breathing new life into music from eastern Europe

“Voices from the East is a project that was born through the collaboration with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and my 15 year tenure as a chief conductor. The reasons for it to happen were obvious – to diversify the symphonic repertoire and give our performances and recording projects a special identity, to reveal and champion some forgotten or completely unknown names and masterpieces of symphonic repertoire from the countries of central Asia (mainly post-Soviet states) and my native Ukraine. When Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, many of its’ former republics found themselves in a cultural vacuum and until nowadays still remain unknown and culturally isolated cultures. Being a son of the noted Ukrainian composer Ivan Karabits (1945-2002) who beyond his life as a composer was also the founder and artistic director of the festival “Kyiv Music Fest” – one of the main music events in Ukraine until nowadays, I spent my childhood attending concerts of contemporary music from Ukraine and its’ neighbour coutries, witnessed live encounters with amazing composers and personalities which left a deep mark on my life and future professional career. Today I decided to revive some of the amazing masterpieces of symphonic music from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and give them a new life. This is music with deep meaning, it searches for identity and beauty and is all wrapped up within a musical language that fuses east and west. These are absolute orchestral masterpieces that deserve to be known.”

Kirill Karabits

With access to unpublished manuscripts not previously performed by western orchestras, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and its Chief Conductor Kirill Karabits have received critical acclaim for bringing to life a series of forgotten orchestral masterpieces from Ukraine and its surrounding regions.

Karabits and the BSO have shared Voices from the East symphonic works since 2009, in live concerts, live-streamed broadcasts, and recordings for the Chandos record label.

In the late 20th-century the channel of distribution for contemporary classical music in eastern Europe changed dramatically. Karabits, the son of Ukrainian composer Ivan Karabits (1945-2002), has made it his mission to source the orchestral gems that fell between the cracks and share this music with a wider audience.

The BSO’s Voices from the East series has so far included works from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Macedonia, Poland, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

It has featured works by composers: Fyodor Akimenko (1876-1945); Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (1947-); Alexander Arutiunian (1920-2012); Reinhold Glière (1875-1956); Dmitry Kabalevsky (1984-1987); Ivan Karabits (1945-2002); Kara Karayev (1918-1982); Anna Korsun (1986-); Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994); Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914);  Boris Lyatoshynsky (1895-1968); Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912); Chary Nurymov (1940-1993); Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020); Pande Shahov (1973-); Rodion Shchedrin (1932-); Valentin Silvestrov (1937-); Myroslav Skoryk (1938-2020); Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937); Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915); and Avet Terterian (1929-1994).

Franghiz Ali-Zadeh and Kirill Karabits rehearse Cosmology, April 2022

In a region spanning north-west of China in the east to Europe in the west, the unique roots of this music fuses into the Western symphonic tradition. Divided by dramatic mountainous regions and steppes, these works feature folk, sacred and secular elements of the distinct and fascinating countries, many of which were formerly of the Soviet Union. The region’s local composers — who were inspired in part by key figures of the period, including, Shostakovich, Khachaturian and Prokofiev — left us with brilliant examples of musical fusion between the traditions of their countries and the modern symphonic approach.

The BSO continues a long association with the region: its former Principal Conductor, Constantin Silvestri, famously found sanctuary on the South Coast during his tenure until his untimely death in 1969. The Romanian conductor and composer brought the BSO to international attention, developing a sound that continues to this day. Russian conductors Rudolf Barshai and Yakov Kreizberg later took on the role in the 1980s and 90s.

With Karabits’ unique personal insight and access to this music he now brings these manuscripts back to life with an Orchestra that has an understanding and affinity for this repertoire.

In November 2023, BBC Radio 3 announced a series of 3 programs “Journey to the East” :

The Southbank Center in London has announced a mini festival in May 2024: