The Squid's Ear Magazine

Courvoisier, Sylvie / Cory Smythe: The Rite of Spring - Spectre d'un songe (Pyroclastic Records)

Having presented a solo version of Stravinksy's The Rite of Spring at Opera Bastille in Paris with avant-flamenco dancer Israel Galván, Courvoisier developed a new work for two pianos performed with Cory Smythe, merging composition & improvisation as they invoke impressions of The Rite in tandem with Stravinksy-like reharmonizations of previous Courvoisier works.

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product information:

UPC: 020286242147

Label: Pyroclastic Records
Catalog ID: PR 26
Squidco Product Code: 33321

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: Canada
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Recorded at Oktaven Audio, in Mount Vernon, New York, on December 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 2021, by Ryan Streber.


Sylvie Courvoisier-piano


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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Sylvie Courvoisier is often viewed as a jazz pianist because her oeuvre is so fundamentally grounded in her profound skills as an improvisor. However, astute listeners realize quickly that she brings the touch and outlook of classical pianism to her work and indeed, the music of Messiaen, Bach, Ligeti and Stravinsky lie deep in her musical memory bank alongside Monk, Mengelberg, Bley and Taylor.

Sylvie spent ten years creating and touring with the avant-flamenco dance master Israel Galván on an acclaimed work called "La Curva". At one point in the piece Galván would strike a pose with arms raised overhead that reminded Sylvie of Vaslav Nijinsky, the star and choreographer of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. She began to respond as a jazz musician might with little quotes from the piece. This piqued the dancer's interest, and Galván expressed a wish to do a full project dancing to this music. Courvoisier created a solo version of the first three movements of The Rite and they performed it together at the Opera Bastille in Paris and received a strong positive response from Le Monde. However, she was shortly informed that the Stravinsky family would allow no independent arrangements of his work - if a piano version of The Rite was to be performed it must be the master's original version for piano duet and nothing else.

Rather than reacting with disappointment, Courvoisier saw this challenge as an exciting prospect. She realized that she would need a partner who was an accomplished classical pianist who could help her with the proper rigor and detail of the piece. This person must also have serious improvisational skill because the plan was to group The Rite with an original work which she would create as a kind of response to it. She discussed the prospect with a close friend, saxophonist and composer Ingrid Laubrock, who immediately suggested Cory Smythe. Fortune smiled on this idea as Smythe had recently completed a run as Hilary Hahn's accompanist, and was happy to have an additional creative opportunity to work as an improvisor. Sylvie wrote her musical response, "Spectre d'un Songe", and was thrilled to find Smythe an equally strong partner in creating a new work as re-envisioning an old one.

"Spectre" uses primarily idiomatic impressions of The Rite but also specific reharmonization of previous Courvoisier creations in a Stravinsky-like mode of bitonality. In performing and recording these two works contiguously an additional subliminal conversation is created between them that manifests itself in dynamic interaction between the performers. In this way the reverberation of a classic masterwork is realized concretely in a present day creation."-Pyroclastic Records

Artist Biographies

"Sylvie Courvoisier is a pianist, composer and improviser. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Courvoisier moved to New York in 1998 and has lived in Brooklyn since that time.

Courvoisier has led several groups over the years and has recorded over 25 records as a leader or co-leader for different labels, notably ECM , Tzadik and Intakt Records and 30 cds as a sideperson. She has performed and recorded with John Zorn, Mark Feldman, Yusef Lateef, Ikue Mori, Tony Oxley, Tim Berne, Joey Baron, Joëlle Léandre, Herb Robertson, Butch Morris, Evan Parker, Mark Dresser, Ellery Eskelin, Lotte Anker, Fred Frith, Michel Godard, Tomazs Stanko among others. She has been commissioned to write music for concerts, radio, dance and theater. Since 1996, she has been touring widely with her own groups and as a side person in USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe.

Currently, Courvoisier is the leader of her TRIO with Kenny Wollesen and Drew Gress. She performs regularly Solo and since 1997, in Duo with violinist Mark Feldman. She co-leads the Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman Quartet with Scott Colley and Billy Mintz. Since 2000, she has been a member of Mephista, an improvising collective trio with Ikue Mori and Susie Ibarra. She is currently playing and touring in different projects of John Zorn including Cobra and Masada Marathon. She is also playing in Erik Friedlander's Trio, Herb Robertson's Quintet and Nate Wooley's Quartet. Since 2010, she has been working as a pianist and composer for flamenco dancer Israel Galvan's project "la Curva" with more than 150 performances around the world.

Awards include Switzerland's 1996 Prix des jeunes créateurs; Zonta Club's 2000 Prix de la Création; Switzerland's 2010 Grand Prix de la Fondation Vaudoise de la Culture; 2013's NYFA (NewYork Foundation For the Art) Music/Sound Fellowship."

-Sylvie Courvoisier Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Pianist Cory Smythe works actively in new, classical, and improvised music. He has performed widely, making appearances as soloist and chamber musician at the Darmstadt International Festival for New Music, the Bang on a Can Marathon in New York City, the Green Mill jazz club in Chicago, and the Mostly Mozart festival at Lincoln Center. In recent seasons, Smythe has played alongside violinist Hilary Hahn in concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. A Washington Post review of the duo's performance at the Kennedy Center praised Smythe for "...the ferocity and finesse of his technique." Their Grammy-winning album, In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores, documents Hahn's diverse collection of newly commissioned encores for violin and piano.

As a core member of the new music group the International Contemporary Ensemble, Smythe has given numerous premieres, collaborated in the development of new pieces, and worked closely with composers John Zorn, Philippe Hurel, Dai Fujikura, George Lewis, and Alvin Lucier among many others. ICE's 2013 release on Mode Records features Smythe as the piano soloist in Iannis Xenakis's 'Palimpsest'. Smythe has also been a featured guest and soloist with many new music ensembles throughout the United States, including Milwaukee's Present Music, the Boston-based Firebird Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. He performs regularly in collaboration with many of the leading concert artists of his generation, appearing this last season with the cellist Joshua Roman, violinist Karen Gomyo, the Imani Winds, and members of the Providence and Rubens string quartets.

An innovative improviser, Smythe performs as a soloist and in collaboration with a wide array of jazz and creative artists, among them, most recently, Peter Evans, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, and Anthony Braxton. This season will see the release of recordings featuring Smythe in projects led by Tyshawn Sorey and Nate Wooley. Smythe's own album, Pluripotent - described by celebrated jazz pianist Jason Moran as "hands down one of the best solo recordings I've ever heard" - is available for free download at

Smythe holds degrees in classical piano performance from the music schools at Indiana University and the University of Southern California, where he studied with Luba Edlina-Dubinsky and Dr. Stewart Gordon, respectively. He currently resides in New York City."

-CORY SMYTHE Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:

1. The Rite of Spring, Pt. 1: The Adoration of the Earth 15:46

2. The Rite of Spring, Pt. 2: The Sacrifice 18:33

3. Spectre d'un songe 29:16

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Compositional Forms
Piano & Keyboards
Duo Recordings
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
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New in Improvised Music
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