Karabits and the BSO – a new chapter

THE Ukrainian-born conductor Kirill Karabits will end his tenure as chief conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in summer 2024, after a remarkable 15-year partnership. But the relationship, which has been so successful, will continue with Karabits becoming the BSO’s Conductor Laureate and artistic director of the Voices from the East programme.

Karabits is the BSO’s second longest-serving chief conductor after its founder Sir Dan Godfrey. His partnership with the orchestra has seen a wide growth in its repertoire, not only with cycles of Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev, but with UK premieres of works from CPE Bach to contemporary music from Azerbaijan, and championing music from eastern Europe and Ukraine through Voices from the East.,

In the orchestra’s 2023/24 season, Karabits will unveil further symphonic treasures and lead the BSO as it returns to its long-term residency at the newly-transformed Bristol Beacon (formerly the Colston Hall).

Under his adventurous leadership, the orchestra has commissioned music from composers, including Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Anna Korsun, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Sir James MacMillan.

The Voices from the East series of symphonic revelations from the Ukraine and beyond has come to define Karabits’ most recent years with the BSO. Through performances — and a series of recordings for the Chandos record label — the orchestra’s audiences have been introduced to music from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and the Ukraine, with composers Kara Karayev, Boris Lyatoshynsky, Chary Nurymov and Avet Terterian becoming familiar names. Last year, The Times declared that thanks to the series, “music lovers in Dorset may now be the most knowledgeable in the western world about the symphonic pieces of eastern Europe and central Asia.”

The orchestra will record the music of Ukraine-born Fyodor Akimenko for Chandos as the series continues this spring. In addition to Voices from the East projects for Chandos, Karabits’ BSO recordings include releases on Decca, Onyx and Naxos — ranging from a complete Prokofiev symphonic cycle to concerto recordings with James Ehnes and Nicola Benedetti, and premiere recordings of Ivan Karabits, Valentin Silvestrov and Rodion Shchedrin.

During his final season Karabits will lead the BSO as it returns to its long-held residency at the newly-transformed Bristol Beacon. He begins his new position of Conductor Laureate, Artistic Director, Voices from the East, from autumn 2024.

The past year has been very hard for the conductor, as for all Ukrainians, with the brutal invasion of his country by Russia. Looking back at his time with the BSO, he says: “I have never forgotten my first encounter with the BSO. I immediately felt this was a very special group of musicians, and, artistically, we have continued to grow together over the last 15 years. It feels like a home from home — and never more so than during these last few years, where this community of musicians and audience has been of great support.”

Dougie Scarfe, the BSO’s chief executive, describes Karabits as not only an outstanding conductor but also “a musical detective unlike any other. His creative influence over the past 15 years has defined the modern BSO — his understanding not just the music, but of that magical relationship between music, musicians and audience.”

Meanwhile the BSO’s relationship with Artsreach, Dorset’s rural touring charity, continues with two BSO On Your Doorstep concerts, at Portesham village hall on Friday 10th February at 7.30pm and Marnhull village hall on Sunday 12th at 3pm. The programme will be a Spring Serenade by a flute, harp and cello trip, with music by from Bach to Joni Mitchell, plus works by Elgar, Ibert, Schubert and Bizet.

Photograph of Kirill Karabits © Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Photograph of Karabits with the BSO © Corin Messer.