Echoes of Life
Chopin: 24 Preludes; plus works by Gonzalez, Ligeti, Ott, Pärt, Rota, Takemitsu and Tristano
Alice Sara Ott (piano)
DG 486 0595 57:09 mins
First, to be devil’s advocate, I suspect few pianists could get away with breaking up the Chopin 24 Preludes by placing between every few pieces a recent or contemporary miniature, ascribing to each of the latter a quality from the performer’s own life. There’s a concert of this in the works, with installations, design et al, where one could imagine it working well; but on disc some might at first find the concept a little uncomfortable. After all, whatever Ligeti was thinking when he wrote his Musica Ricercata I, it probably wasn’t about a toddler saying ‘no’. Moreover, while some of the supplementary pieces are splendid, notably that Ligeti, the Takemitsu Litany I and a gorgeous waltz by Nino Rota, not everything holds up so well amid Chopin. And yet Alice Sara Ott pulls it off.
Her playing is technically unimpeachable, with beauty of tone, virtuoso flair and fine musical judgment throughout, all of which shines out through good recorded sound. Her artistry is maturing and deepening at a rate of knots; her sensitivity and finesse have always been there, but are now coming into their own. This album is all about growing up (Ott is now 32), and the proof is in her pianism.
Ott revealed in 2019 that she has multiple sclerosis. She writes that she is currently symptom-free – and indeed, this recording finds her playing better than ever. Yet when Chopin’s last, apocalyptic D minor Prelude is followed by her own fragmented take on the Lacrimosa from the Mozart Requiem, it can twist a knife deep in the listener’s solar plexus.