Elizabeth Sombart reminds me why I create. I The sort of near-monastic dedication she’s exhibited towards her art, manifested in both her work and activism, strikes me as the standard every artist should aspire to – no matter if they are a musician, painter, poet, novelist, or whatever. Though her music is not remotely close to Pop, it is however about many things and one of the most prominent aspects is how the channels between life and art are kept open.
Sombart does not just consume herself with playing or plotting her next move as a musician. Instead, she makes real an intense desire that others might know the same redemptive and transformative effect music has exerted over her life. Paying back that gift has factored into her life as one of its driving impulses with her 1998 founding of Fondation Résonnance, an organization committed to furthering no-cost musical education throughout France. Its reach has long since extended beyond her homeland’s borders and it has expanded its mission.
Fondation Résonnance includes outreach that brings music programming into institutions where it is notoriously unavailable such as hospitals and prisons. Much of her musical talent has been forged and refined in academic settings. She is an alumnus of the prestigious Strasbourg Conservatory, studied with Peter Feuchtwanger in London, Bruno Leonardo Gelber in Buenos Aires, and Hilde Langer-Ruhl in Vienna. She devoted a significant portion of her career returning the favor during her time as a Conservatoire Rachmaninoff instructor.
These accomplishments brought even greater rewards. 2006 saw Sombart awarded the rank of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite for Lifetime Achievement and awarded again in 2008, this time earning the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Such laurels are normally bestowed when an artist is moving into a different phase of their journey where consolidation and reputation are increasingly more important than breaking new ground.
Elizabeth Sombart, however, has upended that expectation as well. She hasn’t rested following the aforementioned awards but, if anything, accelerated her output with a growing discography illustrative of her command over classical music’s history. There is nothing bloodlessly studied, however, about her work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and tackling such famed composers as Beethoven and Chopin.
Her willingness to address Chopin’s Nocturnes on her latest recording Singing the Nocturnes reflects the long grasp of her artistic ambitions. It does not exceed her reach. Her astonishing ability to conjure a world different, yet familiar, and invoke the full emotive beauty of Chopin’s writing is further evidence, as if needed, of her titanic gifts. She makes it sound effortless, as well, like all the great ones do.
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It is all the more impressive that she boasts accomplishments such as these while retaining such profound humility. There’s never any aspect of her life, professional or otherwise, communicating a sense of “look at me, look at me”. Changing human lives for the better through the power of music drove her in the beginning, it continues to fuel Elizabeth Sombart now and shows no signs of exhaustion in the future.