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San Diego Symphony Returns to Carnegie Hall for First Time in Ten Years (Oct 13), Performs in Tijuana, Mexico at CECUT for Día de los Muertos (Nov 2)

(September 2023) — The San Diego Symphony (SDS) performs at Carnegie Hall for the first time in ten years this fall, led by Music Director Rafael Payare – declared by the LA Times to be always “electrifying in front of an orchestra.” Their program features the New York premiere of Carlos Simon’s SDS-commissioned Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Dvořák’s celebrated Cello Concerto with soloist Alisa Weilerstein (Oct 13). Ahead of the Carnegie Hall performance, the orchestra performs the same program at San Diego’s breathtaking waterfront venue, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park (Oct 7), California’s Soka University (Oct 6) and Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University (Oct 12). In another milestone, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra travels to Tijuana, performing at Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT), a national Mexican cultural center on the border, headlining their annual Dia de los Muertos festival for the first time. Again led by Payare, the orchestra performs music of Richard Strauss, David Chesky and Latin Grammy-nominated Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz (Nov 2). As part of the inaugural California Festival – co-produced by the San Diego Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony – three sets of Payare-led performances at San Diego’s Rady Shell at Jacobs Park follow in November, featuring world premieres by Texu Kim, Juan Colomer and Vladimir Tarnopolski, a West Coast premiere by Billy Childs, a unique performance of Lorin Maazel’s Wagner arrangement, A Ring Without Words, that features original video projections, and much more.

Payare’s Carnegie Hall appearance with SDS marks his third high-profile New York performance in the past year, after a New York Philharmonic debut and a March performance – again in Carnegie Hall – with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, of which he is also Music Director. The San Diego Symphony program continues the orchestra’s exploration of Shostakovich’s symphonies, after a digital release of Symphony No. 11 in 2022 on the Platoon label, and it marks the first New York area collaboration between Payare and Weilerstein, offstage a married couple with two young children.

About the Carnegie Hall performance, Payare noted:

“For any of the world’s orchestras, an appearance at Carnegie Hall is a thrilling and unforgettable occasion, and we could not be more excited to come to New York in October with a program that I think will be extremely satisfying for the audience. I could not be more proud of the orchestra and what we have achieved together since we began our partnership in 2019.”

Following the tour, Payare and the orchestra make one more trip, this time south of the border to perform at Tijuana’s CECUT. Part of CECUT’s annual Día de los Muertos celebration, the program comprises Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, David Chesky’s Abreu Danzas and Gabriela Ortiz’s Kauyumari. The free concert on November 2 will be the first of its kind for the San Diego Symphony at CECUT. Founded in 1982, CECUT is the institution that concentrates the widest and most diverse cultural offerings in Mexico’s northwest region, and the only infrastructure of Mexico’s Ministry of Culture outside the country’s capital. The orchestra’s performance in November marks the beginning of an effort between CECUT, the Cultural Ministry Offices of Mexico, and the San Diego Symphony to build a long-standing collaborative partnership, especially considering the short distance between the two groups: Tijuana sits just 18 miles from the orchestra’s indoor home, the Jacobs Music Center (currently undergoing a $125 million renovation and set to reopen in early 2024).

On performing with the orchestra in Mexico, Payare commented:

“We’re thrilled that we’re going to be bringing the full orchestra to Tijuana on a very special day, which is Día de los Muertos in Mexico. The program is a dynamic mix of repertoire that will show off the wonderful abilities of our players and contribute to the celebratory spirit of the holiday. This will be an opportunity to bond with our friends across the border, and personally meaningful for me to celebrate something I have never been able to experience: Día de los Muertos in Mexico—on its own soil.”

In the meantime, the orchestra returns to The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park – the open-air bayside venue “of such architectural and acoustical distinction that it would distinguish San Diego on any national cultural map” (New York Times) – for three sets of California Festival performances conducted by Payare in November. The first program features world premieres by Texu Kim and Juan Colomer, as well as the West Coast premiere of Billy Childs’s Diaspora, a saxophone concerto performed by soloist Steven Banks. Soprano Liv Redpath is also a featured artist on the program (Nov 4). Next, Payare and the orchestra reprise Carlos Simon’s Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra, along with The Ring Without Words, a symphonic journey through Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle, conducted by Payare as an homage to his mentor, Lorin Maazel, who arranged the work. The performance features original video projections (Nov 10 & 11). Finally, music of Bartók and Villa-Lobos is paired with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and the SDS-commissioned world premiere of Vladimir Tarnopolski’s Danse Macabre – a protest against the war in Ukraine written by a Russian-Ukrainian who has been living in exile since the war began – to round out the month’s programming (Nov 17 & 18).

About Rafael Payare

One of today’s most sought-after conductors, renowned for his profound musicianship, technical brilliance, and charismatic presence, Rafael Payare assumed the leadership of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra as its Music Director on July 1, 2019. Mr. Payare served as Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Ulster Orchestra from 2014 through 2019 and was named Conductor Laureate in recognition of his artistic contributions. He also has served as Principal Conductor of the Castleton Festival and Honorary Conductor of the Sinfonietta Cracovia. In 2022, Mr. Payare assumed the role of Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. As a guest conductor, he has led many of the world’s great orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. As an opera conductor, Mr. Payare made his acclaimed debut at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2019 and has conducted at the Royal Swedish Opera and Malmö Opera.

Born in Venezuela in 1980 and a graduate of El Sistema, Mr. Payare began his formal conducting studies in 2004 with José Antonio Abreu. He has conducted all the major orchestras in Venezuela, including the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, in which he served as Principal Horn and took part in many tours and recordings with conductors including Giuseppe Sinopoli, Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle, and Lorin Maazel. In May 2012, Rafael Payare was awarded first prize at the Malko International Conducting Competition.

About the San Diego Symphony Orchestra

The San Diego Symphony, led by Music Director Rafael Payare, comprises 82 full-time musicians who represent and celebrate the San Diego region through dynamic and passionate music-making. One of the largest and most significant cultural organizations in California, the San Diego Symphony creates shared experiences centered on the stories of our place and time, for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. The San Diego Symphony performs for more than 250,000 people annually at its concerts throughout Southern California, reaches more than 65,000 participants through its community engagement and education programs, serves as the orchestra for the San Diego Opera, and participates collaboratively with arts and cultural activities in Baja California, Mexico, as part of its ongoing binational work.

The San Diego Symphony programs and operates its two primary venues: the indoor Jacobs Music Center, which will reopen in 2024 following a $125 million renovation, and The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the Symphony’s outdoor venue on San Diego Bay, nestled between downtown San Diego and historic Coronado. The San Diego Symphony operates Jacobs Park as a public park 365 days each year, where it provides a range of free and paid programming. Both venues were developed with the goals of showcasing the talent of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra musicians, providing transformative music experiences for the community, and driving growth and vitality in San Diego.

The San Diego Symphony is proud to be one of three anchor institutions to launch the California Festival, a statewide music initiative from November 3–19, 2023, showcasing the most compelling and forward-looking composers of works written in the past five years. The festival will feature 95 participating organizations and 110 innovative composers represented through the performance of their works. Additional information is available at

High-resolution photos are available here.

San Diego Symphony fall highlights
Oct 6–13
Rafael Payare, conductor
Alisa Weilerstein, cello
Carlos SIMON: Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra (lead commission by SDS; San Diego premiere)
DVOŘÁK: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47

Oct 6: Aliso Viejo, CA (Soka University of America)

Oct 7: San Diego, CA (Rady Shell at Jacobs Park)

Oct 12: Bethlehem, PA (Lehigh University)

Oct 13: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage)

Nov 2
Tijuana, Mexico
R. STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
David CHESKY: Abreu Danzas
Gabriela ORTIZ: Kauyumari

Nov 4
San Diego, CA
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
California Festival
Rafael Payare, conductor
Steven Banks, saxophone
Liv Redpath, soprano
Texu KIM: Zzan!! Fanfare for Jacobs Music Center (world premiere, SDS commission)
MOZART: Exsultate jubilate, K. 165 (158a)
Billy CHILDS: Diaspora (concerto for saxophone and orchestra; West Coast premiere, SDS co-commission)
Juan COLOMER: A Casual Walk to Extinction (world premiere)
R. STRAUSS: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30

Nov 10 & 11
San Diego, CA
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
California Festival
Rafael Payare, conductor
Carlos SIMON: Wake Up: A Concerto for Orchestra (lead commission by SDS)
WAGNER: The Ring Without Words (arr. Lorin Maazel; featuring video projections)

Nov 17 & 18
San Diego, CA
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
California Festival
Rafael Payare, conductor
BARTÓK: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 7
Vladimir TARNOPOLSKI: Danse Macabre (world premiere, SDS commission)
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

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© 21C Media Group, September 2023


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