The BSO, with Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits, performed another astonishing feat of musicianship on Sunday 19 May at the Royal Festival Hall in London, presenting three concerts in a day (at 1pm, 4pm and 7.30pm) of music from the orchestra’s much-admired Voices from the East series.

BSO audiences in the Southwest may be quite familiar with this repertoire, but none of it had ever been heard in the capital before.

Emceed by BBC Radio 3 presenter Tom Service, the day championed musical diversity and promoted artistic links between East and West. As Mr Service explained, this kind of thing is not happening elsewhere and no other orchestra or conductor could curate such an event.

The first concert, featuring works from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, set the whole day rolling with Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s Nagillar, and enticing, intriguing work. Nurymov’s Second Symphony offered a lamenting plea for peace, while the mood was lightened with a selection from the Seven Beauties ballet score by Garayev.

The most emotionally challenging music came in the middle concert of Georgian and Armenian works, with a reprise from Poole two weeks ago of Kancheli’s Styx, performed with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and the violist Valeriy Sokolov. This work’s musing on death and the chance of an afterlife was followed by Terterian’s Third Symphony, which Mr Karabits observed was not really describable and is best experienced via its, the listeners’, emotions. This performance was also graced by Harutyun Chkolyan and Karen Sirakanyan, top-flight players of the duduk and zerna, traditional Armenian instruments. Their gentle encore was very beautiful.

The evening concert focused on Ukraine, introducing the oldest and newest music – the tuneful ballet score from de Hartmann’s Red Flower Suite (1907) and Anna Korsun’s wail of distress for her homeland in the 2023 BSO commission Terricone. Mr Karabits observed that the final work, Lyatoshynsky’s Fourth Symphony – powerful and craggy – suggested that beauty does not overcome darkness – at least in any easy or glib way. The gently concluding encore was Silvestrov’s Farewell Serenade.

Such an astonishing musical and administrative achievement cannot be taken for granted. While it is not clear that any other organisation could have presented such programmes in one day at such a high-profile venue, it is worth considering the reasons why the BSO could do this:

  • Firstly, of course, the determination of Kirill Karabits to bring the music to audiences here is decisive.
  • Also, evidently, the talent, adaptability and dedication of the players of the BSO should be recognised. Their energy did not flag all day.
  • Organising the music and all the infrastructure and personnel to play it was crucial.
  • Then transporting everything to the Southbank, so that BSO HQ was on the Thames rather than the south coast for that day was a massive achievement by the incredibly hard-working company admin team.
  • The involvement of BSO audiences and supporters, many of who travelled to Town to witness this small miracle…and the curiosity of London-based music lovers who enjoyed a taste of that the BSO does week by week in the Southwest justified the decision to do this.
  • Also pivotal was the special four-way communication between players, composers, the administration and audiences, which is born of the trust Kirill Karabits has built up over 15 years with the BSO.
  • Finally, the quality of the music played made every note worth hearing and performing it imperative.

Tom Wickson

We also received reviews from:


“Given as an encore, the Farewell Serenade by Lyatoshynsky’s student Valentyn Silvestrov captured Ukraine’s most distinguished living composer in a nutshell, its wistful post-Schubertian mood instantly identifiable. With composers such as Korsun among his successors, there is every reason to believe in “Voices from the East” as a tale without a final chapter.”

Bournemouth Echo 

“If one day could begin to encapsulate that unique musical and emotional journey that conductor, players and audiences have been on together, this was surely it.”

The Times 

“Styx was meditative and thrilling. Valeriy Sokolov was the eloquent viola soloist, and the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus was fiercely committed.”

[Terterian’s Symphony No 3] “It’s a riotous, ritualistic piece of pure emotion and elemental sound: explosive percussion, muted trombones, whooping horns — and solo roles for the duduk and zurna, two Armenian woodwind instruments. Harutyun Chkolyan and Karen Sirakanyan did the honours, before stilling the hall with a beautiful, unnamed encore. It was a highlight of the day.”

Seen and Heard International 

“Bravos, cheers, catcalls, standing ovations: this was no politically correct nod to unfamiliar music, but an absorbing and frequently thrilling voyage into the unknown.”

Catch up on Kirill’s final concert as Chief Conductor in Poole on 15 May here. And he’ll return in our new season for more Voices from the East, see our full whats on for details