Compelling Royal Festival Hall day of unfamiliar Eastern Europe music from Kirill Karabits’s BSO – Seen and Heard International

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United KingdomUnited Kingdom Various: Valeriy Sokolov (viola), Harutyun Chkolyan, Karen Sirakanyan (duduk/zurna), Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Kirill Karabits (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, 19.5.2024. (CK)

Kirill Karabits conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra on the Royal Festival Hall © Pete Woodhead

Franghiz Ali-Zadeh – Nagilar (Fairy Tales)
Nurymov – Symphony No.2
Garayev – Seven Beauties Suite

There was a variety of love within the Royal Festival Hall final Sunday. Three concert events in in the future, and a very good viewers for all three: the corridor was not full by any means, however not embarrassingly sparse both, and people who got here contributed absolutely to the standard of the event. Bravos, cheers, catcalls, standing ovations: this was no politically right nod to unfamiliar music, however an absorbing and ceaselessly thrilling voyage into the unknown.

Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra introduced plums from greater than 60 works from Eastern Europe and Central Asia that they’ve shared with their audiences during the last 15 years (it is vitally excellent news that Karabits – rightly awarded an OBE for this achievement – will proceed his Voices from the East programme because the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate). In dialog with Tom Service he defined his long-standing need to broaden the repertory and to discover the cultural hyperlinks between East and West: ‘The world becomes a magic place if you mix the unmixable.’ He named three Russian composers he sees as milestones on the journey: Shostakovich (a lot influenced by Mahler), Prokofiev (turned extra in direction of France), and Khachaturian: he remarked that though the latter’s music wouldn’t be performed, it’s ‘here, in the air’: it’s Khachaturian who ‘paved the way into the East’.

This first live performance introduced music by composers from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s Fairy Tales captivated me without delay with its magnificence and strangeness: a baleful opening on decrease strings, a propulsive rhythm, a ghostly floating net of sound on tuned percussion and marimba; a robust climax, a passage as delicate and glistening because the opening of Gurre-Lieder – the music appeared to be continually mutating, like a single organism within the deep, inflating and deflating. The majestic major-key ending on trumpets and trombones appeared to emerge organically from the orchestral tissue. Ravishing.

Throughout the day’s conversations between Karabits and Service there was an entertaining stress between Karabits’s intention of claiming as little as attainable, letting the music converse for itself, and Service’s missionary zeal in telling us something that may assist us to grasp and recognize it. In introducing Nurymov’s Second Symphony Karabits contented himself with declaring the significance of bells in Russian music (they had been, certainly, omnipresent all through the day): and the significance of storytelling in Turkmeni tradition – the music tells a specific story, however it’s as much as the listener to invent his personal. Service managed to slide in just a few nuggets – it was written in 1984, after the assassination of Gandhi, a plea for peace.

The symphony creates a world of drama and depth in underneath 20 minutes. The widespread thread is a rocking determine on two notes which seems in lots of guises: mournful on bassoons and violas, wealthy and darkish on the cellos, a robust chant accelerating right into a threatening march on the heavy brass, Shostakovich-like in its implacability. Then, in a shifting passage like a launch, the strings give it a extra optimistic facet: however the music turns tragic, monumental, doggedly minor, heroic, recalling the climactic outburst within the finale of Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony. The rocking theme returns as a chant for strings over a pp gong, and the symphony ends in darkness.

Garayev’s Seven Beauties Suite might turn out to be an prompt traditional: it begins with a gorgeously Romantic tapestry of sound – strings, harp, solo horn. I clearly misplaced my method – I counted eight Beauties – however what the heck: suffice it to say that there was one which could possibly be slotted into the Nutcracker Suite with out upsetting anybody, one other with an entertainingly Spanish flavour, one other the place a flute disports itself over a habanera-like pizzicato on decrease strings, one other the place the complete orchestral panoply brings widescreen Khachaturian to thoughts (Spartacus, Gayaneh)… High time, absolutely, to cease making an attempt to explain the music and to salute, whole-heartedly, Karabits and his orchestra for his or her ability, stamina and dedication in bringing these difficult items to such vivid life.

Kancheli – Styx
Terterian – Symphony No.3

I’ve beforehand reviewed these forces’ efficiency of Kancheli’s Styx for viola, refrain and orchestra in Poole on May 1st (evaluation right here). This time I used to be extra conscious of the position of the refrain – typically singing clusters of actual magnificence, typically flinging pebbles of sound, typically decreased to single syllables in single voices. The writing for solo viola, mediating between refrain and orchestra (Valeriy Sokolov, giving an impressive and shifting efficiency) is commonly full-bloodedly Romantic. Orchestrally, I used to be extra conscious of the discreetly bluesy edge the bass guitar offers to the decrease strings; the polystylism – the piano sounding typically like a spinet, typically like an outdated musical field. Listening to Kancheli’s orchestra is like taking a look at a rock with totally different strata denoting totally different ages. Sudden extremes of dynamics – as on the finish, the place a sustained fortissimo nightmare immediately ceases, leaving shreds of sound from the viola, and the dry sound of bows being scraped down strings. And then the ultimate shriek, like a Big Bang. It was given a fairly magnificent efficiency.

Styx was Kancheli’s farewell to 2 of his buddies, Terterian and Schnittke: so it was good to listen to music by the much less acquainted of the 2. Karabits (who met Terterian as a toddler) suggested us: ‘Better to know nothing about it. Let your emotions guide you.’ Good recommendation. I’ll solely observe that a big orchestra – seven horns, two pianos, a lot percussion – is used very sparingly, although typically with nice virtuosity; that what we hear is commonly sound slightly than music; and that we appear continually on the very fringe of silence (‘Silence is pouring into this play’, wrote Samuel Beckett of Waiting for Godot, ‘like water into a sinking ship’). I don’t suppose I used to be the one one who jumped out of my seat when the pair of zurnas (double-reed pipes made out of apricot wooden) immediately burst into sound like klaxons: and within the sluggish motion the entire corridor was mesmerised by the artistry of soloists Harutyun Chkolyan and Karen Sirakanyan on duduks, as one in all them maintained a drone for minutes on finish in a rare demonstration of round respiration whereas the opposite performed freely, lyrically, hauntingly. At the tip they returned for an encore and had been ecstatically obtained.

de Hartmann – Suite from La Fleurette Rouge
Anna Korsun – Terricone
Lyatoshinsky – Symphony No.4

Kirill Karabits conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on the Royal Festival Hall © Pete Woodhead

West, for this third live performance, from Armenia and Georgia to Ukraine, the place Karabits was born right into a musical household earlier than the tip the Soviet period.  Ukraine is legendary for its folks music, he stated; so, for distinction, he had chosen three extra symphonic, much less ‘folky’ items. De Hartmann’s suite from La Fleurette Rouge (after a gap chord that immediately introduced Siegfried’s demise to thoughts) started with an ethereal trumpet solo over glinting woodwind, harps and percussion: extra Western sounding than the previous live performance’s music. In the second motion a tune on violas and cellos developed right into a wide-ranging melody and a powerful, surging passage which had me pondering of Bantock’s Hebridean Symphony, after which into an ingratiating tune in waltz time. The third featured solemn, chorale-like brass, embellished by the harps, who later had an prolonged cadenza on their very own, and a delicate melody for the cellos. After a quick, vigorous pizzicato motion, the suite concluded with a vibrant dance that introduced Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances to thoughts.

It isn’t any accident that de Hartmann’s Suite has triggered associations with western European music: the identical can’t be stated of Anna Korsun’s extraordinary Terricone, a BSO fee. It begins as Kancheli’s Styx ended, although within the absence of a refrain it’s the orchestral musicians who scream: the opening is sheer pandemonium, all of the percussionists busy (one with a lion’s roar), trombones like air raid sirens. Four percussionists rotate massive, shallow drums stuffed with gravel, or scrape violin bows towards cymbals and different steel edges; the strings sustain an insect-like exercise, like maggots squirming in decaying carrion; trumpets, trombones and tuba breathe into their mouthpieces. More screaming.

To what finish? The title of the piece refers to man-made mountains of mining waste – slag heaps – that pepper the panorama of Korsun’s native Donbas area. She doesn’t intend the music to be illustrative; however it’s a highly effective visible and aural expertise. It dropped at my thoughts mad King Lear’s paroxysm: ‘There’s hell, there’s darkness, there’s the sulphurous pit: burning, scalding, stench, consumption. Fie, fie, fie!’

Our journey reached its finish with the Fourth Symphony of the Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatoshinsky; and Kirill Karabits made it clear that it was a sombre finish. It expresses the stress between gentle and darkness, fragility and brutality, and it brings no consolation: magnificence doesn’t discover a option to overcome the darkness. It is written for our time, stated Karabits: his individuals’s DNA is written into it. He didn’t have to be extra express. It leaves us, he stated, in a state of reflection and contemplation.

I made detailed notes on the music, however in case you are nonetheless studying you have got most likely had sufficient of that. Battle is joined, and rejoined; brazen, dissonant fanfares are pitted towards passages of nice magnificence; again and again I marvelled on the readability of Karabits’s conducting in fiercely advanced music. There was a standing ovation: Karabits acknowledged it with a smile and an occasional bow, or a gesture in direction of his thoroughbred orchestra; however principally he stood nonetheless, his eyes lowered. Reflection and contemplation. I questioned what he was pondering, because the destiny of his nation hangs within the stability between Russia and the West. As in Poole a fortnight earlier, he and the orchestra provided us Valentin Silvestrov’s bittersweet Farewell Serenade as encore.

Though Lyatoshinsky’s symphony is a good distance from triumphalism, these three concert events had been a musical triumph for Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. And maybe greater than that. Somewhere in Testimony, Shostakovich remarks that crucial factor a Russian has is his reminiscence: I feel that this extraordinary day of music will stay within the memory-banks of its multi-national viewers for a really very long time.

Chris Kettle

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