Strasbourg-born Elizabeth Sombart is new to me. I like a lot of what she does here, beginning her survey for Signum of Beethoven’s Five Piano Concertos together with the Triple.
Sombart has numerous awards to her name as well as a distinguished roster of mentors, including Gelber, Feuchtwanger and Celibidache, although, great conductor that he was, what part the latter played in defining Sombart’s artistry is not immediately certain; something theoretical one imagines, and indeed “phenomenology” is cited in her biography (“the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness”).
In this pair of Piano Concertos, accompanied with personality by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Pierre Vallet (another Celibidachian), Sombart gives measured accounts of both works, music-making without tricks, yet she is prone to occasional rushes, both Finales suffering a little: the ‘boogie-woogie’ section of No.1 is accelerated into and anyway lacks swing (Friedrich Gulda, in his Decca recording with Horst Stein, remains the standard-bearer here), while that of No.2, for all the agreeable not-rushed tempo, is on the chunky side.
Both first movements are brought off with satisfying poise however (Sombart opts for the shortest of Beethoven’s three cadenzas in Concerto #1, and something uncredited, not by LvB, in #2) but it’s the slow movements that are the defining pearls of this release. Maybe this is where Celibidache comes in, for both are soulfully spacious, the Largo marking of No.1 taken very seriously, and the result is a suspension of time that compels the patient listener for close on fourteen minutes, a broad span indeed,
Arne Akselberg ensures that the dryish upfront acoustic of Cadogan Hall is faithfully captured. Signum Classics SIGCD614.