The pianist removed her mask

The pianist removed her mask


norman lebrecht

January 07, 2021

Frankfurt radio has posted a really fine new performance of the Grieg concerto with Alica Sara Ott.

Ms Ott comes on stage in a full black mask, which she removes before she starts playing.

No-one else on stage is masked.

Where’s the logic?




  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    There is a lot of virtue signaling involving masked performers. People do not realize that the hindrance to breathing and vision negatively affect the athletic activity of performing music

    • JB says:

      this is a pathetic comment. Perhaps protecting others should be put first and other matters deemed secondary.

    • Miko says:

      It doesn’t bother me to wear one. What bothers me are the psychopaths who don’t care.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      People do not realize that the hindrance to breathing and vision negatively affect the athletic activity of performing medical tasks.
      Vital tasks.
      Life-saving tasks.
      All day long, all night long, day-in, day-out.
      Under far more trying circumstances than even a concert pianist must endure.

      Yet who would countenance medics and medical personnel waiving their masks and sterile apparel because these impair their “athletic activity”?

    • Sheila Novitz says:

      It is not “virtue signalling.” She REMOVED the mask before playing, or did you not read the article? Every solo performer is doing the same. Backstage we are close to other people; solo on the stage, we keep our distance.

  • Miko says:

    Cast your gaze closer to home, Norman.

  • Mr. G says:

    Here’s the logic: it can be seen that the conductor was also wearing a mask when they came on stage, walking almost next to each other.

  • JussiB says:

    I watched the concert, truly a memorable tour de force by Alice Sara Ott. She was diagnosed of MS last year; we wish her well. Her facial expressions remind me of Mitsuko Uchida. Ott is half-Japanese.

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    Berlin Philharmonic requires conductor and soloist to wear a mask to enter the stage. They remove it before starting to conduct.

    Protection of transmission to the players, presumably.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    All the right notes AND in the right order.

  • CYM says:

    Mask or no mask, a superb performance !!
    Energetic impeccable pianist, a very attentive conductor and orchestra, not only content to a do a routine accompaniment, but participate in a ‘massive’ chamber music performance !!!

  • PaulD says:

    The logic is in the same place as the Berlin Philharmonic’s. The BPO’s New Year’s Day concert was maskless, as have been all the others they’ve performed the past few months. Like Alice Sara Ott, the featured soloist arrived on stage with a mask, and promptly took it off. The orchestra obviously observes strict behavioral and testing standards.

  • Peter says:

    More evidence that radio has the best pictures.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    She’s a wonderful player!
    And is particularly good in the Grieg.

  • Maybe she will make another video concert with another orchestra during the next days.

  • John Humphreys says:

    Virtue signalling?

  • Max Grimm says:

    Nothing new there Norman…in general, musicians may remove their masks once they are seated on stage. Coming on/off stage and moving around the rest of the facility, wearing a mask is mandatory. Most operational halls and orchestras here in Germany have had this regulation for some time now.

  • Gustavo says:

    Riccardo Muti and the VPO may wish to explain.

    Barenboim did the same as Ott for Beethoven’s birthday concert.

    SAO is nice to look at. That’s the logic.

  • Andy says:

    The logic surely is that once everyone is seated they are the correct distance apart. Once the soloist gets to the piano she is distanced, but not when she walks on stage through/past the orchestra.

  • Actomox says:

    There arte people waiting off stage and she was perhaps standing near them whilst awaiting her entrance. What’s the problem anyway with people wearing masks?

  • Albert says:

    Hallo. They are backstage. Not far away from each other. Then once you are good distance away on the stage it is ok. Your snarkiness is pathetic.

  • Doug says:

    Perhaps to exercise some BASIC HUMAN DIGNITY?

    And please don’t pathetically retort “she won’t have any human dignity of she is dead” Newsflash: WE ALL DIE. Covid 1984 not only has a upper 90% recovery rate, but how many composers and musicians of the past performed, created and LIVED through true PANDEMICS?

    Enough of the HYSTERIA. Get a grip.

    • Betsy says:

      Thank you! It’s upwards of a 99.96% recovery rate if you’re under 50. And 99%+ unless you are under 75.

      The hysteria is insane and the virtue signaling is out of control.

      Masks are symbolic. Period. If you like signaling your virtue with symbols, go for it. I prefer to breathe fresh air, have a clear field of vision and for folks to be able to see my smile. If you are that scared of Covid, at this point we know enough about how little the risk is that if you can’t handle the minuscule risk to yourself, YOU stay home.

    • Ana Paula Russo says:

      At last someone with a normal approach to the subject.
      Thank you!
      (I think it is a shock to so many people to realise they too are doomed to die…)

  • Peter says:

    The mask is only there to say: “I’m a good human being.”

    Just a show-off.

    • Sheila Novitz says:

      Nonsense. She was backstage with other people; therefore mask was necessary. Her orchestra should’ve also worn masks unless they were more than a metre away from one another. Most solo instrumentalists are doing exactly as Ms Ott did. It has nothing to do with being a ‘good person.’ A mask protects the wearer and everyone around them. Have you any idea as to how far the droplets from one sneeze or one cough spread? Find out by reading.

  • Ken says:

    I find this performance deeper and more spiritual than some of her previous recordings of this piece. Age? Wisdom? Her diagnosis? Who knows. But her playing is obviously maturing in a wonderful direction. Brava, Alice!

  • Alton Slater says:

    If she is 6 feet away from anyone it’s safe.

  • Sheila Novitz says:

    Sir András Schiff does the same. With people backstage he uses a mask, and then removes it before playing. When, as now in London, there are no people with him backstage (and no audience!), he does not need or wear a mask. Makes perfect sense to me. Cannot understand why Ms Ott’s orchestra members were not masked. Perhaps this is one reason (scorning masks) for Europe, UK and US being in so much trouble?

  • Arc-en-ciel says:

    [Redacted: abuse]
    Firstly Alice is ill with MS, it is simply amazing that she is at all
    performing now, but with this Grieg concerto, it is her fantastic
    tour-de-force performance, as if it were the last.
    To exude such extraordinary inner and physical power,
    one needs to, must breathe, to inhale and exhale deeply and freely without a hindrance of a mask covering nose and mouth.

    And to the obvious matter of life and death now.
    Frau Merkel has ordered Lockdown in Germany for
    December and January 2020-2021.
    Why? Because of the COVID pandemic in Germany getting
    out of hand, people getting infected by the thousands and a greater number of people dying daily in these cold winter months.
    It is illegal in some states to walk around without a mask
    in a public gathering, or forbidden to gather in numbers exceeding 10 people.

    With this Orchestra, the players are sitting down with the
    obviously marked distance from one another, and they are mask
    free during performing only, and are at once mask wearing
    before and after the performance once they are in “normal”
    Modus operandi.
    Such is the life saving law as indeed should be.

  • Birchley Poundbottom says:

    Perhaps she sacrificed an additional lamb before going on stage to compensate for her psychopathic lack of correct talisman use? At least, judging from the comments here, the harvest should be bountiful this year!

  • Sheila Novitz says:

    The logic is self-evident. Backstage a performer is with other people; it is therefore important to wear a mask. When she comes out to perform, she is more than a metre from orchestra members, and the mask is no longer necessary. Many musicians are doing exactly what Ms Ott is doing. You say no-one else on the stage is masked. She is not masked – she took the mask off, remember?

  • Sheila Novitz says:

    Mr Lebrecht, you are an intelligent man. You know where the logic lies, and are just “stirring the pot.” Fine, but don’t hurt other people when you do it.