Karabits and the BSO – a new chapter

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During the past 15 years, Kirill Karabits has built a reputation for exciting and adventurous programmes for the BSO. Fanny Charles reports

Pic: Corin Messer Photography Tel: 07803 933014

The Ukrainian-born conductor Kirill Karabits will end his tenure as chief conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) 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, with cycles of Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev, UK premières of works from CPE Bach to contemporary music from Azerbaijan, and music from eastern Europe and Ukraine through the Voices from the East programme.
Under Karabits’ adventurous leadership, the orchestra has commissioned music from composers including Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Anna KorSun and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

Beyond the expected
The Voices from the East series of music from the Ukraine and beyond has come to define Karabits’ recent years with the BSO. Through performances – and recordings for the Chandos label – the orchestra’s audiences have been introduced to music from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and the Ukraine, by composers including Kara Karayev, Boris Lyatoshynsky, Chary Nurymov and Avet Terterian. Last year, The Times suggested 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.”
This spring, the orchestra will record the music of Ukraine-born Fyodor Akimenko for Chandos. Karabits’ other 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.
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 has been of great support. The warmth, friendship and open-minded approach here is very special.’
Dougie Scarfe, the BSO’s chief executive, describes Karabits not only as an outstanding conductor but also as ‘a musical detective unlike any other. His creative influence has defined the modern BSO – his understanding not just of the music, but of that magical relationship between music, musicians and audience.”

The BSO moves to Yeovil
The news follows hard on the heels of an announcement that the BSO will have a new Somerset residency at Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre, when the theatre reopens at the end of 2024, after a £29m transformation, to become a flagship cultural venue for the South West.
Local audiences will have access to more symphonic performances by the BSO as resident orchestra, with its international conductors and soloists, alongside family-friendly BSO On Your Doorstep concerts, workshops and events.
Octagon theatre manager, Adam Burgan said: “I am absolutely delighted that we can announce this partnership with the amazing Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. As one of the UK’s best loved orchestras it will be fantastic when they make the Octagon Theatre their new home in Somerset.”
Meanwhile the BSO’s relationship with Artsreach, Dorset’s rural touring charity, continues this year with BSO On Your Doorstep concerts at Marnhull village hall on Sunday 12th February at 3pm. The programme will be a Spring Serenade by a flute, harp and cello trio, with music from Bach to Joni Mitchell, plus works by Elgar, Ibert, Schubert and Bizet.

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