„Pianists Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe interpret and reimagine Stravinsky’s landmark The Rite of Spring.
If you’re curious how two celebrated jazz pianists stack up against today’s classical stars when it comes to Stravinsky’s piano arrangement of his “Rite,” you’ll need three things: this fine rendition; a sterling one from 2017, by Marc-André Hamelin and Leif Ove Andsnes; and a stopwatch.
Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe are both known as composers and improvisers. Here, though, they play the score straight. Yet just because they’re following the notes on the page, it doesn’t mean they can’t also imbue Stravinsky’s phrases with a dash of late-night, jazz-club flavor.
They take things about a minute slower than Hamelin and Andsnes, and in a composition garlanded with so many contrasts and pivots, that approach is not without risk. Reveling in the ballet’s opening melodic material is perfectly defensible, as is injecting a lustily bumptious, Cecil Taylor-style ferocity in the chords that open the “Augurs of Spring” section. But such moves also risk diluting balletic momentum. So give this take credit for working some magic: Even as it luxuriates, it keeps driving. And the second half’s gradual, dramatic unfolding is a real contribution to the catalog of “Rite” on piano.
In the other work on the album, “Spectre d’un Songe,” Courvoisier gets to flex her compositional side. The half-hour piece once again finds her pianism in dialogue with that of Smythe, and you’ll hear traces of the “Rite” here and there. By turns intense and languorous, it is not just a worthy follow-up to their Stravinsky interpretation, but also a key entry in Courvoisier’s growing composer-performer discography.“
- SETH COLTER WALLS, The New York Times, July 27, 2023
SYLVIE COURVOISIER/CORY SMYTHE DUO
Sylvie Courvoisier, piano
Cory Smythe, piano
Cory Smythe, piano