LEBRECHT LISTENS | Alice Sara Ott's Chopin Is A Dazzling Experiment That Almost Works

By Norman Lebrecht on August 13, 2021

Alice Sara Ott
Alice Sara Ott. (Photo: Deutsche Grammophon/Pascal Albandopulos)


Alice Sara Ott — Echoes of Life (DG)


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The German-Japanese pianist, a trophy artist on Deutsche Grammophon, is facing the onset of multiple sclerosis with courage, positivism and ingenuity. On her tenth album, she seeks to give the preludes of Frederic Chopin a contemporary twist by interleaving them with some of her favourite modern composers.

Her daring approach changes the colouring of some of the Chopin so that certain preludes sound like shards of Philip Glass that got left on the mixing desk — not that Glass is present in the mix. The composers she chooses are compellingly more eclectic.

There is the Italian Francesco Tristano, who reimagines the creation of the universe; the Hungarian György Ligeti who imagines he created it himself, and Nino Rita who wrote the soundtrack to the Creation movie. Also present at Chilly Gonzales, Arvo Pärt, Toru Takemitsu and Alice herself with a closing lullaby based on bits of the Mozart Requiem. All told, it’s a dazzling experiment that almost works and, when it doesn’t, is still interesting enough to retain the attention.

For a pianist to stand out nowadays, s/he needs to do more than rattle off the Grieg and Schumann concertos on Naxos and Youtube. This kind of compilation sets a trend and raises the bar high for individualism. I would not turn to Ott first for the Chopin preludes, but I will keep it handy for those evenings when my mood is fluttery and unsettled. Three years from now, mark my words, Lang Lang will do a copycat album.

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