In what initially resembles a stumble-step, melodic keys flagrantly knock into one another, soon to form a harmony for the senses that is next to impossible to compete with, especially if you’ve got an ear for classical music as I do. This is “Nocturnes, Op. 9 No. 3 in B Major, Allegretto,” from Elizabeth Sombart’s Singing the Nocturnes, and as captivating a listen as this single movement in the album is, it’s but one excerpt of a boldly colorful homage to Chopin only a player like Sombart is capable of performing. She brings a lot of history behind her in this piece, but what’s more is her wickedly on-point interpretation of a mastermind of melodies.
There’s nothing monotonous within Singing the Nocturnes, and I would even argue that by structuring the tracklist to move us from Op. 15 directly into Op. 27, Sombart is able to cut down a lot of tension and create a seamless listening experience for new classical listeners and old fans the same. Accessibility is as much the aim as texture and tonality are in this LP, which isn’t often the case with most of the classical albums that I review as a professional critic.
The piano is nothing short of romantic as we encounter the likes of “Op. 48 No. 2-14” and “Op. 32 No. 1-9,” and I think that the exceptionally pristine production quality of the record is worth crediting in this department alongside Sombart’s exquisite play. As brilliant a performer as she is, nothing beats the high definition mastering we find every note in here, nor the intimate manner in which one track falls into the next, as though we’re listening to a live solo performance instead of a studio-recorded album removed from the comforts of our living room.
Tone is everything to Elizabeth Sombart – just take a look at what her discography has been comprised of leading up to the release of Singing the Nocturnes and you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about – and in this sense, her latest LP is no different than any other she’s stamped her name on. Op.s 72, 55, and 9 set a mood for the listener that cannot be escaped nor evaded, despite the contrasting presence of the minor-key melodies in Op. 27 comparative to the major 15, and from where I sit, it’s this mood that winds up being the greatest collective takeaway from the tracklist.
You really can’t be a classical fan in 2022 and turn down what Elizabeth Sombart is serving up in Singing the Nocturnes this January, and if you’re curious about her sound and artistry in general, this is a fantastic way of getting to know who she is in the studio and on the stage the same. There’s no overstating the importance and influence of Chopin, and in this collection of compositions from the Nocturnes, we can appreciate just how vital a legacy his truly is to both performers like Sombart and listeners like us, still enjoying the music well into the 21st century.