In a concert recorded in November with the title “Past Reflections”, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, under the lively baton of Kirill Karabits, was certainly performing in the “here and now” with a huge amount of enthusiasm and joy.

Kirill Karabits conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
© Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Maurice Ravel's oddly jolly Le Tombeau de Couperin, written in tribute to friends who had died in World War 1, is now a very familiar concert opener. Its wistful charm was captured with the all necessary precision and warmth of tone. The woodwind, particularly the oboe, are used soloistic way throughout and the playing of the group was full of character and musicality, the beautiful Menuet especially luscious.

We moved from a 20th-century reimagining of French Baroque to the real thing with François Couperin's L’Apothéose de Lully, a suite written in memory of his great musical predecessor at the French Court. Karabits, directing from the harpsichord, chose eight movements, each as perfumed and elaborate as the world they were written for. The BSO players relished the highly decorated lines, with particularly beautiful interplay between the three flutes and the oboes, being a high point. Couperin's music may not have the same immediacy as his contemporaries Handel, Bach or Vivaldi, but it should rank alongside them as some of the most imaginative music of the early 18th century.

Kirill Karabits
© Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Richard Strauss was hardly jumping on the neoclassical bandwagon when he wrote his music for Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in 1912, as few had yet gone down the nostalgic route of reusing baroque music in this way (Stravinsky was still eight years away from Pulcinella). It is one of the composer's most original and relaxed scores. Its genesis was far from relaxed though, starting life as incidental music to a production of Molière's play that was to act as the first half of the ill-fated evening which culminated in the composer's opera Ariadne auf Naxos. In 1917 Strauss rescued the music to form a concert suite. 

As an example of the brilliance of Strauss’ orchestration, in many ways it caps the bigger, brasher works that surround it. The 36 players sound so rich and detailed, with absolute delicacy juxtaposed with a surprising depth and weight of sound. Ravel and Debussy are often held up as the great orchestrators of the 20th century, but Strauss is their equal in this respect.

Karabits and the BSO revelled in Strauss' delicious confection. Every department excelled, with the small brass section making an impact with resonant playing in the unexpectedly discordant passages that pepper the score. The final movement The Dinner rounded off this excellently curated concert with an entertaining example of the composer’s wittiest, self-quoting music.

This performance was reviewed from the BSO's video stream