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Rafael Payare Continues “Taking Classical World by Storm” in 2023–24: Helms OSM’s 90th Anniversary Season as MD; Leads San Diego Sym at Carnegie Hall & California Festival as MD; Makes Orch National de France & Staatskapelle Berlin Debuts; Returns to Philadelphia & Tonhalle Orchs & Royal Stockholm Phil

(August 2023) — On the heels of a truly triumphant 2022–23, Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare leads the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra / OSM)’s 90th anniversary season, which marks his second as its Music Director. As well as continuing their ongoing exploration of Mahler’s music, he and OSM perform repertoire ranging from Beethoven’s First Symphony to such modern masterpieces as the Turangalîla-Symphonie and Glagolitic Mass. Also embarking on the fifth season of his transformative tenure as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, Payare conducts the orchestra’s first appearance in a full decade at Carnegie Hall; leads all three of its programs at the first California Festival, which celebrates new music of the past five years; and looks forward to the helming next spring’s grand reopening of the Jacob Music Center, the orchestra’s newly renovated indoor home. As well as making debuts with both the Staatskapelle Berlin, whose new season he opens, and the Orchestre national de France, with which he conducts the world premiere of a new Bechara El-Khoury commission, he returns to the prestigious podiums of the Tonhalle Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra. “Payare is electric,” declared the Philadelphia Inquirer of his 2021 debut with the American orchestra; “he seems to hit the jackpot wherever he goes.”

Second season as MD of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal: OSM’s 90th anniversary

To kick off OSM’s landmark 90th anniversary season, and his second as its Music Director, Payare leads Opening Night concerts coupling two 20th-century masterworks: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass. The mass will feature vocal soloists Camilla Tilling, Rose Naggar-Tremblay, Ladislav Elgr and Matthew Rose, with OSM organist-in-residence Jean-Willy Kunz performing on OSM’s organ, the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, now celebrating its own tenth anniversary (Sep 12–14).

Following the release of their first recording together – “a reading of Mahler’s Fifth of intensity and rich orchestral exploration, a real marker in their ongoing partnership” (Gramophone) – Payare and OSM continue their ongoing, multi-season immersion in Mahler’s music. On a late September program that also includes Lera Auerbach’s Icarus and Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, with pianist Alexander Malofeev, they perform the Bohemian composer’s First Symphony (“Titan”), which NPR considers “one of the most game-changing (and mind-blowing) first symphonies by any composer” (Sep 21–23). They return to Mahler next year, featuring his Seventh Symphony (“Song of the Night”), first alongside Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto, with violinist Simone Lamsma (Jan 16, 17, 20), and then flanked by the music of Brahms, with Frank Peter Zimmermann as soloist in the German composer’s Violin Concerto (April 30 & May 2). Due for physical and digital release by Pentatone in early 2024, Payare’s next OSM album will pair Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder with Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, featuring Sonya Yoncheva.

Payare’s other 2023–24 OSM highlights include a Latin-themed program showcasing the Montreal premiere of Ephemerae, a piano concerto by Peruvian composer Jimmy López Bellido, with Spanish pianist Javier Perianes as soloist (Nov 23); Messiaen’s monumental Turangalîla-Symphonie, with French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in the virtuosic piano role (Dec 5 & 6); Bruckner’s “Romantic” Symphony (Feb 28 & 29); Shostakovich’s Eighth (March 6, 7 & 10); and Pelleas und Melisande and Verklärte Nacht, two Schoenberg works representing the last gasp of Romanticism (April 24).

Payare draws the orchestra’s milestone season to a close with a program showcasing four renowned organists on the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique. To honor the instrument’s tenth anniversary, OSM organist-in-residence Jean-Willy Kunz joins them for the world premiere of a new OSM commission from Quebec composer Denis Gougeon; Shin-Young Lee undertakes the solo role in Barber’s Toccata festiva; Isabelle Demers graces Jongen’s Symphonie concertante; and OSM organist emeritus Olivier Latry is the soloist in Saint-Saëns’s “Organ” Symphony, a crown jewel of the orchestral organ repertoire (May 28–30).

Fifth Season as MD of San Diego Symphony (SDS): Carnegie Hall, California Festival & more

In his first four seasons as Music Director of the San Diego Symphony, Payare’s leadership has already proven transformative, prompting the Los Angeles Times to marvel: “He is electrifying in front of an orchestra. … San Diego is suddenly a symphonic destination.” This fall, Payare and the orchestra can also be seen in New York City, when he conducts the ensemble’s first Carnegie Hall appearance in a full decade (Oct 13). The concert concludes a three-stop U.S. tour with a program of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, featuring the conductor’s wife, MacArthur award winner Alisa Weilerstein; the New York premiere of Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra, an SDS commission from Carlos Simon; and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Released last year, their recording of the Russian composer’s Eleventh Symphony, “The Year 1905,” was hailed as “a mandatory purchase,” in which “the ferocity unleashed by Payare and his San Diego players is really visceral, in-your-gut stuff” (Fanfare magazine).

Back at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in San Diego, Payare leads the orchestra’s three fall programs at the inaugural California Festival: A Celebration of New Music. Created by the San Diego Symphony in collaboration with both the LA Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, the festival represents a new, statewide music initiative to showcase the most compelling and forward-looking music of the past five years. For their first festival concert, Payare conducts the world premiere of Juan Colomer’s A Casual Walk to Extinction; the West Coast premiere of Billy Childs’s Diaspora (Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra), an SDS co-commission, with Steven Banks as soloist; and Texu Kim’s Zzan!!, which means “cheers” in Korean and casts drinking glasses as percussion instruments. These new and recent works share the program with Strauss and Mozart, featuring soprano Liv Redpath (Nov 4).

Next, Payare and the SDS pair Carlos Simon’s Wake Up with The Ring Without Words, Lorin Maazel’s symphonic synthesis of Wagner’s Ring cycle, in a multimedia production featuring original video projections (Nov 10 & 11). Their final festival program complements the world premiere of Vladimir Tarnopolsky’s Danse Macabre, another SDS commission, with three 20th-century masterworks: Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas brasileiras (Nov 17 & 18).

Payare’s upcoming SDS highlights also include next spring’s festive reopening of the orchestra’s indoor home at the Jacobs Music Center, currently being renovated with state-of-the-art digital sound and lighting technology. Details of the reopening and other spring programming will be announced this fall.

Orchestre national de France & Staatskapelle Berlin debuts, returns to Philadelphia & Tonhalle Orchestras, & more

Since winning first prize at Denmark’s Malko International Conducting Competition in 2012, Payare has made debuts and forged longstanding relationships with many of the world’s preeminent orchestras. Over the coming season, he returns to the Philadelphia Orchestra for a pairing of Mahler’s First Symphony with the U.S. premiere of Jimmy López Bellido’s Ephemerae, a Philadelphia Orchestra co-commission, with Javier Perianes as soloist, as in Montreal (Dec 1–3). It was after the conductor’s Philadelphia Orchestra debut that the Wall Street Journal called him “a fireball of energy onstage,” proclaiming: “He is a musician to watch.”

To kick off his guest-conducting lineup in Europe, Payare makes his Staatskapelle Berlin debut with two performances of the same program, which pairs Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concerto, featuring Alisa Weilerstein as soloist, with his celebrated interpretation of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The first concert launches the orchestra’s new season at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Sep 7), and the second takes place at the Philharmonie, as part of the 2023 Musikfest Berlin (Sep 8). Payare will reunite with the venerable German orchestra next summer, when they anchor the Berlin State Opera’s production of Turandot (July 6–14).

Payare also continues exploring the great tone poems by Richard Strauss. He makes his eagerly anticipated Orchestre national de France debut in Paris with the German composer’s Also sprach Zarathustra, together with Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto, featuring James Ehnes, and the world premiere of a new Radio France commission: Bechara El-Khoury’s Concerto for Orchestra, “Le Mont Hermon, la montagne sacrée” (April 18). For his returns to both the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Zurich’s famed Tonhalle Orchestra, Payare leads accounts of Ein Heldenleben, which he couples in Stockholm with Barber’s Cello Concerto, once again featuring Weilerstein (Jan 31 & Feb 1), and in Zurich with Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, with Gilmore Artist Kirill Gerstein as soloist (March 20 & 21).

Highlights of triumphant 2022–23 season

These engagements follow a banner 2022–23 season for Payare. After inaugurating his Montreal tenure with a season-opening account of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony that “will be remembered as a major milestone in the history of the OSM” (Le Devoir, Canada), he led the OSM on two major international tours. Fall dates in London, Vienna, Brussels, Budapest and Zagreb saw Austria’s Wiener Zeitung liken them to “an organism whose voice groups interact as smoothly as the muscles in the body of a top athlete,” and The Times of London declare: “The Canadians have made a cracking appointment.” Similarly, when they showcased their interpretation of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in spring concerts at Washington’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Carnegie Hall, the New Criterion hailed Payare as “a leading light in the next generation of Mahlerites” and New York Classical Review marveled:

“The collaborative feeling between conductor and orchestra in the Mahler symphony was that of a seasoned relationship. … This was, first and last, a superlative Mahler performance with the type of energy and spirit that caresses and screams with the same commitment, and moves easily between the two qualities. … Beyond Payare’s in-the-moment direction, his preparation came through in the excellent pace, dynamics, and balances within and through the orchestra.”

Released this past March by Pentatone, their recording of Mahler’s Fifth drew a similar fanfare of applause. The album was an Editor’s Choice in both Gramophone and BBC Music magazine, which confessed: “Hand on heart, it’s a long while since I’ve enjoyed a new Mahler Five as much as this.” Classic Review affirmed:

“There is tangible chemistry between Payare and the orchestra that adds an extra shot of adrenaline and vibrancy to this performance. … An auspicious start for this partnership.”

Payare was no less successful with the SDS, where he completed his fourth season with “a spectacular synthesis of all the strengths of this indefatigable company.” The San Diego Union Tribune observed, “The entire evening was an enthralling confirmation of the great things Payare and the Symphony have accomplished, and a seductive taste of possibilities to come.”

In guest engagements, the conductor made debuts with the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and, with The Barber of Seville, at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The Times of London wrote:

“The Royal Opera’s Rossini production … sparkles afresh in this latest revival. And much of the credit for that can go to the conductor, Rafael Payare. The fast-rising Venezuelan… injects so much energy and pace into the score that you feel the ensembles are swept along on a whirlwind. Yet never do the singers seem rushed, nor the rapport between pit and stage put under strain. It’s all perfectly judged.”

As well as returning to the podiums of the Cleveland Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Munich Philharmonic, Payare reunited with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Brahms’s First Symphony. As the San Francisco Classical Voice critic concluded: “He lit a fire under the orchestra. … If I were to introduce someone to Brahms for the first time, I would most likely choose Payare’s electrifying way.” Small wonder that, in a dedicated episode of his podcast series Here’s the Thing, actor and host Alec Baldwin dubs Payare “the energetic, electrifying and unmistakable conductor taking the classical world by storm.”

High-resolution photos are available here.

Rafael Payare: 2023–24 engagements
Sep 7 & 8
Berlin, Germany
Staatskapelle Berlin (debut)

Sep 7: Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Opening Night)

Sep 8: Philharmonie (2023 Musikfest Berlin)
Unsuk CHIN: Cello Concerto (with Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5

Sep 12–14
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
JANÁČEK: Glagolitic Mass (with Camilla Tilling, soprano; Rose Naggar-Tremblay, alto; Ladislav Elgr, tenor; Matthew Rose, bass; Jean-Willy Kunz, OSM organist-in-residence; OSM Chorus; Andrew Megill, chorusmaster)
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

Sep 21–23
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
Lera AUERBACH: Icarus
PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Alexander Malofeev, piano)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1, “Titan”

Oct 6–13: U.S. tour with San Diego Symphony

Oct 6: Aliso Viejo, CA

Oct 12: Bethlehem, PA

Oct 13: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
Carlos SIMON: Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra (New York premiere)
DVOŘÁK: Cello Concerto (with Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5

Nov 4
San Diego, CA
San Diego Symphony (SDS)
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
California Festival
Texu KIM: Zzan!!
MOZART: Exsultate, jubilate (with Liv Redpath, soprano)
Billy CHILDS: Saxophone Concerto (West Coast premiere of SDS co-commission; with Steven Banks, saxophone)
Juan COLOMER: A Casual Walk to Extinction (world premiere)
R. STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra

Nov 10 & 11
San Diego, CA
San Diego Symphony (SDS)
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
California Festival
Carlos SIMON: Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra
WAGNER (arr. L. Maazel): The Ring Without Words (featuring video projections)

Nov 17 & 18
San Diego, CA
San Diego Symphony (SDS)
California Festival
BARTÓK: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas brasileiras No. 7
Vladimir TARNOPOLSKI: Danse Macabre (world premiere of SDS commission)
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

Nov 23
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
GINASTERA: Variaciones concertantes
Jimmy LÓPEZ BELLIDO: Ephemerae, Piano Concerto (Montreal premiere; with Javier Perianes, piano)
VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas brasileiras No. 8
RAVEL: Boléro

Dec 1–3
Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Orchestra
Jimmy LÓPEZ BELLIDO: Ephemerae, Piano Concerto (U.S. premiere of Philadelphia Orchestra co-commission; with Javier Perianes, piano)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1

Dec 5 & 6
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
MESSIAEN: Turangalîla- Symphonie (with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano)

Jan 16, 17 & 20
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
SZYMANOWSKI: Violin Concerto No. 1 (with Simone Lamsma, violin)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 7

Jan 31 & Feb 1
Stockholm, Sweden
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
BARBER: Cello Concerto (with Alisa Weilerstein, cello)
R. STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben

Feb 28 & 29
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
Zosha DI CASTRI: In the half-light (with Barbara Hannigan, soprano)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4, “Romantic”

March 6, 7 & 10
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8

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
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
SCHOENBERG: Verklärte Nacht
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4 (with Maria João Pires, piano)
SCHOENBERG: Pelleas und Melisande

April 30 & May 2
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
BRAHMS: Tragic Overture
MAYER: Symphony No. 7 in F minor
BRAHMS: Violin Concerto (with Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin)

May 28–30
Montreal, Canada
Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM)
BARBER: Toccata festiva (with Shin-Young Lee, organ)
JONGEN: Symphonie concertante (with Isabelle Demers, organ)
Denis GOUGEON: Jubilante!, fantasy for organ and orchestra (world premiere of OSM commission; with Jean-Willy Kunz, OSM organist-in-residence)
SAINT-SAËNS: Symphony No. 3, “Organ Symphony” (with 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, August 2023


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