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Conductor Rafael Payare Releases Recording of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben & Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal & Soprano Sonya Yoncheva on Pentatone on March 15

(February 2024) — Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare – the Music Director of Canada’s Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra/OSM) and California’s San Diego Symphony, proclaimed “a fireball of energy onstage” and “a musician to watch” by the Wall Street Journal – releases a new recording of Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with OSM on Pentatone on March 15. Soprano Sonya Yoncheva, recipient of the 2021 Opus Klassik award for “Singer of the Year,” joins Payare and the orchestra for the Mahler cycle. Reviewing the live performance captured on the album, Montreal’s Le Devoir raved:

“Strauss is to be added to Mahler and Shostakovich [as] composers that our conductor masters with passion, and when we hear such a fusion between Payare and a transfigured OSM, we wonder if we have not hit the jackpot with this nomination. … This is what is wonderful about Payare: the musicians are no longer afraid to let themselves go and, in doing so, they show all their qualities. … What we heard yesterday is what we hear on record with the greatest. … It’s more than precious, it’s blessed bread, almost unbelievable.”

Marking their second Pentatone release, the new album follows Payare and OSM’s 2023 release of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, which earned rave reviews and was named an Editor’s Choice by both Gramophone and BBC Music magazines. Gramophone declared the disc “a reading of Mahler’s Fifth of intensity and rich orchestral exploration, a real marker in their ongoing partnership.” About the new album, Payare explains:

“It has been a fascinating experience to explore this repertoire with the OSM. Reconnecting with Mahler while immersing ourselves in the sound world of Strauss marks an important milestone in our musical trajectory together and continues our shared journey through the German and Austrian repertoire. It is also our first collaboration with Sonya Yoncheva, whose extraordinary voice is blessed with an endless palette of expressive nuances and colours. We are very pleased to share the poetic and musical world of these two towering composers.”

The great tone poems of Richard Strauss also figure prominently in Payare’s winter and spring guest conducting engagements. He conducts Ein Heldenleben for his return to Zurich’s famed Tonhalle Orchestra, pairing it with Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, with Gilmore Artist Kirill Gerstein as soloist (March 20 & 21). After a previous collaboration, the conductor’s “riveting musical conversation” with the Tonhalle Orchestra drew a five-star review from Bachtrack. Then, for his first appearances in Paris with the Orchestre national de France, he juxtaposes the German composer’s Also sprach Zarathustra with Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto, featuring James Ehnes – “a violinist in a class of his own” (The Times of London) – and the world premiere of a new Radio France commission: Concerto for Orchestra, “Le Mont Hermon, la montagne sacrée,” by Franco-Lebanese composer Bechara El-Khoury (April 18).

Payare’s remaining winter and spring performances with OSM include Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 (Feb 28 & 29), a program featuring music of his native South America (March 16), music of Beethoven paired with both Shostakovich (March 6–10) and Schoenberg (April 24 & 25), and a program pairing Brahms’s Violin Concerto played by Frank Peter Zimmermann with the Symphony No. 7 of Brahms’s older contemporary Emilie Mayer, a prolific composer quite successful in her day but seldom performed now (April 30 & May 1). Payare’s final program of the season with OSM features some of the world’s most prominent organists – Shin-Young Lee, Isabelle Demers, current OSM organist-in-residence Jean-Willy Kunz and OSM organist emeritus Olivier Latry – in repertoire including Saint-Saëns’s famous “Organ” Symphony No. 3 (May 28–30). Payare also looks forward to a summer engagement conducting Puccini’s Turandot at Berlin State Opera (July 6–14).

High-resolution photos are available here.

Rafael Payare with OSM, Zurich’s Tonhalle, Orchestre national de France and Berlin State Opera

Feb 28 & 29
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Zosha DI CASTRI: In the Half-Light (with Barbara Hannigan, soprano)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, WAB 104, “Romantic”

March 6, 7 & 10
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C major, op. 21
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8 in C minor, op. 65

March 16
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Bal des Enfants – The Adventures of Tío Tigre and Tío Conejo
Victor Andrés Trelles Turgeon, actor
Ximena Ferrer Olaso, adaptation and translation
Charles Dauphinais, stage director
CARRENO: Margariteña, excerpt
VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas brasileiras no. 2: III. Dansa
GINASTERA: Estancia, op. 8: “Danza del Trigo” [Wheat Dance] ALDEMARO ROMERO: Suite for Strings: “Fuga con Pajarillo”, excerpt
FALLA: El Sombrero de tres picos [The Three-Cornered Hat],
Suite no. 1: “Danza de la molinera” [Dance of the Miller’s Wife] GINASTERA: Estancia, op. 8: “Danza final”

March 20 & 21
Zurich, Switzerland
Tonhalle Orchestra
R. STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Kirill Gerstein, piano)

April 18
Paris, France
Orchestre national de France (debut)
Bechara EL-KHOURY: Concerto for Orchestra, “Le Mont Hermon, la montagne sacrée” (world premiere of new Radio France commission)
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 (with James Ehnes, violin)
R. STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra 

April 24 & 25
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
SCHOENBERG: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), op. 4
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major, op. 58 (with Maria João Pires, piano)
SCHOENBERG: Pelleas und Melisande, symphonic poem, op. 5

April 30 & May 1
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
BRAHMS: Tragic Overture, op. 81
E. MAYER: Symphony No. 7 in F minor
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 (with Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin)

May 28–30
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
BARBER: Toccata festiva, for organ and orchestra, op. 36
JONGEN: Symphonie concertante, for organ and orchestra, op. 81
Denis GOUGEON: Jubilate!: Work for organ and orchestra (world premiere of OSM commission)
SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3 in C minor, op. 78 “Organ Symphony”
Shin-Young Lee, organ
Jean-Willy Kunz, OSM organist-in-residence
Olivier Latry, OSM organist emeritus

July 6, 9 & 14
Berlin, Germany
Berlin State Opera
Staatskapelle Berlin
PUCCINI: Turandot

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© 21C Media Group, February 2024


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