Standing Ovation for Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

braunsteinBrahms: Violin Concerto
Mahler: Symphony No. 1

Kirill Karabits: Conductor
Guy Braunstein: Violin

FOR their final concert of the Lighthouse season, Karabits and the BSO welcomed the Israeli violinist Guy Braunstein for the first time. Braunstein was leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 2000 to 2013 and now, still only in his early forties, he is resuming a career as a soloist and a conductor. In interviews, Braunstein has spoken of his quest for the kind of sound and performance created by the Berliners in the mid-twentieth century under Furtwängler and Karajan. He sees the Brahms concerto as a ‘symphony with violin obligato’, with the task of the soloist as being to figure out when he needs to be the ‘diva’ and when the ‘slave’ of the orchestra.

So the expectation was that this would be a performance where showy virtuosity was less important than sensitive collaboration and the orchestra would be full partners rather than mere accompanists. This was borne out in a warm and glowing interpretation. Braunstein listened intently to the beautifully played and expansively paced orchestral introduction, relishing every phrase with a fixed smile, and his playing throughout alternated impassioned and brilliant solo work, (often accompanied by impromptu dancing!) with sensitive accompaniment of orchestral players in their solos. Edward Kay’s phrasing and breath control in the oboe solo at the beginning of the second movement was a real highlight, and Karabits’s energetic syncopated gypsy rhythms in the third movement brought a wonderful performance of this symphonic concerto to a rousing conclusion.

After the interval, another first: Karabits’s first performance of a Mahler symphony, and where better to start than the composer’s First, which Karabits has described as ‘certainly one of the most important works in the post-Beethoven era’. Like all Mahler symphonies, this lengthy work contains a kaleidoscope of contrasting elements and moods, from the pastoral to the heroic, from the intimate to the grotesque. Interpreters need to find a unity in this diversity, and this was certainly the case with Karabits’s finely-detailed and utterly persuasive account. The huge orchestra played with passion and finesse, from the ethereal beauty of the quiet, atmospheric opening, through the bucolic gallumphing of the ländler and the exultant triumph of the finale. The sheer originality and mastery of orchestration in this relatively early work of Mahler was breathtaking.

The Lighthouse audience do not give standing ovations lightly, but the rapturous response to this concert, acknowledged by a stage full of beaming musicians, was a well-earned reward not just for this concert, but for an outstanding season.



Footnote: The concert was broadcast live on Radio 3: the presenter was hugely impressed by the warm relationship between audience, conductor and the BSO, who he christened ‘the Leicester City of orchestras’ (which, for non-football fans means ‘unfashionable and provincial maybe, but actually the best in England!).  You can, and should, hear it at

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