After its 125th anniversary celebrations, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra opens its new season with renewed vigour. Few orchestras cover as much ground in the UK than the BSO, serving all points south-west of Basingstoke, building up loyal local audiences. The 2018-19 season is also the tenth led by Kirill Karabits as Chief Conductor – how time flies – who continues his adventurous programming which has often championed composers from Ukraine and Armenia.

To kick off the summer slump, the BSO opens with one of the largest symphonies in the repertoire, Mahler’s bone-rattling Resurrection Symphony. It’s a monumental work requiring huge choral forces for the finale. The symphony grew out of a symphonic poem called Totenfeier (Funeral Rites). Hans von Bülow, on hearing Mahler play it on the piano, told the composer that “beside your music, Tristan sounds as simple as a Haydn symphony! If that is still music then I do not understand a single thing about music!” Undeterred, Mahler expanded the work into a symphony. Bülow died in 1894 and, at his funeral, Mahler heard a setting of Klopstock's Die Auferstehung (The Resurrection), which inspired his choral finale.

Another gigantic choral work connected with death closes the season, Elgar’s oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. Inspired by Cardinal Newman’s text, it charts a soul’s journey from his deathbed past demons and angels to the judgement throne and then on to Purgatory. Earlier next season, Karabits also conducts Elgar’s First Symphony, acclaimed by Hans Richter – conductor at its première – as “the greatest symphony of modern times, written by the greatest modern composer – and not only in this country”!

Karabits is just as happy dipping into earlier periods of classical music and pairs Mozart’s Gran Partita – a wind serenade for just 13 instruments – with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. His season also includes Richard Strauss’ Symphonia Domestica, which deals with trivial subject matter concerning the composer’s daily routine, a sort of autobiographical sequel to A Hero’s Life. Karabits’ fascination with byways of the repertoire leads the orchestra to the music of Avet Terterian, whose Third Symphony (composed in 1975) begins with a terrific volley for timpani, and includes a battery of percussion. It is preceded by Saint-Saëns’ Orient et Occident which elides from a western military march to Turkish janissary music, and followed by the composer’s mighty Organ Symphony.  

Saint-Saëns is a bit of a focus, whether intentional or accidental is unclear. Two of his piano concertos are programmed, Benjamin Grosvenor playing the sparkling Second, while Lucas Debargue offers the Fifth, subtitled the “Egyptian” for the Nubian love song Saint-Saëns quotes in the second movement, heard as he sailed along the Nile.

Following clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer in the 2017/18 season, cellist Johannes Moser takes on the Artist-in-Residence mantle. His concerts with the BSO include Walton’s Cello Concerto (rarely performed) along with Haydn and the world première of the Suite for cello, strings and timpani by Jonathan Leshnoff. In a recital with pianist Andrei Korobeinikov, Moser performs cello sonatas by Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.

2018 sees the centenary marking the end of World War 1, marked by two concerts. David Hill conducts a Remembrance programme on 11th November, while the week before sees the world première of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Testament, which explores the plight of refugees through the setting of four Ukrainian poems for soprano and orchestra, performed by rising star soprano Natalya Romaniw. Hill, one of Britain’s great choral conductors, tackles Tippett’s A Child of Our Time later in the season, along with a programme entitled The Spirit of England.

The season sees the return of several conductors, including former Principal Guest Conductor Kees Bakels for Tchaikovsky’s fate-filled Fourth Symphony, and Ion Marin for a pair of unfinished symphonies: Schubert 8 and Bruckner 9.

There are also several celebrated soloists performing, including Baiba Skride and Sunwook Kim, who perform Dvořák’s concertos for violin and piano respectively, both concert rarities compared with his much more famous Cello Concerto. Ronald Brautigam plays Mozart, Alexander Gavrylyuk performs Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto and Denis Kozhukhin tackles Tchaikovsky’s First. But the BSO also has a habit of striking gold when it comes to soloists lesser known on these shores, Alexandra Soumm and Nemanja Radulović both earning 5* reviews with the orchestra in the past two seasons. So who is set to impress in 2018-19? Keep an eye out for Saleem Ashkar (playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor) and Russian violinist Nikita Boriso-Glebsky is our tip. Young Spanish conductor Antonio Méndez is another to watch out for. He is in charge of a programme entitled Russian Winter, featuring Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Daydreams”.


Click here to view all concerts in the BSO’s 2018-19 season.


Article sponsored by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra