Rafael Payare named next Music Director of the San Diego Symphony

Announced today – Rafael Payare has been appointed as the next Music Director for the San Diego Symphony. He will begin a four-year contract immediately, serving as Music Director Designate for the first year, beginning the role of Music Director on 1 July 2019.

Currently music director of Ulster Orchestra, principal conductor of the Castleton Festival and honorary conductor of Sinfonietta Cracovia, Rafael becomes the 13th music director in the San Diego Symphony’s 108-year history, and from 2019/20 will conduct 10 weeks each season including performances in the orchestra’s Bayside Summer Nights season.

Rafael made his San Diego Symphony debut last month, conducting a programme of Berlioz, Prokofiev and Roberto Sierra, with critics commenting:

“Under the gifted baton of guest conductor Rafael Payare, Sierra’s turbulent but incessantly engaging work electrified the unusually large audience present for the first orchestral concert of the Symphony’s It’s About Time festival … Payare conducted the demanding score with assurance and verve, maintained exacting balances in its unrelentingly dense textures.” (San Diego Story)

“He led the orchestra to strong performances that belied his slim and youthful appearance. He was especially impressive in Sierra’s difficult and seldom performed concerto with its shifting harmonies and complex rhythmic changes.” (Broadway World)

He will debut in his new role in January 2019, when he launches the fourth annual San Diego Symphony January festival.

Of today’s announcement, San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer, said: “I first heard about Rafael Payare because of the unique musical relationship he had with the preeminent conductor, Lorin Maazel. Lorin was a complex musician with discerning taste. That he recognized Rafael’s talent and innate musicianship was an affirmation for me of Rafael’s considerable gift. When Rafael conducted the orchestra in January there was a deep connection with the orchestra, and the musical bond and obvious potential for their relationship was clear. Rafael has a calm assurance on the podium. The musicians spoke of their ability to take artistic risks knowing that he was secure in his own vision and knowledge of the score. I could not be more excited about this musical partnership.”

As San Diego Symphony’s Music Director, Rafael will shape the musical vision for the orchestra moving forward. His international experience and profile will attract the very best orchestral players and guest artists to San Diego. In addition, his own personal story about the important role that music has played in his life supports his vision to reach into the community to find new and enduring ways for the San Diego Symphony to play a greater role in the vitality and vibrancy of the San Diego community and region.

He said, “I had an immediate connection and chemistry with the orchestra. There was no wall between us, only a desire and eagerness to try new things which I find very exciting. Given what we achieved in just one week together in January, the sky is the limit. I am also inspired to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness in the San Diego region. I feel a special connection to San Diego. I grew up living on the edge of the sea, so I immediately felt at home.”

View the full press release here.


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