Rafael Payare


Described by the Oslo Philharmonic as ‘one of those conductors you just have to witness’, Rafael Payare , 34, is emerging as one of the most exciting conductors of his generation. Since winning the prestigious Malko Conducting Competition in 2012, he has worked with, amongst others, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Oslo Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Cincinnati Symphony and the Los Angeles and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestras.

Having made his sensational UK debut with the Ulster Orchestra in October 2013, he was immediately offered the position of Chief Conductor; a post he will take up from the 2014-15 season for an initial period of three years. Other highlights of 14-15 include debuts with the London Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Seoul Philharmonic, Tonkünstlerorchester, New Japan Philharmonic & the Danish National Symphony. He will also make his opera debut at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm conducting 'Madame Butterfly'.

In November 2013, the celebrated Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, invited Rafael to conduct part of his 80th birthday concerts in Warsaw, alongside such conductors as Valery Gergiev, Charles Dutoit, Leonard Slatkin and Jiří Bělohlávek. He also made his much acclaimed debut in March 2013 at the Warsaw Beethoven Festival and, in July 2012, he was personally invited by Lorin Maazel to conduct at his Castleton Festival in Washington DC.

A graduate of the celebrated El Sistema in Venezuela, Payare began his formal conducting studies in 2004 with José Antonio Abreu and has conducted all the major orchestras in Venezuela, including the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, both in Caracas and in Toronto as part of their 2009 Canadian tour. Having also served as Principal Horn of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, he took part in many prestigious tours and recordings with conductors including Giusseppe Sinopoli, Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle and Lorin Maazel.

As an assistant conductor, he has worked under Gustavo Dudamel, most recently for his staged production of Marriage of Figaro with the LA Philharmonic, and served as assistant conductor to the late Claudio Abbado for his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra. In September 2012, Daniel Barenboim personally invited him to assist for his production of Siegfried at the Berlin Staatsoper.

This biography is updated regularly. Please contact Terry Shew or Olivia Patton for the most recent version and destroy any previously held material.  All editing should be approved by Askonas Holt

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    Symphony No.4, Movement 1


Ulster Hall, Belfast

STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel 
PENDERECKI 3 Chinese Songs, for baritone and orchestra
BEETHOVEN Symphony no. 9

Rebecca Evans (soprano)
Catherine Carby (mezzo)
Bryan Register (tenor)
Stephen Loges (bass-baritone)

Belfast Philharmonic Choir
Ulster Orchestra / Rafael Payare

Ulster Hall, Belfast

Simon Mawhinney - The Pot of Pulgarve
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.4
- Interval -
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.4

Ulster Orchestra / Rafael Payare
Barry Douglas, Piano

Casino, Baden

Beethoven - 'Leonora' Overture No.3 Op 72a
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.3
- Interval -
Beethoven - Symphony No.3 'Eroica'

Tonkünstler Orchestra / Rafael Payare
Benjamin Grosvenor, Piano

Festspielhaus, St Polten

Beethoven - 'Leonora' Overture No.3 Op 72a
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.3
- Interval -
Beethoven - Symphony No.3 'Eroica'

Tonkünstler Orchestra / Rafael Payare
Benjamin Grosvenor, Piano

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Schumann & Mahler

Manfred Overture & Symphony No.1: 4th July 2014

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Town Hall

The lithe young Venezuelan conductor kept it [Schumann, Manfred Overture] firmly on track, creating drama through impressively sonorous playing, with rushing violins flaring up in storm-tossed crescendos...Early on, underlined by his endless athletic body language, Payare wove intriguing musical textures [Mahler, Symphony No.1]. Themes did not always have their expected precedence while dramatic touches included an eerie stillness that erupted into timpani thunder. The dance of the second movement set off raw and rustic, but its trio had just the right leavening of Viennese gemutlichkeit. The final movement began with what Mahler described as a cry from the wounded heart, as Payare caught the many degrees of light and shade leading to the resilient major key victory. William Dart, The New Zealand Herald


Scheherazade: 1 May 2014

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Birmingahm

**** The brilliance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration for Scheherazade – he even makes the bassoon sound beguiling – means that it easily becomes a series of discrete beautiful moments. It’s to the credit of up-and-coming Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare that while the incidental orchestral felicities were all in place there also was a strong narrative thrust to this exotic fairytale suite...The Ulster Orchestra snapped up the 33-year-old as its chief conductor for next season – it looks like a shrewd signing. Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post

Concert: 2 April 2014

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Helsinki Music Centre

Rafael Payare is a 33-year-old Venezuelan conductor who has shot like a comet to international acclaim...Super-talented Payare has a phenomenal memory: he conducted Shostakovich’s great tenth symphony from memory – as he did the whole programme. Payare conjured forth a tragic and pessimistic basic mood in the long first movement, effectively brutalised the themes in the build-ups and unleashed a feeling of terror. The young Payare was probably not thinking about the terrors of Stalin’s regime. For him, the work is undoubtedly first and foremost a universal symphonic drama the first movement of which leads, surprisingly as it were, from dark anguish to the sparking joy and humour of the finale.The composer himself described the Scherzo as the portrait of an evil tyrant. In Payare’s hands, the short movement was a wild vortex of flaming life forces... Payare was in sovereign command of the symphony’s wide formal span with all its contrasts. He conducts with broad and precise gestures, and none of the diva’s mannerisms. His attitude to the music and musicians seems to be one of humility...Payare infused Brahms’s Tragic Overture with dynamic energy and a rich, glowing sound. Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat

Concert: 4 October 2013

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Music Hall Cincinnati

Making his debut with the CSO was guest conductor Rafael Payare. Just 33, Payare led with total assurance...Payare who led the Sibelius Symphony from memory, had both the orchestra and the audience in his corner all evening. Winner of the 2012 Malko International Conducting Competition in Copenhagen, he conducts with sweeping gestures and a precise and expressive left hand. The CSO musicians responded to him naturally and gave him their finest playing. The audience seemed rapt and during silences in the music you could hear a pin drop in the hall. Mary Ellyn Hutton, Cincinnati.com


Symphony No.5: 14 July 2013

Castleton Festival Orchestra, Castleton Festival

Rafael Payare conducted a stormy version of Mahler's 70-minute Fifth Symphony...The Castleton Festival Orchestra, conducted by rising star Payare, was unbelievable in the Mahler...Payare led them in probing the mournful landscapes of the funeral march..the rondo finale transfixed the audience with its breathtaking virtuosity in conveying the music's ambiguous sense of triumph and equally fervent proclamation of joyous abandon. Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
The young conductor was just unbelievable...the wild-haired, expressive and intensely, joyously focused 33-year-old Venezuelan horn player turned conductor Rafael Payare...It was so evident that Payare loved the music, and he conveyed that so well to the orchestra - he turned on those young musicians, and they gave one of the best performances they've ever given...Payare flowed across the orchestra. When the violins lifted their instruments, he lifted their instruments. Payare conducted without a score, much like his infinitely more seasoned sponsor Maazel does, and returned four times to stand with the orchestra for an also-standing crowd. Roger Piantadosi, Rappahanock News


Concert: 22 March 2013

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall

Lauréat du concours de direction Nicolai Malko de Copenhague, le jeune homme témoigne d’une assurance et d’une technique de direction infaillibles. Il cerne parfaitement les caractéristiques de l’ouverture de Leonore n°1 de Beethoven avant d’emporter l’adhésion du public dans la Symphonie n°7. En dépit de l’effectif orchestral sollicité en tutti, le chef conserve un élan interprétatif et une incroyable clarté dans la mise en avant des thèmes de l’œuvre. Peu de chefs peuvent proposer une telle assurance et une telle maîtrise. Agé de 32 ans, Payare est certainement promis  à un bel avenir, il est bien plus qu’un clone de Dudamel, et il possède déjà : la fraîcheur de l’inspiration et la rigueur de la direction. Pierre-Jean Trivot, Resmusica

Concert: 23 May 2012

Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Copenhagen

With his thick curls, instant charisma and arresting smile – not to mention the fact that he’s worked with Claudio Abbado and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra – comparisons with Gustavo Dudamel are inevitable.
But Venezuelan Rafael Payare, who was crowned the winner of Copenhagen’s renowned Malko Competition this month, has his own style, more carefully measured and exacting than his wildly popular countryman.

Taking to the stage at the Malko finals on 12 May, the 32-year-old led the Danish National Symphony Orchestra with passion and flair.

Conducting the prelude to the second act of Carl Nielsen's opera Saul and David and the first movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, it was clear he also captivated the huge audience that had packed into the stunning concert hall of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR).
Clare Wiley, International Arts Manager