Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Orchestra baton to be passed on as Payare bows out

By Alf McCreary

The Ulster Orchestra’s music director Rafael Payare has been appointed to the same position with the San Diego Symphony.

Payare, who was appointed chief conductor of the ensemble in 2014, begins his new job  immediately.

He’ll work as music director-designate in the first year, conducting the San Diego regularly while working out his contract in Belfast, which ends in June 2019.

He will make his debut on the podium with the San Diego Symphony in the 2019-20 season.

He succeeds Jahja Ling, who held the role from 2004-2017.

Ulster Orchestra chief executive Richard Wigley said: “We are naturally disappointed to be losing Rafael at the end of our 2018/19 season, while also celebrating his extraordinary contribution to the musical life of Northern Ireland.

“His achievements with the orchestra have been immense both in quality and aspiration, and he has given us the confidence to be outstanding.

“We are proud that he has been offered the musical director post in San Diego and we wish him all the best.

“Fortunately, we still have a season-and-a-half to enjoy his partnership with our orchestra.”

Payare’s departure will be seen as a major loss to the orchestra, which has improved out of all recognition since he took over in 2014.

He was appointed after a stunning performance conducting it at a Wednesday evening concert the previous season.

The appointment was seen as good for both, with Payare steadily building up an enviable reputation as a young international conductor destined for greater things.

His contract was renewed in 2016 when he was given the new title of music director.

Since Payare took up his post the Ulster Orchestra has faced severe financial problems and nearly folded.

A rescue campaign led by its former chairman Professor Sir George Bain and others was successful, and although it recently received additional funding from Stormont, the long-term financial future is still uncertain.

During his tenure, Payare worked as guest conductor with some major international ensembles including the Vienna Philharmonic, one of the top three orchestras in the world.

Born in 1980 in Venezuela, Payare made his name as principal horn of the famous Simon Bolivar Orchestra in his homeland, which he later conducted. He is married to Alisa Weilerstein, one of the world’s leading solo celloists.

Management was keen to keep Payare, but no local ensemble could compete financially with its US counterparts and the rising star looked destined to move on before long.

One local supporter said: “Rafael will be missed, but we were fortunate to have a musician of such quality in our midst since 2014.”

Payare will conduct the orchestra tomorrow evening in the Ulster Hall, when there will be a world premiere of Giancarlo Castro’s Trumpet Concerto played by Pacho Flores, one of Payare’s colleagues in the Simon Bolivar.

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