Alice Sara Ott, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Wednesday 23 November 2011
Every year the international piano circus requires a new pin-up: last year’s was Yuja Wang, this year it’s Alice Sara Ott.
This 23-year-old German-Japanese had a charmed early life studded with competition triumphs which started when she was five, and her debut Liszt recording was a miraculous meld of power and precision. Her subsequent Cds of Chopin waltzes and Beethoven sonatas suggest her touch needs to mature a little.
This Southbank recital was her London solo debut. We knew from her concerto appearance at the Proms that she would play barefoot – for a better symbiosis with the pedals - but when she tripped onstage like a Vestal virgin in a skimpily-clinging white shift, one realised why the house was packed. The evening was a marketing triumph before she’d even played a note.
Her first foray had a bright playfulness which perfectly suited Mozart’s rarely-performed ‘Variations in D on a Minuet by Duport’. This late work runs the familiar Mozartian gamut of variation-moods, and Ott characterised each with coltish charm. Then came the ‘Sonata in C major Op2 No3’ with which the young Beethoven announced both his keyboard virtuosity and his ground-breaking originality as a composer. The first movement was smart as a whip, and the tumbling, somersaulting Scherzo was deft in the extreme, but the Adagio – one of those early middle movements which adumbrate the great slow movements of Beethoven’s maturity – made all the right gestures but somehow stayed detached, rather than getting inside the composer’s mind.
Ott revealed serious limitations with the Chopin Waltzes which opened the second half. The A flat major ‘Grande Valse Brillante’ had heel-clicking elegance, but the lovely A minor one which followed it was shorn of all its plangent poetry. The ‘Minute’ waltz was suitably frisky, but the ravishingly dreamy C sharp minor one turned out frisky too. Meanwhile Liszt’s ‘Harmonies du soir’ and ‘Chasse-neige’ – which ought to have been near-polar opposites – emerged alike over-pedalled, while his richly suggestive ‘Rigoletto’ paraphrase became a mere firework display. Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’, her first encore, sounded oddly like Chopin; her second, Liszt’s ‘La Campanella’, was circus stuff. All fine in its way - and Lang Lang had better watch out - but for now this young woman’s artistry has a curiously Teflon quality.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Taylor Swift, 1989 - album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational but still sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
Russell Brand's Revolution - book review: Witty banalities aside, the comic has an authentic voice
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are