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Track Listing:

Grieg: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in A minor op. 16 - 1
Grieg: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in A minor op. 16 - 2
Grieg: Concerto for Piano & Orchestra in A minor op. 16 - 3
Grieg: Once Upon a Time
Grieg: Butterfly
Grieg: Album Leaf
Grieg: Solveig's Song
Grieg: Elves' Dance
Grieg: To Spring
Grieg: March of the Trolls
Grieg: Notturno
Grieg: Brooklet
Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King
Grieg: Ballad
Grieg: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen

Alice Sara Ott :


Alice Sara Ott is convinced that Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor offers profound insights into our common humanity. The work emerged as the natural choice for her second concerto album for Deutsche Grammophon. Wonderland, which is completed by a selection of the composer's Lyric Pieces, reflects the German-Japanese pianist's affinity for Grieg. It also mines the experience of a dozen years during which she has grown from teenage prodigy to mature artist. For the concerto Ott is joined by Esa-Pekka Salonen who leads the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.  Wonderland will be released September 9, 2016.

Received wisdom contends that Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor is the perfect showpiece for young soloists, a stepping stone to tougher professional challenges to come. The proposition makes Alice Sara Ott smile. "When I was a student, people said this was the piece for someone beginning to play concertos. It was probably the second or third concerto I performed. I was only sixteen at the time. I thought – ‘Hell, this is so difficult! How is this a beginner's concerto?' I remember how happy I was to survive my first experience with the Grieg."

Almost two years passed before she returned to the composition. As she played it again, the music's simplicity gradually came into focus. The temptation to show off, irresistible to every young musician and many not so young, fell away as Ott performed it more often. "Grieg's Piano Concerto helped change my approach to music," she comments. "For the first five years of performing the piece, I would think ‘How can I make this passage more interesting or that phrase more special?' But then I realized it doesn't really work that way. What about if I stopped trying to do something special and just listened to the piece as a whole?"

That decision worked wonders. Ott believes it delivered the key to understanding the spirit of Grieg's score. "I have so many memories connected to this piece and have been on quite a journey with it," she notes. The memories, she adds, have been happy, the journey productive. Above all, the 28-year-old pianist remains in love with Grieg's concerto. "I can't say that about every work! When you play a piece many times, it's easy to fall into old habits. That's so dangerous, because routine is deadly; it's not what music should be. I've probably played the Grieg concerto sixty times now, but the piece always lets you see it from new angles. The beauty in this concerto, for me, doesn't lie in any super-special intellectual approach; rather, it comes from its natural simplicity. If you can preserve that, then suddenly these green woods, like the nature which inspired Grieg, come alive before your eyes. I know from experience that if you ignore that simplicity and overdo a phrase, the music falls apart."

And she hears multifaceted perspectives in Grieg's music, from its range of emotion to its touches of magic and mystery, as the realms of the natural and supernatural become blurred in his piano works. His Lyric Pieces, for instance, conjure up what she describes as an imaginary landscape inhabited by scurrying trolls and mythical beasts from Old Norse sagas, an imaginative response that inspired her new album's Wonderland title. She's also reminded of the characters created by Japanese film-maker Hayao Miyazaki, known worldwide for his Oscar-winning anime fantasy films Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. "His movies, with their beautiful green landscapes and amazing fantasy creatures, fit Grieg's music."