In the modern music world, there is seldom a place for classical music that acted as the building blocks for everything we know and love today. You’re not going to go on Pitchfork and see a slew of articles about ranking Bach’s masterworks, and there’s not exactly a market for YouTube video essays on Beethoven’s symphonies, but if you’re willing to dig deep into the niche corners of the internet, you’ll discover that artists across the world are still more than happy to revel in the glow of our musical forefathers.
One such artist, Elizabeth Sombart, has made an illustrious career out of such reveling, and thirty-some-odd albums later, she’s turned her sights (back) to Frédéric Chopin. Her latest album, Singing the Nocturnes, is twenty-one tracks of unbridled Chopin from the classics to the less-exposed, and there’s not a single track worth missing. It’s wild to receive a two-hour-long album of concert piano, but Chopin is about as riveting as it gets so there’s no filler here. If you’re new to Chopin and classical music, you might disagree, but Sombart’s keen attention to the material and the presentation of the tracklist will keep even the classical music naysayers at bay as there is an undeniable undercurrent to the entire project. The deeply rooted history Sombart shares with the material and her chosen instrument certainly plays into the fact that the album’s flow feels impervious, but there’s something surreal about seeing a master in their element at play, too.
Listen to SINGING THE NOCTURNES on Spotify. Elizabeth Sombart · Album · 2022 · 21 songs.
Some of Sombart’s inherent power comes from her humanitarian efforts, too. Having opened the Fondation Résonnance nearly twenty-five years ago, she has made significant efforts to bring not only her music but all classical music to outreach venues (such as hospitals, prisons, and orphanages.) On top of that, Sombart has been able to open piano schools free of age limits for anyone wanting to learn the piano, and the schools work in a less regimented, classroom-driven way by excluding exams and direct contests. Putting out over thirty albums already feels impossible enough, but doing all of this on top of it? There’s no confirmation on when Sombart sleeps.
Overall, there’s a distinct disclaimer on the subject of Singing the Nocturnes: if you’re vehemently against classical music, maybe try and find your music for the day elsewhere. That being said, if you’re even mildly curious about what Chopin and Sombart joining forces could have in store for you, make the leap and give this album a listen. It’s able to scratch an itch that feels both retrospective to an entire career and an entire genre of music. Sombart has managed to pull off an incredible run as one of the most revered classical pianists currently releasing music, and her attention to detail both in the music and in the grander scheme of things should not go unrewarded. Elizabeth Sombart’s calling card album Singing the Nocturnes offers up an incredibly immersive and moving retrospective of Chopin, but also of her iconic career — it’s a victory lap well worth celebrating.