Star pianist: I have multiple sclerosis

Star pianist: I have multiple sclerosis


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2019

DG’s German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott is about to announce on social media that she has been diagnosed with the degenerative condition known as multiple sclerosis.

This has prompted several cancellations over the past year while she came to terms with the various health issues, but she is determined to resume her career and to live her life to the full.

Here is how she visualises her situation:

Please send Alice warm wishes and positive thoughts.

Here is her statement in English and German:

(for German, please scroll down)

Today I would like to share something very personal with you.
As some of you may know, I have recently had some issues with my health which raised concerns and impacted upon my work. After many medical appointments and examinations, I was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on 15th January this year.

When the doctors first raised the possibility of it last year, I felt as if the world had collapsed around me. I went through a roller-coaster of feelings of panic, fear and devastation. I had many, many questions. How would this impact my life? My work?

I have since spent a lot of time researching multiple sclerosis and its implications and have met with many doctors. With each new piece of information, I realise I previously had a false image of this disease. Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system and, while no known cure exists, thanks to huge medical advances over the years a large majority of people affected by it are able to live full and fulfilling lives.

It’s going to take me a while to get to know this condition and how I will manage it for myself. There will come times when I will have to face challenges and make adjustments, but in finding the right balance of treatment I am confident and optimistic that I will continue to live my life – and travel and perform – as before. I’m looking forward to continuing my season as planned.

Sharing this with everybody was not an easy decision, but I believe it is the right one. MS is a very misunderstood disease in our society and by being open about it I hope I can encourage others (especially those who are diagnosed with it when they think their lives have only just begun) to do the same. An acknowledgement is not a weakness, but a way to protect and gain strength, both for oneself and for those around us. I am grateful to my loved ones who have shown me so much support and love over the past few months. They have not only had their own emotions to deal with but have also had to face questions about my welfare. In clarifying my situation, I also hope to relieve them and give them the time and space to process this.

Sometimes life leads you on an unexpected path, and I am at the very beginning of this new one for me. However I strongly believe it is up to us to make the best out of it.



Heute möchte ich eine sehr persönliche Mitteilung machen.
Wie einige es vielleicht mitbekommen haben, hatte ich in letzter Zeit gesundheitliche Probleme, welche meine Arbeit beeinflusst und Besorgnis erregt haben. Nach einer Reihe von medizinischen Untersuchungen wurde bei mir am 15. Januar dieses Jahres Multiple Sklerose diagnostiziert.

Als letztes Jahr dieser Verdacht zum ersten Mal ausgesprochen wurde, brach für mich eine Welt zusammen. Während ich von einer Untersuchung zur nächsten lief, herrschte in mir ein Chaos aus Angst, Panik und Verzweiflung. Ich hatte so viele Fragen. Was bedeutete diese Diagnose? Wie würde sie sich auf mein Leben auswirken? Auf meinen Beruf?

Seitdem habe ich viel Zeit damit verbracht, mich über Multiple Sklerose und ihre Auswirkungen zu erkundigen und mich auch von verschiedenen Spezialisten beraten lassen. Mit jeder neuen Information, die ich bekam, stellte ich fest, dass ich vorher ein ganz falsches Bild von dieser Krankheit hatte. Multiple Sklerose ist eine Erkrankung des zentralen Nervensystems, die sich bei jedem Betroffenen unterschiedlich auswirkt. Obwohl bis zum heutigen Tag noch kein Heilmittel exisitiert, ermöglicht die medizinische Forschung und Entwicklung der letzten Jahre einer Vielzahl der Betroffenen, ein normales Leben mit kaum Einschränkungen zu führen.

Es wird sicherlich eine Weile dauern, bis ich meinen neuen Zustand besser kennengelernt habe und ich werde vielleicht Tage erleben, an denen ich Herausforderungen gegenüberstehen und mich ihnen anpassen muss. Aber genauso wie ich mir sicher bin, die passende Therapie und den richtigen Ausgleich im Alltag zu finden, so bin auch voller Zuversicht, dass ich mein Leben wie bisher weiterführen werde. Ich freue mich sehr auf die kommenden Konzerte und Projekte.

Die Entscheidung, diese Nachricht mit allen zu teilen, ist mir nicht leicht gefallen. Aber dennoch glaube ich, dass sie richtig ist. MS gehört zu den missverstandensten Krankheiten in unserer Gesellschaft und indem ich offen mit ihr umgehe, hoffe ich, andere Betroffene (vor allem jene, die gerade in jungen Jahren damit konfrontiert werden) auch dazu ermutigen zu können. Ein Eingeständnis ist keine Schwäche, sondern ein Weg, sich und sein Umfeld zu schützen und zu stärken.
Ich bin all denen, die mir aus nächster Entfernung so viel Liebe und Unterstützung in den letzten Monaten entgegengebracht haben, unendlich dankbar. Sie haben sich nicht nur mit ihren eigenen Emotionen, sondern auch mit vielen Nachfragen auseinandersetzen müssen. Indem ich meine Situation erläutere, hoffe ich, dass auch sie nun ein bisschen Zeit und Ruhe für sich finden können.

Manchmal führt einen das Leben auf einen unerwarteten Pfad und ich stehe erst ganz am Anfang dieses neuen Weges. Dennoch glaube ich, dass es an uns liegt, was wir daraus machen.


UPDATE: Igor Levit tweets: .@AliceSaraOtt – one of the most sincere, intelligent and gracious human beings I’ve ever met. Words fail to describe what she and her beloved ones much go through now. Her words and actions are inspiring beyond believe. Sending you and your beloved ones all my love, dear Alice.

From the Philharmonia Orchestra: Sending best wishes and positive thoughts from everyone at the Philharmonia to , who performed so wonderfully with us last month.


  • Jean says:

    Wish all the very best to her.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    A brave woman and we all wish her the very best

  • Jeremy says:

    Alice! Ich wunsche dir viel Mut, viel Geduld, und obwohl die Lage schwer ist, es gibt immer Hoffnung. Mein Traum waere, Klavier fast so gut wie du zu spielen!

  • Novagerio says:

    Wish you the best in life Alice! Mut!!

  • Meal says:

    Sehr geehrte Frau Ott,
    ich bin dankbar, dass Sie den den Schritt gewagt haben, Ihre Erkrankung öffentlich zu machen. Ich verstehe Ihre Sorgen, die nicht nur mit der Erkrankung an sich verbunden sind, sondern auch damit, sie öffentlich zu machen. Ich bin jedoch sicher, dass Ihr Schritt vielen anderen Betroffenen Mut machen und helfen wird, viele Fehlinformationen und -einschätzungen zu korrigieren. Ihre öffentliche Nachricht verdient in jeder Hinsicht Hochachtung. Ich freue mich auch, dass Sie positiv und aktiv in die Zukunft schauen. Die positive Haltung – eine Austrahlung, die ich bei früheren Konzerten wahrnehmen durfte – wird Ihnen und allen anderen helfen. Von Herzen vielen Dank und alles Gute!

  • Dacian says:

    Wish you all the best Alice! Be strong and get well soon!

  • Been Here Before says:

    This is not news to be taken lightly, but I wish Alice courage and strength in fighting the illness. She is incredibly talented and has so much to give to the world.

  • DAVID says:

    An incredibly courageous, thoughtful and mature statement. All the best to her.

  • Bruce says:

    This kind of thing is always hard. It’s easy to say “of course the future is unknowable” but we go ahead with making plans for the future anyway. It helps us put the uncertainty of the future out of our minds — and often, our plans work out more or less, so we don’t necessarily have to believe that the future is uncertain. And even when our life plans don’t work out, we figure that we’ll still be pretty much the same as we are now, and we’ll figure something out. It’s a tremendously reassuring thought, although it’s usually only possible in hindsight to see how reassuring it was.

    Best wishes going forward, Ms. Ott. Deciding to be a pianist, of all unlikely things, and then actually managing to do it, shows you have the courage and perseverance to face whatever is coming.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    This is heartbreaking news! Hoping her the very best, and if at all possible, a miraculous recovery.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Bless you Alice!

  • Anita says:

    Please, Please , Please look up Antony Haynes, in London Harley Street and pay him a visit.

  • Schwalde Hochküst says:

    Terrible, but hopefully there is light there as well. Prayers for her.

  • Ross Amico says:

    If she or anyone she knows reads this, I encourage her to Google Bob Cafaro. Cafaro is the Philadelphia Orchestra cellist who was diagnosed with MS in 1999. Incredibly, he managed to beat it, and he’s devoted much of his energy since to trying to help others do the same. He’s written a book, and made a number of videos. You’ll find some of them posted on YouTube. Best of luck.

  • Karl says:

    Ich wuensche Dir alles Gute, liebe Alice !!!

  • orchestra manager says:

    So sad to read Alice Sara’s message. Having followed her career for several years, she convinced from the very beginning and has developed to one of the most interesting young and honest pianists.

    Her message is sad but shows her wonderful talent to communicate and it will certainly give other people with the same disease strength.

    With very best wishes from somebody who heard her very first Ravel G major concerto in Basel with the Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich.

  • Christopher Storey says:

    I am full of admiration for her in announcing this worrying but let us hope not disastrous news. I do hope that Alice’s career will continue successfully, and that she will overcome in body and mind what for anyone, and particular a performing artist , is an unpleasant setback

  • steven holloway says:

    A wonderfully personal and dignified statement, just what I would expect of Alice. She shows courage and spirit, so vital in fighting serious illness of any kind. She will be in my thoughts often, for never did I think I would find in an artist of Alice’s age what I have found in her — a loud echo of the magnificent approaches to the piano and its literature associated with artists who left us circa 1990. An amazing pianist, an amazing woman.

  • Robert Roy says:

    Very sad news indeed.

  • Patrick says:

    Go and fight Alice. We need your marvellous talent and your music!

  • Amos says:

    First and foremost best wishes to Ms. Ott for treatment which will stabilize her health and enable her to continue her distinguished career. Before anyone suggests she visit anyone or try some therapy realize that RR-MS is not a uniform neurological disease with a standard set of symptoms, therapeutic regimen and outcome. In the last 10-15 years a number of diverse treatment options, with different MOAs, have been developed which are much more efficacious and with fewer debilitating side effects. Furthermore, in that same time frame, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the frequency and severity of relapses have decreased. Given the need for every RR-MS patient to be treated based on their unique disease profile everyone should assume that Ms. Ott is receiving the best clinical care specific for her individual disease profile.

  • Nick says:

    This is very sad. But Alice will overcome!! Good luck with your difficult battle and warmest wishes. Science goes ahead with an incredible speed now.

  • Bob says:

    Thank you for your words I have spent hours watching and listening to your performances

  • Spenser says:

    Dear Alice,
    I am so sorry to hear of your ailment.
    I wish you only the best.
    Good luck, dear girl.
    – yours sincerely, Spenser

  • Finlay Cedar says:

    Been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2015, and I was a woman of 50. They put me on Rebif which I took until 2017 and was switched to Copaxone. I had two relapses on Rebif, none so far on Copaxone. I do notice my balance was getting worse, and my memory, as well as erectile dysfunction and spasms’ had no choice to sick for other solution and I was introduce to  which I purchase the MS herbal formula from the foundation, the herbal supplement has effectively get rid of my multiple sclerosis and reversed all symptoms.

  • Roman Heuer says:

    Dear Alice,
    You already lifted my spirits to the heavens forever.
    In the future I like to hear more Strauss and Rachmaninoff.

  • Audrey says:

    Love your work, get well soon. God bless

  • John King says:

    Alice, our thoughts are with you, and hope the best for you health-wise and otherwise. You are loved.

  • Mark says:

    Ms. Ott: May God grant you the strength to persevere and continue to light up the world with your sensitive and uplifting piano playing. All the best, and God bless you.

  • Zain says:

    Fight, Alice! We love you and your music!

  • account user says:

    Some say “Fight it!” but i would say—Relax, when you can, and invite the love and music of Spiritual healing to happen. 🙂

  • Leonard Pacelli, B.A., Dipl.Ed., Lic.Paed., says:

    When I came across your performances on YouTube it was a revelation. Without getting into all the superlatives I would like you to know that your concerts and your playing in particular were so enjoyable to watch and to hear. With the commitment that you gave to your music I am confident and hopeful that you will continue your career. I will be looking for more videos from you. All the best!!

  • Allen Kibby says:

    Dear Alice Sara Ott…
    I have have recently found you on YouTube and have listened to many of your recordings. I am a musician myself with a degree in Music. My major was Bassoon and I played most of the woodwinds. I particularly enjoyed teaching.
    To get to the point of these comments I have read of your medical situation. I have lived a full life but now I realize that I have been given God’s greatest gift. The salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.
    I do understand your trial but I hope you understand that you have performed music at level most people cannot even dream of. I can only imagine what marvel you have brought to many hearts and minds. There is something greater than all these things…eternity! An eternity with a God so glorious that glories over His people with singing. He saves those whom He has loved from eternity and at some point in their lives He gives them faith to believe.
    This is my prayer for you!
    Allen Kibby

  • Michael Keogh says:

    I came across Alice playing Beethoven’s piano concerto No.3 by accident on YouTube. I wasn’t familiar with this particular Beethoven concerto but as I watched and listened I was enthralled by her incredible performance and her wonderful rapport with the orchestra, the conductor and the audience. She demonstrated an amazing humility for such a wonderful talent.
    I am much saddened by the news of her health issues but much impressed by her attitude and determination.
    I send my sincere best wishes and hope that her performances continue for a long, long time.

  • Stephen Riedesel says:

    to Alice Sara Ott – I just recently discovered you in your exquisite playing of Chopin’s music. And even more recently I read your piece as you shared with your fans that you are having to cope

    with MS. I will remember you daily in my thoughts and prayers and pray that you indeed can continue in some respects, if not fully, your career and your music. You are already an inspiration to so many people and will continue to be.

    Much love and blessings to you, Alice Sara,


  • Steve Riedesel says:

    Alice Sara, I know you have your good days and tough days. As a special education teacher in Maryland, USA, I worked closely with the school’s reading specialist since we worked with some of the same youngsters. She suffered from MS but came to work every day. I watched her daily display great courage even though I knew it was hard many days. I think of you and will keep you in my prayers as you battle to overcome your condition and continue to give that great gift of music you have to the world. I love you and wish you nothing but the best, Alice Sara Ott.

  • George says:

    Dear Alice Sara. After discovering your talents recently I have been following your music. But also as a physician I am sure with the new advances coming along in MS and with your positive outlook, I hope to be continuing to listen to your wonderful talents for a long time. Please continue to be strong. Best wishes.

  • Michael Ogg says:

    Dear Alice, I’ve only just discovered your extraordinary performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and was then shocked to learn that you’d been diagnosed with MS. I’ve had it for almost 25 years and although it’s taken a physical toll, it hasn’t taken me and it shouldn’t take you as long as you approach it with the same positive attitude as you do your music. There’s no space here to say more so I just wish you the very best, Michael

  • Stahl says:

    Alice, there is something so marvelous inside you that your fantastically refined piano virtuosity expresses. So I hope intensely that you will be able to continue performing as you have before. You are a gift to the earth, and everyone on it will suffer if we lose you. Please be well.


    Hi Alice, have a look at homeopathy. It’s effects are very subtle yet powerful. I know from my own experience. John Melville

  • Terry Biggenden says:

    Please accept every possible best wish I can muster. You are a very talented and hard-working artist and give much joy to so many.I can only had no idea you had this diagnosis., I can barely imagine your feelings and courage I’m sure u will continue for many years to come.

    All my love and thoughts for you.

  • Norman Shakespeare says:

    It is far greater to make humanity happy for a second than oneself for a lifetime.
    Alice has and will make millions happy for a long, long time.

  • George Goldberg says:

    Many years ago I was a piano major at the Yale School of Music studying with Donald Currier. I have had the privilege of accompanying Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, and Dorothy Sarnoff in informal performances of Broadway shows. I never reached the level of the Beethoven Third, which other commenters have mentioned, but I had classmates who were playing it with local orchestras (and who expressed terror at the scales which begin the piano part). I have since heard scores of performances of this work. Lately I came upon yours and thought it wonderful, the best I have ever heard, your perfect technique allowing you to immerse yourself in the music. You are a wonderful artist and a very attractive human being, and I sincerely hope you will be able to continue bringing joy to a world sorely in need of it.

  • Lupita Brasil says:

    I am very glad I came across this post and stopped to read it from beginning to end, as it left on a very positive note. I was in the beginning of my own journey with MS and the depression it’s was giving me was unbearable , I found some encouragement from several blogs and last year in seeing Rochelle make her personal goals after overcoming the disease with natural medicine I have to tried it also .I’ve kind of resigned to the fact that this is how life will be for me back until I found herbs that stop this multiple sclerosis easily and relief all the Fatigue and other symptoms I was experiencing ,I’m passing this info to anyone at there because ww w .multivitamincare .org has the right cure and caregiver to this disease ….I took various supplements, medicine prescribed by neurologist,massage and physiotherapy still the disease is was progressing very fast until the the MS formula from that caregiver .

  • Leonard P. Pacelli says:

    A rose among thorns. You are living your life in music and we are following; enraptured, silent and surrounding you.

  • Filippo says:

    Sending loving vibes to you, Alice. You are a precious soul and you add light to this world.

  • David says:

    I wish Alice Sara all the best in life. She has bought so much enjoyment to any one who listens to her playing.

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