Artist: Alice Sara Ott, Piano
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra & Esa-Pekka Salonen

Edvard Grieg Piano Concerto
Selection of Lyric Pieces

Label: Deutsche Grammophon              
Release Date: September 9, 2016
Total Playing Time: 1:06:10

Available on iTunes

Still in her twenties, Japanese-German pianist Alice Sara Ott, born in 1988, is a seasoned DG recording artist with a staggering six CD’s under her belt. Her CD collection includes the complete Liszt Transcendental Etudes, as well as the complete Chopin Waltzes.

In this latest CD, she explores the musical Land of Wonder of the celebrated Norwegian composer Edward Grieg; a journey full of myths, color and unique character. It includes the famous Grieg Piano Concerto, two solo piano arrangements from the Peer Gynt Suite, as well as a selection of 12 from Grieg’s sixty-six solo piano works, known as Lyric Pieces. 

In the live recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto, Ms. Ott demonstrates technical prowess, power, and emotional sensitivity.  The soloist and the orchestra complement each other well, highlighting each other’s solo parts and are always together in time. 

In the first movement Ms. Ott delicately brings about the soft, romantic passages, but is bold and precise in the wild chord progressions towards the ending. The orchestra and soloist make the Adagio sound like a friendly union of Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings and the Romance from Chopin’s first piano Concerto; all of which make for a suitable background music for funerals and memorials due to their soothing effect.

Ott’s performance of the third movement, full of jumpy rhythmic passages, demonstrates that she is in solid control of the tempo. Although the Grieg Concerto is widely played and recorded, Ms. Ott, together with Esa Pekka Salonen and orchestra, makes it sound fresh and appealing.

Grieg’s Lyric Pieces along with solo piano arrangements from his Peer Gynt Suite, characterize Norwegian nationalism, are mostly short and filled with sound imagery of the Norwegian landscape, folk tale, melodies and sentiments.  Characters such as elves, trolls, butterflies and the Mountain King are brought to life in these pieces. Ms. Ott does a fine job of depicting these Norwegian characters and shows her affinity towards the musical language of Grieg.

The last track, the Folk Song from Lyric Pieces, Book I, Op. 12, No. 5, the most nostalgic one from the selection, forms Ott’s sad and dramatic goodbye to her journey. Almost hesitant to leave the wonderland, she slowly takes her last steps home with a profound sigh. 

Ms Ott is a fine technician, capable of executing difficult passages with effortless precision.  Her playing of the lyrical melodies demonstrates her sensitivity towards tone quality, dynamics and phrasing.  The piano sounds rich and colorful with her refined touch. It is recorded and mastered to give a crystal clear, but pleasantly warm sound, which enhances the listening experience.