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"Pictures" - Live From St. Petersburg


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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
All Is Not Lost Oct. 12 2013
By Alan Music Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I've enjoyed most of Ms. Ott's work to date - but I wasn't moved by this. I didn't expect to be bored by a performance of a piece that can be as over the top as Pictures At An Exhibition but ASO's playing was tentative. The playing seemed like that of a good high school player at a recital - practiced and correct but timid. Only in the last two movements did I feel her letting loose and actually having some fun. I wish she had scheduled a late night performance the way jazz players do it. I have a feeling the second go-around would have been a lot more exciting. I still believe great things are in store for this young pianist and I'm willing to forgive the occasional mis-step. Better to try and not quite succeed than to never try.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Surprisingly literal, uninvolved playing from a rising virtuoso Feb. 26 2013
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
ianist Alice Sara Ott, who will turn 25 this year, has one of the rarest opportunities in classical music, having been catapulted into prominence by DG's yellow label - they rarely make mistakes. If there has been a NY debut, it's not recorded in the New York Times archive, so Ott is at once famous and unknown. DG has spread her through a wide repertoire over five albums, beginning with the most difficult Liszt, moving on through the warhorse Tchaikovsky concerto, then to Beethoven sonatas. It's too great a burden for a young artist to bear equally well. Now we get Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which have become almost extinct, thanks to shattering performances on disc from Horowitz and Richter. Was it daring or foolhardy for Ott to travel to St. Petersburg to play this music at Gergiev's White Nights Festival last summer?

Her reading begins a bit unpromisingly with slack rhythms in the opening Promenade and Gnomes, getting no help from recorded sound so heavily weighted to the left hand that the effect is lugubrious. The heavy bass line throughout is inescapable and distracting. Ott has no problem with the technical side of Pictures, but this is music that's so familiar, it needs to catch fire in order not to be inconsequential. A heavy-handed Bydlo feels lumbering, however, and Ott's lack of imagination begins to take its toll - you realize that her goal is to be serious, not colorful or scintillating. The Old Castle has little atmosphere, the Tuileries no sparkle. In addition, she seems content to hover around mezzo forte too much of the time. There are brighter moments, as in the Ballet of the Unhatched chicks, but overall, it's a very literal, eyes straight ahead reading, full of big sounds but not a great deal more to hold one's attention.

Speaking of Richter, he left two recorded concert readings of Schubert's D Major sonata D. 850, one of those occasions where he attacked the music like middle period Beethoven, shattering Schubert's gentle image. The first movement features some tricky tempo changes, hesitations, and interjections. It's not a good sign that Ott simply charges through them at a clip, leveling everything in her path. It was a tactic she tried unsuccessfully in her Beethoven sonata disk. The second movement is also taken at an impatient pace with no pauses or flexibility. The Scherzo is announced grandly, with a nice contrast for the sparkling contrast that immediately follows. But by this point I couldn't escape the impression that Ott had no better intention than to march through every movement without charm, grace, or involvement. The Allegro finale is a funny thing, seemingly prim to the point of mincing, and pianists often struggle to make it sound like anything but an anticlimax. Ott sets a steady pace with few dynamic contrasts, offering nothing to object to but not much to notice, either.

My three stars is out of respect for DG's A and R department. They have dozens of flashy young pianists to choose form, and since Ott did so well with her earlier Liszt and Tchaikovsky albums, there must be something greater here than I can detect.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Alice Sara Ott is Beautiful!!! March 7 2013
By nmollo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I suppose for the last decade or so there has been the penchant by the leading classical labels for putting beautiful people, especially girls, on the front of classical album covers. Examples are Alice Sara Ott, Hélène Grimaud, Hilary Hahn and Lisa Batiashvili, to name but a few of the girls.

The question always seems to arise; Are the most talented really so beautiful?

I certainly know of a few female artists with stunning musical talent that are side-lined, one can only guess, because of the way they look. An example is the mezzo-soprano Tuva Semmingsen, who in any other world would be a classical super-star.

Certainly, in the case of Lisa Batiashvili, we have an extraordinary talent that is also blessed with beauty but there are some serious reservations when it comes to the likes of Hélène Grimaud, Hilary Hahn and Alice Sara Ott.

Concerning Alice Sara Ott, as is the point of the review, she is beautiful. Very beautiful and she wears tuff leather boots. I wonder how that works on the pedals?

This stunning Japanese-German pianist has recorded some Lizst, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Beethoven and on this album, Pictures (2012), Mussorgsky and Schubert. She appears to have the full backing of Deutsche Grammophon ...err, sorry, Universal Music.

Now this would be fine if she really had an exceptional talent yet while her technique appears to be on form, it is her interpretation of the music and her natural rhythm that seems to be at fault.

Concerning her recent Beethoven (2011) album containing Piano Sonata No.3 in C, Op.2 No.3, and Piano Sonata No.21 in C, Op.53 -"Waldstein", a perceptive reviewer called her interpretations "polite" and "lady-like". I would have to agree but go further by saying she cannot connect with the rhythmic elements within the music.

This is certainly the case with her interpretation of Schubert's Piano Sonata in D major Op.53 D 850.

The bouncy opening movement, Allegro vivace D major, is all over the place rhythmically. This leaves me to wonder if she can really get down to Marvin Gaye or Kool & The Gang in a club or would she simply make jerky body movements that have no relation to the beat of the music?

....and this is my point... the music of Beethoven and Schubert is filled with rhythm. It is impossible for an artist to correctly interpret their music if they can't tap in time with the Bee Gees' You Should Be Dancing.

The first part of the album features Mussorgsky and his Pictures at an Exhibition suite. The fact that I can't get Alan B'Stard out of my mind while listening to this is a serious drawback. Never the less, it appears to be a favourite of young virtuoso pianists.

So to sum up, I hope we can agree that Alice Sara Ott is beautiful, wears nice boots and can play the piano, I just wonder, that if she looked like a female version of Stephen Merchant, would she be so highly regarded?
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Surprise Feb. 26 2013
By K. MIURA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
MODEST MUSSORGSKY
Pictures at an Exhibition
Original piano version

FRANZ SCHUBERT
Piano Sonata in D major op. 53 D 850

Alice Sara Ott
Live recording 2012, St. Petersburg.

When I listened to Waldstein (Beethoven), I thought that Alice Sara Ott played it to focus on one point (the third movement). And, I thought, in "Pictures at an Exhibition" she plays to focus on The Great Gate of Kiev. But in Schubert D 850 she plays every movement with powerful hammer strikes to focus on neither any movement nor any melody.

Alice was only 23 years old when she played D 850, that is the most difficult piano sonata that Franz Schubert wrote. To my surprise, she did it very well. I compared D 850 played by Alice and Mitsuko Uchida. Alice would be greater than Uchida, because Alice played the first chord D-Fis-A-D and the next D-F-A-D at the beginning of the 1st movement with large momentum (You can hear it, if you play it loud), that led the masterpiece from start to finish (until the end of the 4th movement) very well. It needs high power to do it.
It's live recorded and mastered beautifully by BKL Recording Group GmbH, Lüneburg. Play it loud!


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