Not infrequently, great musical careers begin with a cancellation: when a famous colleague fell ill shortly before his appearance at the London Barbican Centre in November 2010, they searched desperately for a replacement. Who they found was Alice Sara Ott. Writing about the German-Japanese pianist’s debut, the Guardian described a “gawp-inducing bravura performance of which legends are made”, while the Times wrote about “playing of refreshing freedom, fluidity and without any artificiality”. Alice Sara Ott is also able to extract unusual colours from her instrument and knows how to give weight to even the smallest of phrases without overburdening the respective work. It is the graceful subtleties to which the pianist adds new brilliance without excessive pedal use – nuances that are often lost in others.
After making her Berliner Philharmoniker debut in September with Ravel’s G major Concerto, her piano recital in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie now follows. For her programme, Alice Sara Ott has chosen Claude Debussy’s Suitebergamasque which delves into the lyrical world of Verlaine and its most famous movement, the dream-like serenade Clair de lune, which stems from the first number of the same name in his collection of poems Fêtes galantes. After Debussy’s “très doux et très expressif” Rêverie, Alice Sara Ott turns to three short pieces by Erik Satie – meditative works which, played with no “espressivo”, illuminate the few musical motifs from different perspectives. The evening closes with Frédéric Chopin’s poetic Nocturnes op. 9 No. 1 and No. 2 (of which the latter, in addition to the funeral march from Sonata No. 2, is one of Chopin’s most famous works) and the Ballade No. 1 in G minor op. 23, which culminates in a wild Presto con fuoco.