Venezuelan maestro set to usher in exciting new era in Northern Irish musical life.

In what industry insiders are calling a major coup for Northern Ireland, one of the world’s most exciting emerging conductors has been appointed as the new Chief Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra. Rafael Payare, 33, from Venezuela, is regarded internationally as one of the most talented of the new generation of conductors. Winner of the 2012 Malko Conducting Competition, Maestro Payare has worked with some of the most distinguished orchestras and conductors (Claudio Abbado, Bernard Haitink and Daniel Barenboim among others) in the world.

Maestro Payare will join the Ulster Orchestra in September, when New Yorker JoAnn Falletta’s three-year contract comes to an end.

Dr Rosa Solinas, Chief Executive of the Ulster Orchestra, said: ‘The past twelve months have been exciting, especially given our key role in the Derry~Londonderry inaugural UK City of Culture year, but the immediate future promises to be even more so: Rafael’s exceptional musicality and his natural command and energy on the podium have impressed everyone. We can’t wait to begin working with him in earnest. We think his fresh approach to music-making – not only in the concert hall but throughout the community – is great news for Belfast and for the whole of Northern Ireland.’

Rafael Payare. Photograph: © Luis Cobelo Maestro Payare added: ‘From the moment I first conducted the Ulster Orchestra in October, the players made a great impression on me. The chemistry was immediate and a very special bond was formed. I am really looking forward to embarking on the wonderful journey that is about to start and I am thrilled to share and be part of the Orchestra’s future!’

The Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Bob Collins, said: 'The appointment of a new Principal Conductor is always an important milestone in the life of an orchestra. Rafael Payare's appointment comes at a particularly important time in the life of the Ulster Orchestra, as for the arts in general in Northern Ireland. He brings with him a distinguished record and the possibility of a dramatic new opening in the relationship between the Orchestra and the whole community. I wish him and the orchestra every success.’

A former member of the famous Simón Bolívar orchestra, Maestro Payare will no doubt have a great deal to offer the Ulster Orchestra’s outreach programme too: he will be leading Northern Ireland’s principal musical institution as it embarks on an ambitious new programme of community engagement, including plans to introduce the celebrated "El Sistema" programme of social musical education to Northern Ireland’s children in 2014-15.'

Local audiences will have a preview opportunity to see him in action as Guest Conductor for a BBC concert in the Ulster Hall in March, when the Ulster Orchestra will also be engaged in a new community project in West Belfast.

Since beginning his formal conducting studies in 2004 with Jose Antonio Abreu, who remains his principal conducting mentor, Payare has developed a flourishing career: he has worked under Gustavo Dudamel, most notably on a co-production of Carmen with the Teatro alla Scala, as well as for the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s 2010 European tour.

Since his Malko success in 2012, he has made successful debuts with, among others, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony and the Oslo and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestras. Future plans include subscription debuts with the London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Münchner Philharmoniker.


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