Pianist Elizabeth Sombart Sings the Nocturnes to the World
In some ways, Elizabeth Sombart is a throwback to an earlier age. I don’t say this because she plays classical piano – I would think the same if she lived her life and thought the same way while playing washboard in a local jug band. It is the underlying aesthetic operative throughout Sombart’s life, nay her work, that makes me say this. Everything about Sombart’s life in music makes sense viewed up close or from a distance and it isn’t difficult drawing a straight line from her days as a young pre-teen girl learning the piano to her current stature as one of France’s most respected classical musicians and an important figure in the global classical community.
Her journey with the piano began in the mid-1960s near her seventh birthday when Sombart started playing the instrument with serious intent. It is unsurprising that her talents evidenced themselves fast enough that within a few short years Sombart honed the necessary skills to play in front of an appreciative audience. Sombart left home soon after to study abroad and her coming of age as both a young woman and musician included time in South America, Britain, and Austria as she continued developing and refining her talents.
The dedication required for such work is not readily grasped by laypersons. Fewer still are those who grasp the depth of feeling required to pursue professional and artistic ends as Sombart has balanced with a need every bit as strong to spread the good of music to anyone in need of its effects. Sombart, deep into her own career and certainly not possessing an abundance of free time, helped form Fondation Résonnance. The founding of this organization in 1998 opened the door for free music education to make its impact felt in French society and beyond. Institutions housing those in need of musical recreation and therapy benefit as well as the Fondation brings its programming to jails, prisons, orphanages, and hospitals.
French society has recognized her contributions with awards and honors. Sombart assumed the rank of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite for Lifetime Achievement in 2006 and became a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2008. Individuals attaining an equivalent status in the United States or the United Kingdom would have mentioned such honors featured on the front page of every major media outlet. These two specific laurels represent one of many capstones for a long and meaningful life in art.
It’s more than that, however. In a world where it is all too easy to often feel like human life doesn’t mean quite as much as it once did, Elizabeth Sombart’s art stands as a rebuke to such heresy. Her latest musical release, Singing the Nocturnes, uses the great Frederic Chopin to reinforce that point. Her life stands as a rebuke as well. She has given of herself without regard for treasure or fame and will continue to do so because there is value in this, in all of this, and she understands that as well as anyone. Long may she continue to love and create.