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Wonderland kills two birds for Alice Sara Ott’s one stone: to work with Esa-Pekka Salonen, and her longstanding love of Grieg’s music. The ubiquitous Concerto has been in her repertoire for over a decade and this recording was made, after two concert performances, in January 2015 – with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on scintillating form, beautifully recorded.

How to be original in a work (the first concerto to be recorded, indeed) that is so familiar? Some will be struck – as I was at first – by the contrast between the dynamic opening orchestral chord and the ensuing, rather languorous first solo for the piano. It sounds dangerously slow and mannered; yet a few random comparisons (Derwinger in the 1868/72 original on BIS, Malling and Fingerhut on Chandos) show that others have taken not dissimilar approaches. Ott’s interpretation is never wilful but tries too hard for novelty and falls short of, say, Andsnes, Kovacevich (my current favourite) or Kholodenko’s new recording. Nonetheless, if one heard this in the concert hall, one would not feel short-changed. On disc, it may become a little wearing in time.

The selection of 10 of the 66 Lyric Pieces (drawn from six of the 10 volumes) together with two movements from Peer Gynt makes a lovely follow-on, embracing the very different wonderland of Grieg’s miniatures. They are nicely played, although Ott’s tendency to leave prolonged pauses at the end of phrases imparts a stop-start feel to some, of a piece with her rubatoin the Concerto. Again, the performances face stiff competition and if you want a selection of these, opt for Andsnes on EMI, recorded on Grieg’s own piano in Troldhaugen, no less.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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