Deutsche Grammophon Releases All-New Album on July 20, 2010
In January of this year, Deutsche Grammophon released pianist Alice Sara Ott’s international debut album, Chopin: Complete Waltzes. The album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Classical Traditional chart and has earned Ott praise from critics and audiences alike. As a follow-up to the Chopin disc, Ott releases Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes – a formidable challenge for any pianist and a true test of technique and stamina. Deutsche Grammophon will release the album on July 20, 2010.
Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes started as a simpler set of etudes from 1826 written when Liszt was a teenager. Years later Liszt expanded the score and added incredibly difficult passage work. This second edition, which was dedicated to Liszt’s teacher Carl Czerny (a prolific composer of etudes as any young pianist can attest), was so fiendishly difficult that Liszt decided to revise the etudes again in 1852. It is this third and final version that Alice Sara Ott has decided to record because “of the three versions, the last is the best for both pianist and listener. Here, unlike the awkward and ungrateful 1838 version, you are made aware that the Etudes are never merely technical, but a cycle of unlimited range, sound and color. They mirror every possible aspect of Liszt's multi-faceted personality: his joy, irony and desolation. Only a performance of the complete cycle captures his immense quasi-orchestral and symphonic vision.”
It is this “quasi-orchestral and symphonic vision” that Alice Sara Ott, though small of frame, seeks to convey in each etude. With wide-ranging leaps up and down the piano and intricate passagework that stymies even gifted pianists, Liszt’s etudes are certainly a testing ground, but they are also works that demands a lyrical touch and much more than just brilliant technique. Though Mazeppa might be the most famous etude, Paysage is a lyrical and gorgeous etude which tests the pianist’s expressive legato playing.
Alice Sara Ott has made an unusual specialty of performing Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes and has already won extraordinary praise for her live performances of the daunting cycle in Germany and Switzerland. Her triumphant recital at Munich’s Herkulessaal in January 2007, playing Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata and the Liszt Transcendental Etudes, elicited the following response in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Ott lends a personal, almost overwhelming poetic charm to this splendid music, transporting her listeners into ecstatic delight.” In May 2007 at the Ruhr Piano Festival, her performances of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata and the Liszt Etudes met with similar acclaim. Two months later, at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, she was awarded both the festival’s own special prize and the audience prize. In 2008, she made her New York debut, playing a Liszt program at the Yamaha Artist Center and performed the Liszt Etudes several times in Germany and Austria again. In May 2008 she stepped in for Murray Perahia in Basle, playing the “Waldstein” Sonata and Transcendental Etudes and again elicited glowing reviews.
Alice Sara Ott made her US orchestral debut this past January in Cincinnati performing Liszt’s Concerto no. 1 and was described as a pianist with “immense talent who effortlessly tackled cascades of glittering runs and was able to summon beautiful sonorities as she did it.” (Cincinnati Enquirer) Ott returns to the US October 28-30, 2010 for performances of Liszt’s Concerto no. 1 with the San Francisco Symphony. Her appearances will coincide with the release of her next recording featuring the first concertos of Liszt and Tchaikovsky performed with Thomas Hengelbrock and the Münchener Philharmoniker which is scheduled for October 26, 2010.