Accompanied by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the talented Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott, one of the most requested artists at the classical music scene, performs Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No.2 in A major, S.125. Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, on November 23, 2018.
Concerto No.2 in A major has always been especially beloved of the most musicianly Liszt interpreters who are wary of the temptation of the tradition of performing the First Concerto for empty spectacle and in the shortest time possible (Alfred Brendel has written with typically incisive vigour and wit upon this subject and has noted that it has been whipped through in less than fourteen minutes by someone who ought to have known better) choosing instead the work which, for all its demands and grand gestures, remains fundamentally poetic. Of course, Liszt differentiates the characters of the two concertos clearly: the contrast in tonality is maximum, the openings could not be more unlike, the four-movement underlying structure of the First is replaced in the Second with a single movement which extrapolates the boundaries of the sonata principle in the same way that many of Liszt's symphonic poems do, and the Second Concerto relies on fewer but more distinguished themes than the First.
The first theme is striking for its juxtaposition of distant seventh and ninth chords which nevertheless fail to unsettle the principal key, clear from the opening chord. The piano enters with gentle arpeggios for the second statement, which is then extended into the transition to the second theme in a mellifluous passage with solo horn, oboe and cello. In a reversal of the usual constituents of a sonata exposition, the second theme is powerful and triadic, and is presented in D minor. A second transition presents a new theme which takes the music to B flat minor and a forceful tutti, bringing the exposition to an end. The development may be said to begin from the moment the soloist rejoins the orchestra, when the connection between the tutti theme and the end of the first theme is made manifest, and underlined by the little piano solo which calms things almost to the state of the beginning of the concerto. The tutti theme is then transformed in the orchestra into a gentle introduction extended by a short cadenza, and a reworking of the first theme in 4/4 rather than 3/4, in D flat major, with a solo cello. This is lyrically continued by the piano, eventually joined by oboe then flute in another transformation of the tutti theme, under which the violins play a phrase which at once derives from the first two chords of the concerto and yet outlines the melody (and sentiment) of a Liszt song Freudvoll und leidvoll.
The material of the first transition informs the cadenza which leads to the recapitulation of the second subject, in a robust D flat major, the lower strings playing the tutti theme in counterpoint. The recapitulation continues with a further transformation of the first transition, development of the tutti theme and second subject combined, and a transformed version of the tutti itself. The second transition theme ensues, now in A minor, and the general increase in tempo is finally reigned in with the recapitulation in the original key of the first theme, now transformed into a march and punctuated with fragments of the ubiquitous tutti theme. (Various commentators have been rude about this passage, noting its martial vulgarity and generally failing to see that it is the permissible moment of triumph at the final point of recapitulation of the first theme and the first time we have seen the home key since the opening pages of the work. Even Searle refers to this passage as occurring in "the finale", showing not much appreciation of the structure.) As if to silence potential critics, Liszt uses the second transitional theme again to reintroduce the first theme in the most magical form, running on with a version of the same lyrical extension we heard with the cello solo, and continuing in the same manner through the Freudvoll und leidvoll phrase to a short cadenza. This cadenza, like so much of the binding material of this work, is derived from the alternate falling semitone and tone from the first theme, and these intervals now immediately generate the material of the animated coda. The coda is so superficially appropriate a peroration that it requires a second look to see how well it draws the whole argument together, with every theme represented in one way or another, right to the closing bars.
Source: Leslie Howard, 1998 (hyperion-records.co.uk)
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
♪ Piano Concerto No.2 in A major, S.125 (1839-1857)
i. Adagio sostenuto assai – Allegro agitato assai
ii. Allegro moderato – Allegro deciso
iii. Marziale un poco meno allegro
iv. Allegro animato – Stretto (molto accelerando)
Erik Satie (1866-1925)
♪ Gymnopédie for piano No.1 (1888)
Alice Sara Ott, piano
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Gothenburg Concert Hall, November 23, 2018
The 2018-2019 season marks a significant year for German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott (b. 1988, Munich, Germany), one of the world's most in-demand classical pianists. She releases her latest album, Nightfall, featuring works by Satie, Debussy and Ravel, including Gaspard de la Nuit, one of the greatest challenges of piano literature. The album marks ten years since Alice has been signed as an exclusive recording artist to Deutsche Grammophon. She will tour the recital programme across the world, with European dates including Paris' La Seine Musicale, Stuttgart's Liederhalle, Vienna's Mozart Saal, Munich's Prinzregententheater, Baden Baden's Festspielhaus, London's Wigmore Hall and the Klavier-Festival Ruhr in Duisburg. These European dates are in addition to a nine-date recital tour across Japan, including Tokyo Opera City, in autumn 2018.
With her talent not limited to a global career as a high level performing artist, Alice Sara Ott also expresses her diverse creativity through a number of design and brand partnerships beyond the borders of classical music. She was personally requested to design a signature line of high-end leather bags for JOST, one of Germany's premium brands. Alice has also been global brand ambassador for Technics, the hi-fi audio brand of Panasonic Corporation, and she has an ongoing collaboration with the French luxury jewellery house, Chaumet.
A prominent figure on the international classical music scene, Alice Sara Ott regularly performs with the world's leading conductors and orchestras. In 2018-2019 as well as the international Nightfall recital tour, Alice will perform with NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo (Gianandrea Noseda), Philharmonia Orchestra (Santtu-Matias Rouvali), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic (Edward Gardner), London Symphony Orchestra (Elim Chan), St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Yuri Temirkanov), and for a European tour with Gothenburg Symphony (Santtu-Matias Rouvali). She continues her collaboration with London Symphony Orchestra via her chamber music residency at LSO St Luke's, where she will give several Alice and Friends concerts with fellow artists including Ray Chen, Pablo Ferrández, Nemanja Radulovic, Alexey Stadler, Dimitri Ashkenazy and Francesco Tristano.
Alice Sara Ott has worked with conductors at the highest level including Lorin Maazel, Gustavo Dudamel, Pablo Heras-Casado, Paavo Järvi, Neeme Järvi, Sir Antonio Pappano, Gianandrea Noseda, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Yuri Temirkanov, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sakari Oramo, Osmo Vänskä, Vasily Petrenko, Myung-Whun Chung, Hannu Lintu and Robin Ticciati. She continues to perform with ensembles such as Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Washington's National Symphony Orchestra, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Wiener Symphoniker and Dresdner Philharmonie.
Hailed by The Guardian as "the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition", the 2018-2019 season will see Santtu-Matias Rouvali (b. 1985) continuing his positions as Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra close to his home in Finland.
Rouvali has regular relationships with several orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. As well as making his debut with the Münchner Philharmoniker this season, he also returns to North America for concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Following a very successful Nordic tour with Hélène Grimaud last season, the Gothenburg Symphony is back on the road in February 2019 for a tour hitting major centres in Germany and Austria with pianist Alice Sara Ott, and percussionist Martin Grubinger who premieres a new percussion concert by Daníel Bjarnason. Rouvali looks forward to other ambitious touring projects with his orchestras in the future, including appearances in North America and Japan.
In addition to the extensive tour, Rouvali's season in Gothenburg opens with Strauss' Alpine Symphony accompanied by Víkingur Ólafsson Mozart Piano Concerto No.24, and he looks forward to collaborations with Janine Jansen, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Baiba Skride throughout the rest of the season.
As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he is adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. In partnership with Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Baiba Skride, a recording featuring concertos from Bernstein, Korngold and Rozsa is released in autumn 2018. This continues his great collaboration with Baiba Skride following their hugely successful recording of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in summer 2015.
Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. Highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall. He opens the 2018-2019 season with a Beethoven programme with pianist Javier Perianes.
Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La forza del destino and most recently world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera in spring 2018.
Alice Sara Ott – All the posts
Santtu-Matias Rouvali – All the posts
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra – All the posts