Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare was hired Thursday as musical director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, beginning the 2022-23 season.
Payare, who turns 41 on February 23, will follow the extensive tenure of Montreal music directors Kent Nagano (2006-2020) and Charles Dutoit (1977–2002).
Payare trained with Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim and Lorin Maazel. He has been the musical director of the San Diego Symphony from 2019-20 and has a contract with that orchestra until 2025-26.
In 2018 he conducted for the first time the Montreal orchestra in Schoenberg's “Verklaerte Nacht”, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 with concertmaster Andrew Wan and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3. He returned to work with the orchestra in July 2019.
“Being a living organism, they all have their own distinctive sound. They have this wonderful skill and refinement and flexibility, ”he said in a telephone interview. “It's like when you just fell in love. You feel like you have that kind of connection and that kind of chemistry. "
Payare was in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as Music Director of the Ulster Orchestra from 2014 to 2019, when Montreal CEO Madeleine Careau and another officer visited him in January as part of the recruitment process.
Trained in the French horn, Payare is a graduate of the musical program El Sistema de Venezuela and in 2012 he won the Malko Competition for Young Conductors held in Denmark. He is married to the American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, with whom he plays frequently.
Payare, who lives between San Diego and Berlin, recalled the influence that Abbado, Barenboim, Maazel and Bernard Haitink had on him: “Somehow they remain present, perhaps in a sound or perhaps in a comment they made ... voices that I have in my head ”.
He will serve as designated music director in 2021-22 with a five- to six-week commitment, then will spend 14 to 16 weeks of the year as music director, plus 10 weeks per season in San Diego.
Montreal's initial schedule will depend on which artists are available as the coronavirus pandemic is alleviated. Payare has spent most of this time in San Diego./AP