Review: Elisabeth Turmo and Elena Toponogova in Chichester

Elisabeth Turmo and Elena Toponogova, Chichester Cathedral, Nov 14

There are a lot of notes, words and chess moves but only so many. Eventually, one might think, then, all the possible music and poetry will one day have been written and all possible chess games been played but we need not worry just yet. It’s still quite often there’s music by composers I’ve not heard of before on programmes to take me outside of the Bach, Mozart, Beethoven comfort zone.

Elisabeth Turmo is Norwegian and plays Norwegian music. Ole Bull was described by Robert Schumann as the ‘Norwegian Paganini’ and his A mountain vision, beginning so gently on the piano, was soon soaring songlines ideal to advertise Elisabeth’s vituoso technique which remained in evidence throughout.

Johan Halvorsen’s Norwegian Dance was where the jig met a taste of Russia but the challenge of its fast fingered requirements was not a difficulty here and was delivered with all fluency. The Chanson Arabe from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was exactly that and both vivacious and lyrical before Elisabeth took a rest and Elena had a solo spot because, thus far, she had been for the most part an accompanist.
Lyadov’s Prelude in B minor was all iridescent regret and beautifully done, contrasting in style with the major work, Grieg’s Sonata for Violin and Piano no. 2.

Elisabeth returned, bursting forth with gleeful grand gestures in the first movement but the difference between the tranquillo of the second and the animato of the third wasn’t as obvious as those markings would lead one to expect. The brisk, high-spirited finale was certainly a man in a good mood on his honeymoon, as Elena had explained although one couldn’t help wondering about someone who spent so much of their honeymoon arranging black dots on staves. I do hope Mrs. Grieg wasn’t too much put out.

Some musicians impress more than others without me knowing why, not having the least shred of technical acumen to understand how they do it, but, having known about Elena already, Elisabeth looked pure class, too. But I’m happy not to be able to explain it because there’s a danger that understanding it would take away the magic and it is to be hoped there’s plenty more where all that comes from. I’m confident we’re nowhere near depleting those valuable resources any time soon.

David Green

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