Italian & Russian Evening

Iffley Church Hall Iffley

By Nicola Lisle

The cheerful intimacy of Iffley Church Hall - a former tithe barn that has been tastefully modernised - was the perfect venue last Saturday for an evening of Italian and Russian music, brought to us by the Iffley Music Society and featuring the promising young Russians. Lola Toursunova (soprano) and Elena Vorotko (piano). Moscow-born Toursunova originally trained as a pianist, but within the last three years has changed direction after discovering a greater passion for singing. On Saturday's showing, this seems to be a wise decision. Her rich and expressive soprano voice hits the top notes effortlessly, yet has a hint of mezzo quality in the lower register, and she has a fine sense of drama. This was particularly evident in songs such as Rachmaninov's wistful Russian Romances and the Russian Maiden's Song from Stravinsky's Mavra. But she was equally at home in a selection of Russian folk songs in the second half, and in the gypsy songs by Prizozgego, Feldman and Rjezkaya her exuberant personality shone through. It was easy to imagine her on the operatic stage, her ultimate ambition.

Elena Vorotko provided sensitive and supportive accompaniment, the two establishing an easy rapport that suggested they often played together. Incredibly, I found later that this is a recent pairing, but one that looks destined to continue. Vorotko also had the opportunity to display her considerable prowess as a solo pianist, and was particularly impressive in Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No.8, achieving a fine contrast between the restless, impassioned nature of the first movement, and the lyrical peaceful mood of the second. Toursunova and Vorotko are an immensely talented and likeable duo, both almost certainly on the cusp of brilliant careers. Covent Garden and the Wigmore surely beckon.