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As part of his final season at the helm of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirill Karabits brings Voices from the East to the Royal Festival Hall in London on 19 May. This extraordinary three-concert voyage of discovery introduces symphonic music by composers published by Boosey & Hawkes and Sikorski including Ali-Zadeh, Garayev, Kancheli, Terterian and Lyatoshinsky.

Over the last 15 years conductor Kirill Karabits has championed music from eastern Europe and Karabits’ native Ukraine through the ongoing series Voices from the East. As part of his farewell season as Chief Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra he has curated three concerts at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Sunday 19 May, providing an immersive celebration of his pioneering work with the BSO. This revelatory exploration of repertoire will continue when Karabits becomes the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate and Artistic Director of Voices from the East from autumn 2024. Kirill Karabits was recently recognised with an Honorary OBE by His Majesty The King for Services to Music and the promotion of symphonic works from Ukraine and eastern Europe in the UK.

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The ‘Voices from the East’ series of symphonic music 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. 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 first concert at 1.00 pm focuses on composers from the Turkic countries of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. There’s a chance to discover Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s mesmerisingly colourful Nagillar (Fairy Tales). The piece was inspired by the flying carpet adventure in the Arabic collection One Thousand and One Nights. To close, the orchestra performs a selection from the suite from the ballet Seven Beauties by Shostakovich’s pupil Gara Garayev, evoking the exquisite writing of 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi and brimming with an exotic array of rhythms and melodies. The Garayev work is also performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Karabits at the Bristol Beacon concert hall on 7 June.

The second concert at 4.00 pm highlights music from Georgia and Armenia. Giya Kancheli’s Styx, featuring viola soloist Valeriy Sokoov, was inspired in 1999 by the deaths of Kancheli beloved composing colleagues, Terterian and Alfred Schnittke. At its core, the violist represents the mythical river that departing souls must cross. Kancheli described how “the voice of the viola is capable of bringing together the world of the living and the world of the dead, divided by the waters of Styx. Only the viola, with the richness of its sound and versatility of expression, can bring the soul to reconciliation, peace and harmony.” The final work, Avet Terterian’s Symphony No.3 is a deeply personal contemplation of the composer’s own grief following the death of his brother. Karabits says of Terterian’s music: “It is like a mirror in which you look at yourself; it excites your imagination and takes you on a powerful emotional journey.” Kancheli’s Styx is also featured in a livestreamed concert from the orchestra’s Lighthouse venue in Poole, recorded under the baton of Karabits on 1 May and available to watch in the BSO Digital Concerts series until 1 June.

The final concert at 7.30 pm features music from Kirill Karabits’s own beloved country Ukraine and culminates in a rare chance to hear Boris Lyatoshinsky’s Symphony No.4. The composer was one of Ukrainian music’s most important 20th-century figures and his five symphonies are a cornerstone of its orchestral repertoire. Though ostracised in the USSR, Lyatoshinsky continued to write music that pushed far beyond the narrow boundaries of ‘Soviet realism’.

Explore Kirill Karabits’s selection of favourite works from the Boosey & Hawkes and Sikorski catalogues in our Performer Picks series, including music by Shostakovich, Prokofieff, Khachaturian, Terterian and Lyatoshinsky.

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