From its origins as the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, playing its first concert in 1893 under founder Dan Godfrey, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has enjoyed a proud reputation spearheading classical music in the southwest of England. Few orchestras in the UK cover as many miles – from Exeter and Portsmouth to Bristol and Basingstoke – although the Lighthouse in Poole has been its central home for decades. The orchestra is versatile too. This summer, the BSO acted as pit band for both Grange Festival (Carmen) and Grange Park Opera (Die Walküre), spreading its affections generously.

Kirill Karabits © Denis Manokha
Kirill Karabits
© Denis Manokha
Ukrainian Kirill Karabits has been principal conductor since the 2009-10 season and has quietly reinvigorated the orchestra, particularly in Russian/slavic repertoire. It performs Prokofiev and Khachaturian with real drive, while the strings can be capable of great lushness in scores like Scheherazade. Russian fare features strongly in Karabits’ programmes next season, but that’s not to say he’s ignoring French or central European repertoire. The season opens with Messiaen’s psychedelic monster Turangalîla, paired with Bizet’s dainty Symphony in C – an entirely balletic work (as later realised by no less than George Balanchine).

Karabits really gets his teeth into Beethoven next season, with two symphonies (the spritely First and the fate-filled Fifth), and three piano concertos. Among the Central European symphonic mountains to be scaled next season, Karabits has chosen Gustav Mahler’s Fourth, with its child’s vision of heaven finale, and Anton Bruckner’s massive Eighth, his last completed symphony.

Vasily Kalinnikov © Wikicommons
Vasily Kalinnikov
© Wikicommons
But it’s a couple of Russian works which really stand out next season. Rachmaninov’s The Bells, to text by Edgar Allan Poe, is – along with his Vespers – a choral masterpiece, while the same composer’s First Symphony, which had a disastrous première, contains some terrific music, especially the finale. Digging into less-performed repertoire, Karabits conducts Glazunov’s suite From the Middle Ages, while Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatoshynsky’s Third Symphony pays homage to the October Revolution. Big, brassy and bombastic, it should make a refreshing alternative to a lot of the Shostakovich orchestras are programming to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution. The BSO’s Shostakovich includes a performance of the Fifth Symphony – “a Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism” – conducted by Vassily Sinaisky.

Among the programmes led by other conductors, a few stand out. Former principal conductor Kees Bakels returns for an all-Russian line-up which includes Vasily Kalinnikov’s First Symphony, an incredibly tuneful work premiered a few years after Tchaikovsky’s death and sharing many characteristics of the master with its big sweeping melodies. Another former BSO principal conductor, Andrew Litton, also returns, with Korngold’s Hollywood-inspired Violin Concerto.

Reinhard Goebel, a pioneer of period instrument performances, conducts Haydn and Mozart in October, proving that traditional orchestras should still tackle this repertoire. Richard Farnes, such a gifted operatic conductor, is given a moving Anglo-French programme entitled “In memorium” which includes Elgar’s Second Symphony and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, composed to remember the composer’s friends he lost to the Great War. Vaughan Williams’ perenially popular Lark Ascending completes a nostalgic trio. Another treat, even more Gallic in nature this time, comes from French specialist Fabien Gabel, whose concerts include Vincent d’Indy’s Forêt enchantée, a légende-symphonique of distinctly Wagnerian colouring. Gabel couples d’Indy with Debussy and Chopin, Louis Schwizgebel performing the Second Piano Concerto.

Andreas Ottensamer © Lars Borges | Mercury Classics
Andreas Ottensamer
© Lars Borges | Mercury Classics

Andreas Ottensamer heads the star soloists next season. The co-principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic is Bournemouth’s artist-in-residence and will play a variety of concertos across two programmes, plus a chamber recital with pianist José Gallardo. Ottensamer comes from a great Viennese clarinet dynasty (his father and brother are principals of the Vienna Philharmonic). In January, he pays tribute to another clarinet dynasty, the Stamitz family, performing concertos by both Johann and Carl. There’s a nod to the Baermann dynasty with Weber’s jaunty Concertino (composed for Heinrich in 1811), paired for maximum contrast with Paul Hindemith’s concerto, written for Benny Goodman in 1947. Ottensamer’s February recital focuses on French repertoire, particularly Francis Poulenc’s showpiece sonata, witty, melancholic and saucy by turns.

Other soloists definitely worth catching include Steven Osborne and Stephen Hough (in Beethoven), Kirill Gerstein (in Rachmaninov) and the excellent Alexandra Soumm, whose Lalo was so impressive at The Anvil this season. Sunwook Kim performs Beethoven with the BSO on its visit to Amsterdam’s hallowed Concertgebouw, while Simon Trpčeski joins the orchestra on tour to Dublin for Tchaikovsky.

Click here for full BSO listings.


Article sponsored by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra