Rachmaninov – Soul In Exile

The story of Rachmaninov in song

Friday 23 June 2023, 7.30pm St. Dunstan's Church, High Street, Mayfield £12.50 (25 and under: Free) Book now

Everybody knows Rachmaninov, until you ask them and they realize they don’t: he’s an enigma. And the songs? You hear them and you’re instantly won over. Rachmaninov – Soul in Exile tells a dramatic story that starts in imperial Russia, ends in Beverley Hills, sweeps through old and new worlds, penniless exile, and comfortless fame, and asks searching questions along the way. Who was Rachmaninov, beyond the 6ft scowl he presented to Stravinsky? Why does he matter? What did he leave the future? And can a western world that hasn’t even reached agreement on how to spell his name ever come to terms with what his music is about?

So – the Russian-born soprano Ilona Domnich, the pianist Sholto Kynoch and the critic and broadcaster Michael White present a show comprising songs and piano solos embedded in a spoken commentary and presented with an element of theatre that makes for a glorious evening of music and words – and that sets out to explain the connection.


Ilona Domnich is a lyric soprano, described by Opera Now as “A memorable voice of silken beauty with a luminous edge to the tone, a sensitive musician and an actress of magnetic presence” and was chosen by Opera Now as one of the magazine’s Top 10 high flyers, ”a new generation of sopranos who are destined to have impressive careers”. Ilona was highlighted as artist of the month in Opera magazine and was the Daily Telegraph’s choice of ‘best British-based talent’. She has worked in close collaboration with English National Opera, BBC Concert Orchestra, Grange Park Opera, Buxton Opera Festival, English Touring Opera, Northern Sinfonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, Festival de Musique de Menton, Trasimeno Music Festival and Anghiari in Italy, Chopin festival in Mallorca, Aldeburgh festival, London Song Festival, the Chelsea Schubert Festival, North Norfolk and the Jersey International Festival as well as the Perth, Rye and Newbury Spring festivals.

Sholto Kynoch is a sought-after pianist who specialises in song and chamber music. He is the founder and Artistic Director of the Oxford Lieder Festival, which won a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2015, cited for its ‘breadth, depth and audacity’ of programming. Recent recitals have taken him to Wigmore Hall, Heidelberger Frühling in Germany, the Zeist International Lied Festival in Holland, the LIFE Victoria festival and Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Opéra de Lille, Kings Place in London, Piano Salon Christophori in Berlin and many other leading venues nationally and internationally. He has performed with singers including Benjamin Appl, Sophie Daneman, Robert Holl, James Gilchrist, Christoph Prégardien, Joan Rodgers, Kate Royal and Birgid Steinberger, amongst many others. Together with violinist Jonathan Stone and cellist Christian Elliott, Sholto is also the pianist of the Phoenix Piano Trio, praised for a ‘musical narrative of tremendous, involving depth’. In July 2018, Sholto was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in the RAM Honours.

Michael White was once voted Britain’s least boring music critic by listeners to Classic FM – who turned out not to be great fans of critics but made a begrudging exception. Michael studied at Oxford, began writing for the Guardian, and was chief critic at the Independent for ten years. He went on to be a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, and now contributes to the New York Times – as well as Opera Now, Classical Music Magazine and the Catholic Herald. As a radio & TV broadcaster he has fronted long-running BBC series like Opera in Action and Best of Three, attempted to explain Wagner’s Ring Cycle in half an hour, introduced the Proms and Cardiff Singer of the World, and made documentaries like the acclaimed Opening the Boxes on Radio 4, about his rediscovery of the hidden life of singer Jennifer Vyvyan. He gives talks and lectures for opera companies like Glyndebourne, orchestras like the LSO, and festivals like Edinburgh, Aldeburgh and Grafenegg. He leads study days and presents concerts at Wigmore Hall and for more than ten years he presented the New Artists concert series for the Austrian Embassy in London.

Michael has written opera libretti for composers David Bedford and Jonathan Lloyd, and been a judge for the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, Evening Standard Awards, Classical Brits and Sainsburys Choir of the Year. His books include Opera & Operetta (HarperCollins) and Introducing Wagner (Icon): a graphic guide for the curious but unsure.


Please note that a cash bar will be available at this event.