Karabits and the BSO have shared Voices from the East symphonic works since 2009, in live concerts, live-streamed broadcasts, and recordings for the Chandos record label.
In the late 20th-century the channel of distribution for contemporary classical music in eastern Europe changed dramatically. Karabits, the son of Ukrainian composer Ivan Karabits (1945-2002), has made it his mission to source the orchestral gems that fell between the cracks and share this music with a wider audience.
The BSO’s Voices from the East series has so far included works from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.
It has featured works by composers: Fyodor Akimenko (1876-1945); Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (1947-); Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012); Reinhold Glière (1875-1956); Dmitry Kabalevsky (1984-1987); Ivan Karabits (1945-2002); Kara Karayev (1918-1982); Anna Korsun (1986-); Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994); Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914); Boris Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968); Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912); Chary Nurymov (1940-1993); Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020); Pande Shahov (1973-); Rodion Shchedrin (1932-); Valentin Silvestrov (1937-); Myroslav Skoryk (1938-2020); Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937); Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915); and Avet Terterian (1929-1994).
In a region spanning north-west of China in the east to Europe in the west, the unique roots of this music fuses into the Western symphonic tradition. Divided by dramatic mountainous regions and steppes, these works feature folk, sacred and secular elements of the distinct and fascinating countries, many of which were formerly of the Soviet Union. The region’s local composers — who were inspired in part by key figures of the period, including, Shostakovich, Khachaturian and Prokofiev — left us with brilliant examples of musical fusion between the traditions of their countries and the modern symphonic approach.
The BSO continues a long association with the region: its former Principal Conductor, Constantin Silvestri, famously found sanctuary on the South Coast during his tenure until his untimely death in 1969. The Romanian conductor and composer brought the BSO to international attention, developing a sound that continues to this day. Russian conductors Rudolf Barshai and Yakov Kreizberg later took on the role in the 1980s and 90s.
With Karabits’ unique personal insight and access to this music he now brings these manuscripts back to life with an Orchestra that has an understanding and affinity for this repertoire.
“This is music with deep meaning, it searches for identity and beauty and is all wrapped up within a musical language that fuses east and west. These are absolute orchestral masterpieces that deserve to be known.” Kirill Karabits
In the BSO’s 2023/24 season…
Karabits opens the season with a new discovery: a ballet suite by Ukraine-born composer Thomas de Hartmann. The season concludes in a 3-week focus on music close to Karabits’ heart — from a concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta to a celebration of ‘Voices from the East’ and Shostakovich’s mighty Fifth Symphony.
Further highlights include Glière’s Harp Concerto (11 Oct), Vasks’s Violin Concerto Distant Light (31 Jan) and Chary Nurymov’s ballet, The Fate of Sukhovey (15 Nov) alongside The Rite of Spring.
Eastern Promise 11 October (Poole); 12 October (Portsmouth); 13 October (Exeter)
The Rite of Spring 15 Nov (Poole), 23 Nov (Basingstoke)
Voices from the East 1 May (Poole)
Iolanta 8 May (Poole)
Shostakovich’s Fifth 15 May (Poole)
Karabits becomes Conductor Laureate, Artistic Director, Voices from the East from autumn 2024.
Hear Kirill present a 3-part series for BBC Radio 3, Journey to the East with Kirill Karabits, as he journeys east from the Ukraine. Available on BBC Sounds.
Listen to the Voices from the East recordings on Spotify:
We were proud to perform the UK premiere of Ivan Karabits’ ‘A Musical Gift to Kyiv’ at the BBC Proms. It’s available to watch on BBC iPlayer until August 2024.
Kirill spoke to the Observer about Azerbaijani composer and ‘Voice from the East’, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, for International Women’s Day.
Kirill talks to The Times about Lyatoshynsky’s Third Symphony.