Brabbins is known for his affinity with music of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, to which he brings a Romantic sensibility, unerring sense of pace and an extraordinary ear for detail. He is closely associated with British music, and has conducted hundreds of world premieres by leading international composers. Recent guesting highlights have included debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and at La Scala Milan, and at the First Night of the BBC Proms with the BBC Symphony (shared with Elder, Norrington and Gardner).
In July 2014 he conducts the combined forces of the Royal Scottish National and the BBC Scottish Symphony orchestras at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and returns to the Proms with the BBC Symphony for Walton Symphony No.1. Later in 2014/15 he conducts Brahms and Strauss with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, and Vaughan Williams with the Philharmonia.
He returns to the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony to conduct Walton symphonies at Suntory Hall and Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre. Then at New Year he tours to Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
In recent months he debuted at the Bavarian State Opera (Korngold/Ravel), returned to Lyon (A Dog’s Heart) and Antwerp (Blaubart), and conducted Birtwistle’s Gawain at the Barbican with the BBC Symphony. In 2014/15 he conducts a new production of Strauss’ Die Schweigsame Frau in Essen and a world premiere at Oper Frankfurt, plays a pivotal role at the 2015 Cardiff Singer of the
World competition, and performs Boris Godunov with Sir John Tomlinson in the title role.
He has recorded over 104 CDs, ranging from Romantic to contemporary repertoire, winning the Gramophone Award for Birtwistle’s Mask of Orpheus with the BBC Symphony (NMC) and the Cannes Opera Award for Korngold's Die Kathrin with the BBC Concert Orchestra (CPO). More than 50 of his discs have been recorded for Hyperion, many of them with the BBC Scottish Symphony, most recently his acclaimed recordings of the Walton symphonies (2011) and Hindemith orchestral works (2013). His recording of Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream was awarded the ‘Grand Prix du Disque’ in the opera category 2013.