ALICE SARA OTT is one of the glamour girls of the international concert stage. She’s German-Japanese by parentage and devoted to her career as a concert pianist. That career has been meteoric in recent years.
On November 22 she’s at the Bridgewater Hall in the last of a five-date UK tour with the Philharmonia Orchestra and its conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy – himself a near-legendary pianist – and she’s playing one of the favourite virtuoso concertos, Tchaikovsky’s no. 1.
To say she always wanted to be a pianist is almost an understatement. “My parents took me to a concert when I was three years old,” she remembers. “I think they just couldn’t find a baby-sitter!
“I was so fascinated by the fact that the person on the stage could hold the attention of an audience for two hours – and at that age I wanted to get attention and be understood. I said to my mother, ‘I want to be a pianist.’
“She said ‘Forget it’, and it took me a year to convince her.”
One strong-minded young lady, it seems. Alice says her next strong memory is of playing in public (she went to a teacher who encouraged it) at five years old.
“I played just a short piece, but there were about 1,000 people there and I remember their reaction. That was the first moment that people listened to me and understood me. I decided this was going to be my future.”
She says she still feels a stranger wherever she goes, because of being raised in two different cultures (her mother is Japanese, her father German). “But music gives me a voice and an identity.”
She has other strings to her bow, however, as she has made herself a name as a designer, too. “I just like to draw,” she says, “I can’t keep my fingers still. Recently I had the opportunity to design some bags, and it was fun, because I travel a lot – you become very particular about what you want as far as bags are concerned!”
She’s played the Tchaikovsky concerto about 80 times before, she says, but not recently, in fact. Now she’s returning to it: “A tour is an opportunity to grow with a piece. Every night is so different: you have to create the sound for each new acoustic.”
The Philharmonia Orchestra, with Alice Sara Ott, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy, Bridgewater Hall, November 22, 7.30pm.