Christian Vásquez


Christian Vásquez became Chief Conductor of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra at the beginning of the 2013/14 season, inaugurating the start of an initial four-year term with Mahler Symphony no.2 in the orchestra’s new hall in August 2013.  He is also Music Director of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, most recently leading them on a tour of Europe which saw them perform in London, Lisbon,Toulouse, Munich, Stockholm and Istanbul.

Following his debut with the Gävle Symfoniorkester in October 2009, one of his first appearances in Europe, Christian was appointed Principal Guest Conductor (2010-13).  He has worked with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Residentie Orkest, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Vienna Radio Symphony, Camerata Salzburg, State Symphony of Russia, Tokyo Philharmonic and Singapore Symphony.  In North America, he has conducted the National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa) and Los Angeles Philharmonic, the latter during his participation in their Young Artist Fellowship programme.

Christian’s 2013/14 season included projects with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, , Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Galicia Symphony, Berlin Konzerthausorchester, Prague Radio Symphony, Warsaw Beethoven Festival and Turku Philharmonic.  In addition to his regular commitments in Stavanger, 2014/15 sees returns to the Arnhem Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic and Turku Philharmonic as well as his first opera engagement in Europe at the Norwegian Opera for Carmen.

Born in Caracas, Christian joined the San Sebastian de los Reyes Symphony Orchestra as a violinist at the age of nine.  He began conducting studies under the tutelage of José Antonio Abreu in 2006 and was appointed Music Director of the Aragua Juvenile Symphony Orchestra Jose Felix Ribas soon after.

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Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela

Royal Festival Hall, 6 June 2014

But never underestimate the essential seriousness of this huge orchestra, with its 13 double basses. Even Berlioz’s Le carnaval romain is played with a musical force and strength of will rare in adult orchestras. Vásquez conducts from memory. Plenty of eye contact, and a relaxed, supple conducting technique belie the obvious rigour of rehearsal. Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite revealed quickfire discipline of ensemble: a trembling of wings of the finest feathers, a great weight achieving lift-off weightlessly, and oboe, bassoon and cello solos of great beauty.

More golden storytelling in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade—a perfect showpiece for the orchestra’s young leader. A massive ocean of bodies and bows danced like a wave of the sea, as the players engaged with the music’s internal rhythms. And an avian clarinet to die for matched the delicacy of percussion in a gripping and powerfully paced performance.
Hilary Finch, The Times, 9 June 2014

Inaugural concert as Chief Conductor of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra

Fartein Valen Concert Hall, August 2013

Vanskeligheten med å fremføre dette enorme verket ligger dels i at det kan utartete til en rekke effecter, dels at det lange blikk som Mahler forlanger, kan fortape seg i detaljer.  Christian Vasquez unngikk begge deler; han tok seg tid med det nødvendige detaljarbeidet og hastet aldri av gårde til et høydepunkt.  Han hadde et suverent grep om verkets dramaturgi der han ikke overdrev kontrollen med orkesteret, men lot det få utfolde seg relativt fritt.
[…] Denn konserten viste hva SSO nå kan drive det til.  Og at Vasquez ikke bare arbeider grundig med orkesteret, men også med et sammensatt kor som klang usedvanlig homogent.  Verkningen av fjernorkesteret bak scenen var til å få frysninger av.  Berørt var til de grader en fullsatt Valen-sal som ga jublende og stående applaus etter en katarsis på halvannen time.

The difficulty of performing this massive work lies partly in that it can become just a succession of effects, and partly in that the long lines Mahler demands can get lost in details.  Christian Vasquez avoided both. He took his time with the necessary detailed work and never rushed towards the climaxes.  He had a masterly grip on the dramatic composition of the piece, never overdoing his control with the orchestra, but letting them develop relatively freely.
[…]This concert demonstrated what the SSO is now capable of, and that Vasquez not only works thoroughly with the orchestra, but also with a combined choir that produced an incredibly homogeneous sound.  The effect of the off-stage orchestra sent shivers down the spine.  The packed hall was obviously moved by the performance and gave a standing ovation after the 90 minutes of emotional release.

(Translation courtesy of Stavanger Symphony Orchestra)

Arnfinn Bø-Rygg, Stavanger Aftenblad, 30 August 2013

Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse

Halle aux Grains, January 2013

Christian Vasquez et l'Orchestre du Capitole ont à leur tour exalté les beautés d'un chef-d'oeuvre de la musique russe du XXe siècle: la Cinquième symphonie de Prokofiev.  Le chef vénézuélien, entendu en octobre à la tête du jeune Orchestre Teresa Carreno, sait tirer le meilleur de tous les pupitres de l’orchestre pour livrer une version de la partition riche de timbres et habitée.  L’Adagio était à la fois poignant et implacable.

Anne-Marie Chouchan, La Dépèche du Midi, 16 January 2013

Philharmonia Orchestra

Royal Festival Hall, June 2011

El sistema, Venezuela's revolutionary music education programme, has been running for decades, but has only registered internationally over the past five years.
One of its latest products is Christian Vásquez, a 26-year-old conductor who is already making waves.
[…] From the lovely meandering cor anglais solo that set things moving, Berlioz's Roman Carnival overture seemed to gather its momentum from Vásquez's body.  He is a hypermobile conductor, bouncing merrily, gesturing wildly, but with firm control of the direction.
[...] For Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony (the Pathétique), as for the Berlioz, Vásquez did without a score.
From the moment the sinister bassoon was answered by ominous violas, this was a reading of palpable tension.  Even the jaunty dance of the second movement was infected with unease, while there was a manic nerviness in the third movement march that seemed to prefigure Shostakovich. Tchaikovsky doesn't always sound this contemporary, and it was thrilling. Evening Standard, 1 July 2011

Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra

Tour of Europe, Autumn 2010

***** Conductor Christian Vasquez moved the Allegro [of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony] along at a thrusting pace, with the syncopations bouncing across the bar-lines; he found a wide range of dynamic contrasts in the slow movement, and wove pianissimo spells in the Scherzo; this is a man who knows exactly what he wants, and how to get it.  And this is an orchestra whose cleanness of sound belies both its youth and its gargantuan size. Michael Church, The Independent, 15 October 2010
***** Vásquez shaped everything with a mature, unostentatious hand
[...] Much of the credit must go to the orchestra’s young conductor Christian Vásquez, who shaped everything with an impressively mature, unostentatious hand. Ivan Hewitt, The Telegraph, 13 October 2010
***** It is less the sense of refinement than that of struggle which is the essential ingredient here.  Indeed, if authenticity in music refers, as it should, to capturing the spirit in which a work is conceived, then I have rarely heard the hard-won triumph which concludes each work sound more authentic.  And given that Beethoven's subject, no less than Prokofiev's, was man's ability to take his so-called destiny and shake it by the scruff of the neck until it yields to his will, there can be few orchestras better suited to it than this.  Bravo! Guy Dammann, The Guardian, 13 October 2010