Alice Sara Ott makes the Tchaikovsky and Liszt piano concertos seem like natural disc mates, especially as her passionate, rubato-laden Tchaikovsky sounds as if it could have been written by Liszt. More accurately, she gives a sense of how Tchaikovsky's concerto might have sounded if Liszt himself were playing. Ott's impetuous (at times slightly vulgar) phrasing and fiery bravura make the introduction's drama so spellbinding that it comes across as a self-contained movement. The same approach enlivens the first movement proper, with Ott's solid chords, clearly enunciated arpeggios, and balletic rhythms evoking Tchaikovsky's dramatic aesthetic. Yet, despite the above, Ott doesn't cross the line into mannerism. Nor does she engage in theRead more interpretive extremes of Igo Pogorelich, whose brilliant and evocative (if controversial) playing makes the big cadenza sound like Ravel.
Ott's impeccable articulation allows us to distinctly hear every note of the Andante's mercurial center section, while in the Finale her avoidance of Argerich-like speed focuses attention on Tchaikovsky's compositional finesse rather than on the pianist's athletic skill. Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock is of like mind with Ott, leading a dramatic and beautifully played accompaniment with the Munich Philharmonic.
The Liszt Concerto, though less overtly emotional, revels in its composer's unique rhetorical--at times bombastic--style. Ott and Hengelbrock do not shrink from these qualities, yet they manage to make them less obvious by focusing on the more refined and sensitive aspects of the score. Ott again displays keyboard wizardry, especially in the latter movements (her rapid, perfectly even repeated notes are a marvel). Though I miss the sense of drama evoked by Entremont and Ormandy in their classic Sony recording, Ott's performance is still quite enjoyable. The fine-sounding recording offers a better-than-usual piano/orchestra balance. A standout release--in an exceptionally crowded field.
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