November 17, 2022

Rafael Payare and the Montreal Symphony (photo: Antoine Saito)

(November 2022)—Already known for his “spectacular Mahler” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Rafael Payare recently inaugurated his tenure as Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) with an account of the “Resurrection” Symphony that “will be remembered as a major milestone in the history of the OSM” (Le Devoir, Canada). The concert launched a new, multi-season Mahler cycle that continues in spring 2023, when Payare and the orchestra turn their attention to the Bohemian composer’s Fifth Symphony. The conductor’s “approach to the Fifth is riveting celebration” (Los Angeles Times), and he and OSM look forward to interpreting the monumental work, both on their first recording together and in live performances at Washington’s Kennedy Center (March 6) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (March 8). These U.S. dates follow a similarly high-profile European tour that culminated last month at London’s Royal Festival Hall, prompting The Times to declare: “The Canadians have made a cracking appointment.” OSM’s season-opening “Resurrection” performance is available for streaming until November 22. See the final moments here.

The winner of two Grammys and more than 50 international awards, the Montreal Symphony is the only Canadian nominee in the history of Gramophone’s “Orchestra of the Year” award. Combining Mahler’s symphony with Dorothy Chang’s Precipice and Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto, featuring powerhouse Grammy-winner Yefim Bronfman as soloist, the upcoming U.S. concerts take place almost five decades after the ensemble made its New York and Carnegie Hall debuts back in 1976. OSM CEO Madeleine Careau reflects:

“The Montreal Symphony has performed in New York almost every year since the 1980s. We are delighted to continue this happy tradition with a return to Carnegie Hall that marks our 45th appearance at the venue. Joined for the first time by new music director Rafael Payare, the musicians are eager to reunite with their New York public.”

Even before taking up his new position, Payare enjoyed a remarkable affinity with OSM. Like his deep feeling for Mahler, this was much in evidence at the season-opening performances that launched their new partnership. La Presse observed:

“The metropolis is extremely lucky to have been able to get hold of Rafael Payare. … What he did with Mahler had nothing of the ordinary about it.”

Arts news website Ludwig van Montréal affirmed:

“This great musical moment was crowned by a huge, long and well-deserved ovation. We emerged euphoric and unable to sleep, as if the symphony continued to flow through our veins.”

As Bachtrack explained:

“Payare adroitly sculpted moods that progressed from a sense of brooding to a gradual ratcheting of tension and ultimately to a gratifying climax. … His interpretations are revealing deeper musical insights. As he and the OSM continue to build mutual trust, Montrealers may look forward to many more thrilling concerts from these world-class musical collaborators.”

OSM’s audience was comparably moved, members describing the experience as “stunning,” “inspirational” and “absolutely breathtaking.” To see more of their immediate post-concert reactions, click here.

Payare and the orchestra enjoyed similar success on their recent European tour, which took them to five of the world’s great musical capitals. After programs showcasing Mahler’s Fifth at the Vienna Konzerthaus and Brussels’s BOZAR, Austria’s Wiener Zeitung pronounced the orchestra “reminiscent of an organism whose voice groups interact as smoothly as the muscles in the body of a top athlete.” OSM and Payare drew similar accolades in Shostakovich’s Tenth. At the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, The Times of London applauded their “admirably shaped and often spine-quaking interpretation” of the work, and when they performed it for a sold-out house in Budapest, Slipped Disc concluded:

“The young maestro impressed throughout. … In every moment, from the delicate to the bombastic, Payare aced the test, [proving himself] a dynamic maestro to follow.”

After reprising their U.S. program of Mahler, Bartók and Dorothy Chang at home in Montreal (March 9), Payare and OSM look forward to continuing their Mahler cycle later in the coming spring, when they undertake the composer’s longest and most life-affirming symphony, the Third. Drawing their inaugural season together to a close, their performances of the work will showcase multi-Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung (May 31–June 3).

About the Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1934 by Wilfrid Pelletier, Antonia Nantel and Athanase David, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) is a distinguished leader of Canadian musical life and an essential cultural ambassador. Under the leadership of Venezuelan Music Director Rafael Payare, the orchestra continues its commitment to far-reaching projects and international tours, as well as to its superb discography and long history of community engagement. Firmly anchored in today’s world, OSM’s innovative approach to artistic programming brings modern-day relevance to the symphonic repertoire, both live and on disc, while strengthening the orchestra’s place at the heart of its Quebec metropolis home. Over the years, the Montreal Symphony has toured throughout Canada and beyond, traveling to Quebec’s far north as well as to the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. Totaling more than a hundred recordings on the Decca, Analekta, CBC Records, ECM, EMI, Philips and Sony labels, OSM’s discography has been recognized with more than 50 national and international awards.

High-resolution photos are available here.

Rafael Payare & Montreal Symphony Orchestra: upcoming engagements

Dec 7, 10 & 11
Montreal, Canada
NONO: Djamila Boupacha (with Barbara Hannigan, soprano)
SIBELIUS: Valse triste
VIVIER: Lonely Child (with Barbara Hannigan, soprano)
BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique

Dec 14, 15m & 15
Montreal, Canada
(with OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorus master; Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal; Andrew Gray, chorus master)
Christmas carols and seasonal symphonic works

March 6–8: U.S. concerts
     March 6: Washington, DC (Kennedy Center; presented by Washington Performing Arts)
     March 8: New York (Carnegie Hall)
Dorothy CHANG: Precipice
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yefim Bronfman, piano)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5

March 9
Montreal, Canada
Dorothy CHANG: Precipice
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yefim Bronfman, piano)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5

March 28 & 30
Montreal, Canada
R. STRAUSS: Vier letzte lieder [“Four Last Songs”] (with Sonya Yoncheva, soprano)
R. STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben [“A Hero’s Life”]

April 26 & 27
Montreal, Canada
R. STRAUSS: Don Quixote (with Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
Ana SOKOLOVIĆ: Melita (world premiere of OSM commission)
ESTÉVEZ: Cantata criolla (with Aquiles Machado, tenor; Gustavo Castillo, baritone; OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorus master)

May 31; June 2 & 3
Montreal, Canada
OSM Closing Concert
MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 (with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano; OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorus master; Children’s choir)

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© 21C Media Group, November 2022