With Mr Karabits back on his home podium in Poole, a concert packed with interest was fully to be expected – and was unequivocally delivered by the BSO on Wednesday evening.
Three works were on the menu, all linked through their eastern European heritage: sections of a suite the BSO featured and recorded in 2017 (Chandos CHSA 5203), a brilliant world premiere of a BSO commission, followed by one of the rarer Shostakovich symphonies.
The evening opened with three sections of the Seven Beauties ballet suite by Kara Karayev. What is impressive about this dance music is at first its glowing scene-painting, but then its ability to convey more than one mood simultaneously – as in the swirling waltz with its sinister undertones.
It made a very happy introduction to the premier performance of NIZAMI Cosmology by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, who was taught by Karayev and shares his Azerbaijani heritage. This work is inspired by the writing of Nizami, a 12th century Sunni poet, a figure as respected in the east as Chaucer is in the west. Through multiple fusions of western orchestration and sounds from rich Muğam traditions, Ali-Zadeh achieves a remarkable unity of ideas and means of expression. The work sounds so clear, pungent and together – the BSO gave every impression of enjoying rising to its challenges. The subject ‘cosmology’ suggests an ambitious agenda, but one that sounded fully justified by the heavenly visions suggested in the music. It was great to see the composer appear to acknowledge loud and long applause.
After an interval, the orchestra dived into Shostakovich’s Twelfth Symphony The Year of 1917. This picture of Lenin and the Russian revolution may not be so frequently played as other Shostakovich symphonies. Its complex birth and challenging story may be part of the reason for this, but surely not its musical quality as presented by the BSO with Mr Karabits. It is music of dark energy with a sense that something dangerous is always just about to happen. Nothing is obvious – joy sounded clouded, melancholy was tinged with fear, rejoicing was ironic.
All together this seemed a very suitable symphony for these times. The closing movement “Dawn of Humanity” was shot through with ambiguity which provided emotional and intellectual sustenance enough for many a conflicted evening. Bravo the BSO.