Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?
I would say it was a mixture of circumstances: parents, musicians, the environment in which I grew up, and an intuitive love for music and instruments. I was just a normal child until the turning point at the age of 13, when I made the decision to pursue a career in music (as a conductor). It engaged a personal responsibility for that decision, which was —and still remains —a motor in my professional life.
Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?
My father, who was a prominent Ukrainian composer, Ivan Karabits, and my teachers at the music academies in Kiev, Vienna and the Bach Academy Stuttgart. Today, I hugely respect musicians and personalities that remain true to themselves and “serve music” rather than their personal careers and ambitions. Artists I respect include: Yuri Temirkanov, Ivan Fischer, Mikhail Pletnev and a few others.
What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?
The most challenging part is the daily life of travel and inconstancy, and how to balance that with family and relationships, with friends and the close circle of relatives and colleagues. Also, keeping in good shape —physically and mentally —remains a challenge. The greatest fulfillment comes from music-making with great orchestras around the world, it simply breaks boundaries, and gives a feeling of being useful in changing the world for the better. Being Chief Conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), an orchestra with a clear mission to serve its communities throughout the South West of England, is great; we engage with all ages both on and off the stage.
As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?
Through my gestures and expressions first of all, then come words.
How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?
My role is to put together several elements —the audiences, musicians in front of me and the composer’s message written in the score —and my job to make those elements collaborate and harmonically function together. The methods of achieving that harmony can vary: it might be inspiring musicians, or just helping them to play together; communicating more with the audience; and sometimes it just happens during the concert without any special effort, but it is rare. I’ve been Chief Conductor of the BSO for over 10 years now, and the way in which I’m able to work with the players has become gradually more instinctive, this has been one of the greatest achievements of my career and it’s a great feeling.
Is there one work which you would love to conduct?
I try to follow the principle that the work (a score) that is on my table today is the best and I would love to conduct it.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
I like my home venue (Lighthouse, Poole) and other places with a warm atmosphere and audiences, like Musikverein, in Vienna, or the Lincoln Center in New York.
What are you looking forward to in the coming BSO season of concerts? Any particular highlights?
Every single concert is a highlight for me, but I especially look forward to conducting Elektra by Strauss (18 March, Poole, 21 March, Birmingham) and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 (19 February, Poole, 20 February, Basingstoke). This year, we released recordings of music by Terterian and Lyatoshynsky on Chandos, as part of our Voices from the East series. I’m really looking forward to exploring music by Chary Nurymov with the BSO in a programme that also features Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, in May.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Success to me is when at least one member of the audience comes away having felt special during your performance. Also success is a feeling that your dreams come true.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness to me is a state of mind when you love yourself and every moment of your life as it is.
Kirill Karabits is Chief Conductor of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Forthcoming performances include: Handel’s Messiah(18 December, Poole), Beethoven 250 (29 January, Poole, 1 February, Barbican Centre, 22 February, Sage Gateshead), Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Schubert with Jeremy Denk (19 February, Poole, 20 February, Basingstoke), Richard Strauss’ Elektra (18 March, Poole, 21 March, Birmingham)
For full details see bsolive.com
(photo by Konrad Cwik)