Preview: BSO ‘Monumental Brahms’ @ The Great Hall

After handing over the baton for the season thus far, Kirill Karabits comes home to lead his orchestra for the ‘Monumental Brahms’ concert next week. Karabits has been the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor since 2008, and under his care the orchestra has prospered. At present the orchestra reaches 5,000 concert-goers every week, maintains a broadcast partnership with BBC Radio 3, and is Classic FM’s Orchestra in the South of England. Karabits himself is no less devoid of personal acclaim having been named Conductor of the Year at the 2013 Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, and having conducted the Russian National Orchestra in 2016 – considered by many to be the finest Orchestra in the world.

Coming home, for Karabits, gives him an opportunity to put something for himself into the programme. The works of Boris Lyatoshinsky are scarcely heard in the West, a fact lamented by his fellow Ukrainian, who is set to conduct his third symphony. More bombastic than the Brahms but showing perhaps greater emotive power by consequence, the third symphony will fill the hall with brass, winds, strings and percussion: the true array and complexity of symphonic music. Despite its resounding success after its premiere in Kiev in 1951, the Soviet censors insisted that he make changes to the piece, written for the 25th anniversary of the October revolution. Perhaps the most heart-breaking change was to the epigraph, which was removed: ‘Peace will defeat war’.

A young Brahms composed his first piano concerto in 1858, which was premiered the following year in Hannover to modest acclaim. The full concerto, coming in at a little under an hour, is laid out in three traditional movements: ‘Maestoso’ in D minor, ‘Adagio’ in D major, and the Rondo: ‘Allegro non troppo’, which morphs from D minor to D major. The shockwaves from the concerto’s opening die out in good time, leaving room for the sublimity of the second ‘Adagio’ movement to take hold. The themes in this movement, particularly those of the strings, are profoundly romantic, and beautiful without resorting to melancholy.

Another returning artist is the solo pianist for the evening, Sunwook Kim, who completed a residency with the orchestra for the 2014/15 season. An alumnus of the Royal Academy of Music, Kim was the youngest winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition for 40 years, and the first selected beneficiary of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn’s mentoring programme. His young career has already accrued an impressive list of credits, having played with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and of course the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.


There are still tickets available for the performance, ranging in price from £16 to £40. The concert begins at 7:30pm in the University Great Hall on Thursday 1st February. If you’re aged between 18-25, I urge you to take advantage of the BSO’s ‘Vibes’ programme, which offers £5 tickets to concerts at Lighthouse Poole, Great Hall Exeter, Portsmouth Guildhall, and Bournemouth Pavilion. For more information, and to register for a ‘Vibes’ card, please visit:

– by Thomas Gordon-Colebrooke

*Images courtesy of Hajin Ahn and the BSO. 

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