nightfall, and despite its title, Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit is no nocturne. Except that, in Ott's hands, it is. Nightfall for her is not a mere atmospheric mood but a moment of deep introspection, and many of her interpretations run counter to type or seem to raise psychological issues. Sample the technically perilous Scarbo movement from Gaspard de la nuit, which is generally a test of pianistic muscle. Ott, in her own trenchant notes, tells you that Scarbo is instead "a gnome who attacks artists in the night and drinks their blood, [and] confronts us with our fear of failure." It's a novel idea but perhaps one not so removed from Ravel's own conception of the work, despite his stated intention of simply outdoing Balakirev's Islamey in terms of sheer virtuosity. Her Debussy is likewise unsettled, with shifts between light and shade that are not smoothed out. A highly recommended outing from a promising rising star. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 9, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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The Wonderland in the title of this release by the young pianist Alice Sara Ott is merely the music of Grieg, well-worn favorites of which are sampled here. To add to the sum total of interpretive knowledge for the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, is a tall order, but Ott delivers here in a live performance with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen. From her brilliant first note, her reading is a series of sharp markers filled in with liquid, lyrical episodes. The whole thing is carefully shaped, yet has the essential energy of live performance. In the short selections from the various books of Lyric Pieces and from the Peer Gynt Suite Ott is a little more conservative, but her gossamer, web-like technique in lyrical passages is never less than enjoyable to hear. There are reasons for the buzz surrounding this young artist, and this well-recorded program is an excellent place to start exploring what those reasons are. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 9, 2014 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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The contents of this release are a good deal less adventurous than the marketing would suggest, but that doesn't mean it's not a fine program of duo piano music from the 19th through the 21st centuries. With the exception of the opening minimalist A Soft Shell Groove by one of the pianists, Francesco Tristano, all the music is played in transcriptions by the composers themselves and sounds as it would have in the days when it was commissioned by dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev (who commissioned all three of the earlier works). The best news is that these transcriptions are somewhat neglected, and Tristano and his performing partner Alice Sara Ott essentially re-create what would have been an exciting program of avant-garde music from the time just before the mass distribution of recordings. Stravinsky's condensation of the vast orchestra canvas of Le Sacre du printemps is especially nifty, and the duo shifts gears effectively between Stravinsky and the much more sentimental world of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. All the music is rooted in dance, but the contrasts among the four works are enormous. The concluding La Valse is as dark a vision of a doomed decadent society as one might wish, with waltz tunes threading their way through growing cacophony as intricately as in the orchestral version. Here and in the Stravinsky, the performers are not afraid to give the music percussive shock by banging on the keys when called for. Well worth the time of duo piano fans. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 24, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
The German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott is one of several young artists trying to break out from the pack of young recitalists, with creatively enjoyable results for listeners. She cultivates a high-fashion look and, still unusually in the concert music realm, uses videos to promote her music. Here she takes a venerable theme, that of the musical nocturne, and tries to bring fresh approaches to some familiar works. Partly it's that some of the music isn't conventionally thought of as "night music"; the Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies of Satie don't specifically refer to nightfall, and despite its title, Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit is no nocturne. Except that, in Ott's hands, it is. Nightfall for her is not a mere atmospheric mood but a moment of deep introspection, and many of her interpretations run counter to type or seem to raise psychological issues. Sample the technically perilous Scarbo movement from Gaspard de la nuit, which is generally a test of pianistic muscle. Ott, in her own trenchant notes, tells you that Scarbo is instead "a gnome who attacks artists in the night and drinks their blood, [and] confronts us with our fear of failure." It's a novel idea but perhaps one not so removed from Ravel's own conception of the work, despite his stated intention of simply outdoing Balakirev's Islamey in terms of sheer virtuosity. Her Debussy is likewise unsettled, with shifts between light and shade that are not smoothed out. A highly recommended outing from a promising rising star. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2009 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Alice Sara Ott's 2008 recording of Franz Liszt's 12 Transcendental Etudes may be the right prescription for jaded listeners who are sure they've heard all they need of this composer. To the extent that any pianist can make Liszt's music sound fresh, innovative, and interesting again, after years of mistreatment at the hands of sentimentalists and show-offs, Ott succeeds brilliantly on all three points. The sound of her playing -- from her precise articulation and clear separation of contrapuntal lines, to her enormous dynamic range and wide palette of colors -- is piquant, crisp, and clean, so there is no murkiness or ham-fisted playing to muddy up Liszt's dazzling effects. These effects can seem hopelessly clichéd in the hands of a mediocre pianist, but Ott makes them seem utterly novel and arresting by not exaggerating them, and by letting the natural timing and momentum of the music prepare for them. Because she plays with meticulous clarity and lets the music speak for itself, Ott draws attention to Liszt's abundant inventiveness and originality and reminds us that the Transcendental Etudes were startling and exciting when first played and that they can still captivate if executed with her extraordinary levels of musical understanding and technical accomplishment. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is exceptionally clear and sensitive to every nuance. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 9, 2016 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
The Wonderland in the title of this release by the young pianist Alice Sara Ott is merely the music of Grieg, well-worn favorites of which are sampled here. To add to the sum total of interpretive knowledge for the Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, is a tall order, but Ott delivers here in a live performance with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen. From her brilliant first note, her reading is a series of sharp markers filled in with liquid, lyrical episodes. The whole thing is carefully shaped, yet has the essential energy of live performance. In the short selections from the various books of Lyric Pieces and from the Peer Gynt Suite Ott is a little more conservative, but her gossamer, web-like technique in lyrical passages is never less than enjoyable to hear. There are reasons for the buzz surrounding this young artist, and this well-recorded program is an excellent place to start exploring what those reasons are. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 16, 2021 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott is a performer who appears to care more about the score and the composer than about her image and interpretations. After promoting Lang-Lang, a pianist of maximal technique but debatable taste, DG has given Ott an exclusive recording contract, and her first release, the complete waltzes of Chopin, shows her to be a pianist of taste and restraint. That is not to say that her performances here are ever less than dazzling, because she plays with supreme ease, or any less than affecting, because she brings out everything in the scores, from sparkling wit to darkest melancholy. But Ott is not interested in demonstrating her technique or in grandstanding her interpretations. Everything here is in the score: the tender countermelodies, the long legato phrasing, the exquisite harmonic balances, and the lilting rubato. It sounds fresh and natural because Ott herself seems fresh and natural, and apparently not at all a showoff. Though by no means the greatest performances of the waltzes ever recorded -- Dinu Lipatti's EMI recording is now and likely always will be the most beautiful, the most masterful, and the most moving version of these works -- Ott's recording is well worth hearing by anyone who loves the music. The sound of DG's digital recording is limpid. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

The first piano concertos of Franz Liszt and Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky are staples of the genre and so well-known that, for some artists and audiences, they have become tired warhorses. Yet Alice Sara Ott claims an intimate connection to these works, which have been a part of her experiences since her teens, and she communicates personal expressions in passages that other pianists may find merely showy or bombastic. Ott's playing is always remarkable for her controlled touch, clarity of line, and clean technique, and her presence in both performances is strong. The quality that is perhaps less obvious in her performances, but just as important as the virtuosity, is her lyrical handling of the quiet sections. These may not be the first things listeners notice or even seek out, especially in the face of all the hammered chords, lightning-fast runs, octaves, and other keyboard pyrotechnics, but they are what make this concerto album a fascinating study. Ott's need for personalizing the music is largely dependent on her use of rubato, and the push-pull between the piano and orchestral accompaniment means that Thomas Hengelbrock and the Munich Philharmonic need to feel her interpretation, as well as follow her pulse. What results is a rather elastic style of playing in both concertos, which may not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly distinguishes Ott and her highly Romantic approach to these two monuments of the repertoire. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is full in sonority yet focused on details and not overly reverberant. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 21, 2013 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Alice Sara Ott's 2013 CD of keyboard works by Modest Mussorgsky and Franz Schubert was part of a recital she gave at St. Petersburg's White Nights festival, recorded on July 3, 2012, in the Mariinsky Theatre. This album was the result of discussions between Ott and Deutsche Grammophon to release a disc of solo repertoire, and recording her live presented an appealing opportunity to add the ever-popular Pictures at an Exhibition to her discography. If the atmosphere of the occasion can be detected in Ott's expressions, it is perhaps most noticeable in subtle nuances, rather than in the bigger gestures. For all of the piece's grandeur and weight, Ott seems to shine most in the quieter sections, and her delicate playing takes on a poetic quality that is lacking in the loud, clangorous passages, which are all vigor and bravado. On this disc (though not in the order of the recital), Pictures is followed by Schubert's Sonata in D major, D. 850, which balances the program with its length and gravitas, though its moods are more enigmatic and elusive. Ott's controlled handling of the Con moto and Finale is admirable, though her playing in the first movement and the Scherzo is fairly aggressive and hard-edged. Ott's many fans will want this CD for the energy and fire she displays, though newcomers may want to hear her studio albums to get a clearer impression of her abilities. © TiVo
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Classical - Released July 27, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released July 30, 2021 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Pianist Alice Sara Ott offers a complete set of Chopin's preludes for piano here, in order, but framed and interspersed with short contemporary piano compositions. These appear at the beginning and end (the latter composed by Ott) and then after each group of four preludes. The concept isn't one that Chopin or Liszt would have found too unfamiliar, and Ott is a strong Chopin pianist with the ability to draw listeners in without being excessive about tempo rubato. Try one of the famous pieces like the Prelude No. 4 in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4, which has a fresh feeling despite the work's ubiquity. Ott suggests extramusical associations for both the Chopin pieces and the modern works, and while, of course, her reactions are her own, it may be that this device works a bit less well for the preludes than for Chopin's works in other genres. More than other Chopin works, the preludes are intricately technical pieces, with some of the most daring harmonic moves in the whole Chopin canon. In this technical sense, though, Ott's program succeeds beautifully. In her hands, the range of Chopin's influence in the 20th century is revealed to be startlingly wide, extending from the cinematic semi-pop of Nino Rota and Chilly Gonzales to Ligeti's modernism to Arvo Pärt's minimalism. The whole program has a delightful sense that one is exploring Chopin and then pausing periodically to look forward in time as if to see what hidden secrets time might reveal in his music. A typically imaginative release from this fine pianist. © TiVo
From
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Classical - Released September 9, 2014 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

The contents of this release are a good deal less adventurous than the marketing would suggest, but that doesn't mean it's not a fine program of duo piano music from the 19th through the 21st centuries. With the exception of the opening minimalist A Soft Shell Groove by one of the pianists, Francesco Tristano, all the music is played in transcriptions by the composers themselves and sounds as it would have in the days when it was commissioned by dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev (who commissioned all three of the earlier works). The best news is that these transcriptions are somewhat neglected, and Tristano and his performing partner Alice Sara Ott essentially re-create what would have been an exciting program of avant-garde music from the time just before the mass distribution of recordings. Stravinsky's condensation of the vast orchestra canvas of Le Sacre du printemps is especially nifty, and the duo shifts gears effectively between Stravinsky and the much more sentimental world of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. All the music is rooted in dance, but the contrasts among the four works are enormous. The concluding La Valse is as dark a vision of a doomed decadent society as one might wish, with waltz tunes threading their way through growing cacophony as intricately as in the orchestral version. Here and in the Stravinsky, the performers are not afraid to give the music percussive shock by banging on the keys when called for. Well worth the time of duo piano fans. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 16, 2021 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

It would be easy to be put off by the Vogue magazine graphics of this release by German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott. But give her a try: this is a fresh reading of some very often recorded music. Ott's Beethoven is delicate, detailed, and close-up, working through the music in depth, and she manages to take the Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2/3, out of the realm of Haydn and make it look forward to Schubert with smooth, long lines that build structures out of the piano figuration. The slow movement in Ott's hands is a nocturne with a quite unusual hypnotic quality. In the main attraction, the Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein"), Ott goes completely counter to trends with a measured, deliberate reading that brings out every note. For those who like the fist-shaking Beethoven, this is definitely not for them, but the level of detail can be startling. There are versions of the "Waldstein" finale that treat the double-octave scale that accompanies the fully flowered them as a sort of mighty glissando, and there are some that articulate every note. Few indeed are those that bring out the little downward scale that answers it in this stirring yet remarkably intricate passage, but Ott takes the time to find it and specify it. These are the kinds of readings that used to be called feminine, but few artists of either gender have done them this way for quite some time, and Ott carries them through convincingly. Again, they're very much low-key, and the concluding Rage Over a Lost Penny, Op. 129, amounts to no more than mild annoyance. A recommended Beethoven debut, gutsy in its way even if not for everybody. © TiVo