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Beyond her multiple talents, what makes Sylvie Courvoisier so exceptional is the integrated fluidity characterizing the various aspects of her work. As a pianist, she is skilled at classical as well as extended forms, playing inside the piano case and preparing the strings only as her sublime musical intuition dictates. Her compositions don't even raise tired questions about what's written and what's not or about the sort of notation used. The music makes so much sense as a whole as to obviate banal technical inquiries. The logic of her compositions speaks for itself.
Such was the case on the excellent debut release of her Abaton trio, with violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Erik Friedlander, issued by ECM in 2003. And the organic quality of her work continues on this DVD performance, released by the French company La Huit and retaining the title of the CD.
On the CD Feldman, who has worked with Courvoisier extensively and certainly knows her music, is given ample room to improvise, but at the same time Courvoisier knows how to compose for him. Like her violinist, she is clearly playing scored music at some times and wandering from the score at others, though the proportion of notated to improvised music doesn't seem to matter. As the four pieces in the live program progress, the music grows looser, whether due to greater improvisation or the composer's cleverness in suggesting such extemporaneousness never becoming an issue. Either way, the music is consistently surprising and quite beautiful.
On the DVD, Friedlander is replaced by the German cellist Anja Lechner, who plays confidently if perhaps sticking more closely to the score. The program is nicely shot, with multiple cameras and a variety of shot set-ups along with a pair of dancers (and perhaps some unnecessary video animation): such attention to visual elements makes the disc rise above the usual filmed performance. La Huit has made a name for itself by creating films worthy of the music the company documents, with ten other titles already released. It's a company worth watching for, and with luck its unique products will receive better promotion and distribution.
Tracks: Orodruin; Too Speedy; Tony Delito; Abaton
Personnel: Sylvie Courvoisier: piano; Mark Feldman: violin; Anja Lechner: cello.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.