Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe -
SYLVIE Courvoisier AND CORY SMYTHE
The Rite of Spring – Spectre d’un songe
Globally acclaimed pianist, Sylvie Courvoisier has always taken a dialogic approach to her pieces of choice. Often within the music even as it is performed. That isn’t to say that Sylvie underestimates fidelity. And so the genesis of this epoch making interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, born of a gesture, modernism over 100 years old now, has a great backstory.
Sylvie toured for a decade with renowned Flamenco dancer and choreographer Israel Galván, there was a moment in the show when Galván flung his arms over his head in a pose that reminded the Sylvie of Vaslav Nijinsky, the legendary dancer who choreographed Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris 1913. From then on, Sylvie would often interpolate The Rite of Spring at that point in the show.
When Sylvie began working on a solo arrangement of The Rite of Spring, with the intent of infusing the composition with a little jazz pizazz, the Stravinsky family baulked, permitting performances of The Rite only in the composer’s version for two pianos or four hands.
Not to be denied, Sylvie sought the advice of her friend, the saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock who recommended Cory Smythe, not only as for the Stravinsky piece, but also to participate in a companion piece available here, Sylvie’s composition, Spectre d’un songe. Grammy award winner Smythe, having worked with an array of genre defying composers is equally at home with the rigours of classical and improvised sound spectrums.
“Cory is much more classically trained than I am,” Courvoisier says. “He was a great help to me in shaping the dynamics and the phrasing. He’s very detail-oriented about piano techniques, which was fantastic. We’ve become really close friends through this process.”
For his part Cory was equally excited to be involved, “What she does as an improviser and composer is extraordinary – bold, strange, immense…” Cory says, “she has a kind of dynamism across a wide range of sonic possibilities at the piano that I strive for in my own playing. Trying to invent alongside her has been challenging in the best possible way for me.”
The resulting recording is epically and eminently, rip-roaringly listenable. All of the promised dynamics are displayed on one of the most intense records you might hear this year. Courvoisier and Smythe are deft modernisers.
Here on a sunny afternoon in the garden, reeling with an inanity hangover brought on by the public response to a coronation - and the sight of the inescapable dishonesty etched deep into a king's unhappy face. A man appointed by God on no merit. And it so looked like he knew. This record feels like the diametric opposite to the history of all of that. Both The Rite of Spring and Spectre D'un Songe offer a joyful awareness of the hope provided by fidelity to the past and genuine reinvention. The beginning of a restoration of meaning, of something that matters.
Sylvie Courvoisier says, “The Rite of Spring is a piece I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. It’s not an easy piece. This project was an incredible challenge.”
You can hear Sylvie meet the challenge in every note. The Rite of Spring is a most pleasurable and ineradicable recording.
Main image by Veronique Hoegger