The Classical Station’s interview with Elizabeth Sombart for Preview!

Interview with Elizabeth Sombart
by Bethany Tillerson (Photo credit:

This week, our Preview! guest is world-renowned classical pianist Elizabeth Sombart. She’s received the Order of National Merit from her native country, France, and founded the Fondation Résonnance, which brings classical music to hospitals, prisons, and orphanages. On Preview!, she and Naomi Lambert discuss working with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Sombart’s recent recording of Mozart’s piano concertos.

LAMBERT: Would you provide just a little background about yourself for our listeners, Elizabeth?

SOMBART: What I can tell you immediately is that I love England, I love London, I love the RPO. For me, it’s an unbelievable journey to have made not only the adagio, the Chopin, the Beethoven with them, but now what we are doing with Mozart is really an immense joy. I know every musician of the orchestra, and we have made all this with the same conductor. This is very important in Mozart. We had the possibility with Pierre Vallet a year before to work intensively on details and phrasing. We do not always have the time to unify the phrasing with the orchestra and the piano, and it’s such a joy, a pleasure, and an achievement for us to have the possibility to do that with this work.

LAMBERT: You recorded four of the concerti. Do you have a favorite?

SOMBART: That’s a good question, because when you play a Mozart concerto, you always think, This is the one. I love the 488 for the slow movement, because it was the first time and the only time that the Mozart wrote in this tonality. So he really opened his heart in a way that he never did. I love the immense joy that we have in the concert. Number 20, the first movement, the poetry. In every concerto, there is something unique, a phrase or two, that made me decide to do them. You know, sometimes it is not every concerto that where I love every note the same, but there are some bars which are completely magic that made me choose that concerto. Maybe if I had to choose, it would be 20, 21, 23, 27. Believe me, I could not tell you.

LAMBERT: You have worked with Pierre Vallee several times, right?

SOMBART: Yes, we did all the Beethoven Concerto and the Tripper with the violinist, first violin and cellist from the RPO. And we did the Chopin Concerto, too. The number one and number four. And we did the adagio, this very special recording. Pierre is really a brother in music for me. We just understand music together. It’s very important also for the orchestra too, to feel this the community, this complicity between conductor and soloist.

LAMBERT: That’s fascinating, Elizabeth. Tell me, do you have any more projects in mind?

SOMBART: Yes, we will do some more for Mozart next year. Somebody asked me, “Why don’t you do all of them as you did with Beethoven?” It is not the same because when you play the five Beethoven concertos, from the first concerto to the fifth, there’s a life journey. You have in all five concerti every single color of what you experiment in life. In Mozart, it’s not like this. Every concerto, of course, is interesting and may be lovely, but it’s not like you have to do them all to give a message. Those I’ve chosen I think of as the most beautiful.

LAMBERT: I was looking at your website and I was very interested to read about your interest in musical phenomenology, the ways in which human beings respond to sound. What a fascinating subject.

SOMBART: Sergiu Celibidache was the first one to teach about how to hear sound and harmonics and how to put them together to create unity, how to put notes together to find the relation, and the awareness of how to hear and to play a different key.

Join us for Elizabeth Sombart’s Preview! interview at 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 6th! Listen on, on 89.7 FM, or on our app!