Friday, 11 March 2011

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, March 2011)

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No.1
LISZT Piano Concerto No.1
Munich Philharmonic / Thomas Hengelbrock
Deutsche Grammophon 477 8779

The first woman to record both Tchaikovsky and Liszt First Piano Concertos for Deutsche Grammophon since the great Martha Argerich, young Alice Sara Ott has almost impossibly big shoes to fill. Yet the German-Japanese former child prodigy, now 22, does a more than decent job. She has both physical power and emotional heft to carry both virtuoso warhorses, filled with heavy chords, stampeding octaves and demanding unusually nimble fingerwork. Familiarity does not breed contempt here, as she tries to vary her phrasing and touch for passages many often take for granted.

While the Tchaikovsky second movement could have done with more beguiling subtlety, the finale’s romp is taken at a steady pace, building to a climax and benefitting from a few added chords – à la Horowitz – of her own. The Liszt is a far more compact work, and is accorded the same high voltage treatment no less. Her feel of legato lines in the nocturne-like slow movement is matched by her stiletto sharp reflexes for the grandstanding conclusion, which is as exciting as can possibly be. With Ott, the German yellow label has the future of piano pyrotechnics firmly secured.

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