Alice Sara Ott in Tim Lihoreau's Wednesday Web Chat

From chocolate to cellos, alien encounters, and playing big piano repertoire, Alice Sara Ott took on a wide range of musical questions in our weekly Wednesday Web Chat with Tim Lihoreau.

Alice Sara Ott

"If you hear music in a concert hall, you can forget time, you can forget your own language, your own culture, and your own skin colour... it makes no difference which country I'm in." Alice Sara Ott, speaking in the CD notes for her latest album, uses music to express herself - a language, she says, which brings people together and where everything is understood. She chatted to Tim Lihoreau online in his weekly Wednesday Web Chat, and answered a surprising set of questions...

Tim Lihoreau: Today on the Wednesday Webchat, we're talking (online) to pianist extraordinaire, Alice Sara Ott. Alice, welcome, and many thanks for sparing the time.

Thank you, good (early) morning!

Tim Lihoreau: EARLY? We can argue about that later. Alice, I wanted to start in Saint Petersburg - the scene of the live recording of your latest CD. Was it chance or design to record Pictures at an Exhibition there?

When I got the invitation from the White Nights Festival to play a recital there Deutsche Grammophon came up with the idea of recording it. Of course I was a bit nervous of playing Russian music in front of a Russian audience. But once we arrived in St. Petersburg it was such chaos: the piano was in a bad condition, there were problems passing security every morning, firemen and cleaning ladies came in every 30 minutes, so at the concert I finally had two hours which I could enjoy without worrying that anything could happen. So in the end I completely forgot that it was a live recording, that I only had one chance, or that it was a Russian audience listening to me. And I have to say, the audience was really fantastic!

Tim Lihoreau: You certainly go for the big repertoire. This time, it's Pictures ('an entire orchestra of colour' as one review put it) but before that, it's been Liszt's Transcendental Etudes, the Beethoven Waldstein etc, and complete Chopin. Is this just natural territory for a pianist? Or are you seriously drawn to the big stuff?!

Isn't everything sort of BIG? I personally think that a Mozart sonata is more difficult than the whole Liszt Studies... but I actually do like to take on a fresh challenge. And I always go with my gut...

Jared Poelman: Whoa! Just saw this on my feed. Feel free to answer whichever ones you want.

1. If you weren't a piano player, which instrument would you play?
2. Who are a the pianists (current and past) who inspire you?
3. What's your favorite sport?
4. Which Chopin etude is your favorite?
5. Which city is your favorite in the US? in Europe?
6. What is your favorite brand of chocolate?
7. What is your favorite book?
8. What do you think about President Obama?
9. Will you ever play Prokofiev 3rd concerto?
10. Which airline do you like best?

Hey Jared. Wow, lots of questions! Let me answer five of them:
    1. I would love to play the cello. (Or viola or bassoon)
    3. Solving the Rubik's Cube :)
    5. Amsterdam, Berlin. In the US so far NY
    6. Ferrero (I know... not the most exclusive one...)
    10. I fly most of the time with Lufthansa, but I love Singapore Airlines, too.

Sabine von Imhoff: It is a pleasure that you take part in the school project initiated by Lars Vogt, Rhapsody in School. The children like it very much. Is it also fulfilling for the artists? Can you learn from children? Greetings from Cologne!

The communication with children is always something so enjoyable to me. Their questions and reactions to my playing and talking is so unbiased, spontaneous and brutally honest. I think we all can learn a lot from this sincerity they have.

Gudrun Freese: Alice, if for some reason you had to play on an electronic piano... e.g. maybe for space reasons... is there one you would recommend, or features you would look for or avoid?

I have at my parents' place a Clavinova. The most important thing I would mind is the action, and wooden keys.

Johnny Nutseed: I couldn't help notice on your Wikipedia page that you said "music was the language that goes much beyond any words". Do you think that if Aliens came to earth like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the 1977 movie directed by Steven Spielberg at the age of 31) you would be able to communicate with them? What song would you play to ask them to leave Earth peacefully and not destroy it?

What a question!! :) I think I would play some Bach...

Elaine James: I was just wondering if you know Freddy Kempf pianist personally as you have a connection in that he has German/Japanese parents as well?

Unfortunately I don't know him personally... yet.

Tim Lihoreau: I think my work (!) here is done. Many thanks for your time, Alice. Can I just remind everyone - not to miss the Royal Festival Hall on 12 February, and DO pop in when you are next around.

Dear Tim and everybody who joined us: Thank you! Hope to see some of you at Royal Festival Hall soon!

Don't forget to come back at 9am next Wednesday for another online chat with an important musical figure - get your questions ready!