Contrast can be your best friend or your worst enemy in a recording studio and beyond, and for artist and acclaimed pianist Elizabeth Sombart, it’s the former more than it is the latter. Sombart’s epic Singing the Nocturnes has her under consideration for a Grammy Award, and it’s no doubt thanks to the album’s stirring use of contrast as a component of emotional conveyance, falling in line with the mood that most of Chopin’s most riveting compositions have always celebrated.
Amidst the darkness, there is a light ignited by the delicate nature of this player’s performance, and taking into account her life’s work and the miles it has allowed for her to travel, she couldn’t have picked a better moment than the present to give us a shine.
The melodic presence Sombart has in any given track she’s recorded is undeniable, and to understand how she’s able to attack the Nocturnes with the kind of passion she has here, one must look back to her recording of “Carnaval, Op.9: 1.-21.” as featured in her album Etudes symphoniques et variations par Elizabeth Sombart. In just the short year that has come to pass since she recorded this LP, she seems to have grown more mature and straightforward with much of her delivery, melding her Middle Eastern influences with something a bit more abstract – although not aloof – for her approach towards the Nocturnes. This is more black and white and submissive, which lets us get a better look at her present-day skillset.
Singing the Nocturnes is probably the most complete work Sombart has ever recorded, but it’s not so even-handed as to leave out a surreal quality that has been getting stronger with everything she’s recorded since 1998. Among those being considered for Grammys in the classical genre right now, hers is a grasp of postmodern themes that could be described as pulsating at worst and striking at best, which helps to lead us through the tracklist of this latest LP without skipping a beast – or a song. It’s hard to make a perfect album, but as far as covering Chopin is considered, you have to wonder just how long Sombart spent perfecting all of the details in this masterful display of her in-studio prowess.
I don’t often go for the more puritan classical works out there, but there’s a youthfulness to Singing the Nocturnes that begs for us to give it a second and third listen long after that initial sit-down has left us really intrigued by its creator. For the most part, Elizabeth Sombart has done a good job of playing under the radar for a lot of outsiders to the classical music realm, but it’s hard to imagine the considerable attention she’s received for this LP dying down anytime soon, especially given the likelihood of her walking away with a Grammy Award for her performance here. She’s worked for the entirety of her life towards this moment, and as brooding and unfiltered as it is, Singing the Nocturnes has a grace that feels fitting for the prize it’s about to receive.