Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor Op. 31 No. 2 'The Tempest
Johann Sebastian Bach
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV944
Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV1004 V. Chaconne (arr. Ferruccio Busoni)
Liebesträume, 3 notturnos S541, II & III
Grandes études de Paganini S141
Alice Sara Ott, piano
23 April 2015, Wigmore Hall, London
|Alice Sara Ott|
A game of two halves. In the first, Alice Sara Ott was a reasonably brittle performer. She was at her best in the reflective, moonlit moments of the Beethoven Tempest Sonata, but her ability to shape a coherent whole was less evident. This was most lacking in the Busoni arrangement for piano of Bach’s famous Chaconne originally written for violin, which was episodic and failed to maintain an underlying pulse or a genuine sense of culmination at its majestic conclusion. This was her Wigmore Hall debut and she did not appear totally at ease.
What a transformation after the interval then. Sara Ott’s Liszt was a marvellous thing. Her Liebestraume were very fine, but it was the Paganini Grand Etudes which stole the show. She was totally assured, each delivered like a delicately drilled clock mechanism, the hands spinning, whirring and crossing. And most importantly each was first and foremost musical. It was the polar opposite of Khatia Buniatishvili’s Liszt-murder on the same platform last month. The technical and the musical inseperable. Indeed, as legendary piano teacher Heinrich Neuhaus wrote:
"The word technique comes from the Greek word τέχνη meaning 'art'. Any improvement of technique is an improvement of art itself and consequently helps to reveal the content, the hidden meaning; in other words it is the material, the real body of art."
Amongst the technical challenges Sara Ott's unerring sense of fantasy remained, putting to shame many an expressionless performance of these works by other virtuosi, and revealing a whole world of art.