First let us acknowledge the courage he has shown in keeping going, especially in the last two years. I believe he has said that it is the music that has kept him afloat in the dark times for his homeland. I think we understand. This is the true power of music.

As he comes to the podium, he seems to spread a special warmth. No doubt he can be determined when needed, but generally he seems a quiet, surprisingly gentle figure. That soft smile as he stands in front of the orchestra invariably presages an exciting evening. I have only spoken to him once, to thank him after the last concert of the 2022/23 season. He immediately pointed out that the talented BSO players were really the ones to be thanked. There is no over-developed ego here.

BSO audiences have always given him the benefit of the doubt as he has carefully introduced us to new works, ranging from those by the quite well-known Aram Khachaturian to the wilder shores of Avet Terterian and beyond. With Kirill, we have been excited to learn something new. Voices from the East is a coherent plan, not a random selection of musical jewels. It is a musical picture of the culture of a place and a time which has proved really worth getting to know. Exceptionally full houses for new and unknown works are perhaps the greatest testament to what he has achieved here in the South and West.

In the more familiar core repertoire, I would say his performances have been marked out by two special qualities – well-judged speeds and a firm grasp of any work’s architecture.

More authoritative evidence than mine comes from the violinist Nicola Benedetti (in notes for Decca CD 478 8758.) After recording the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto with Kirill and the BSO, she wrote about “…that idea of pushing forward but not rushing, it’s a sweet spot that Kirill Karabits understand totally.”

As for shaping a work, how often I’ve noticed something being kept back in the final movements of big works for the last and decisive climax, so that the conclusion sounds like a conclusion. Marvellous!

Musicians who have played for him try to explain his rehearsal style. He does not lay down the law, but when repeating a run-through a kind of magic seems to happen. Nicola Benedetti again: “….This is no time for micro-managing a performance. Kirill is brilliant at finding the right focus, of ensuring things aren’t overindulgent. He is steadfast and uncompromising…”

To sign off at Poole on this rather emotional evening, there was the Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin by Bartok, some dramatic Ukrainian music in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto stunningly played by Alexander Gavrylyuk, and then the wonderfully ambiguous Fifth Symphony by Shostakovich. Silvestrov’s Farewell Serenade made a heartfelt encore/envoi. Hardly a walk in Poole Park for any of the performers, but the conducting was inspirational, the playing was sparkling and the applause long, loud and slightly teary.

Thank you, Kirill, for bringing us the spirit of delight in fifteen magnificent and happy years. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

BSO Member and Proud Supporter Tom Wickson

You can catch up on our Digital Concert here until 15 June. We also received reviews from:

Seen & Heard International: “Three explosive performances and a touching gesture”

The Telegraph 4 * When it comes to bold concert programming, it’s not necessarily the London orchestras that lead the way. Back in the 1980s and 90s it was Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra…

Classical Source “…the Finale emerged as a bombastic traversal, notwithstanding its slow central panel, the BSO throwing all they had at its jubilation/defiance, its grandstand finish loud enough to be heard all over Dorset.” 

Bournemouth Echo “Just when you think this world class orchestra has soared as high as it can go, it goes further […] If Kirill Karabits and players were emotionally drained at the end, so was the audience, one member was heard to say: “I am wrung out.”