Rafael Payare | Interview

Rafael Payare is developing a reputation as one of the most exciting of the new generation of emerging conductors, but it is affairs close to the heart that keep him motivated. For his upcoming concert in Dublin's National Concert Hall with the Ulster Orchetra, he will be joined by internationally renowned American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who happens to be his wife. Indeed, when asked about his life ambitions, his response was not to take over the Berlin Philharmonic, but something more affectionate: "Have a family. Now at the moment I have my family by name, I have my orchestra family which is the people I grew up with and now I have this new family with my wife - hopefully we will have kids soon, hopefully I'll have a family of my own."

He experiences a unique energy by performing with his wife, as not only can he sense her next move, but she has an autonomy to push boundaries: "It's a little bit different than with the other soloists because I know exactly what she's going to do, and it's always different, every single rehearsal and every single concert, but as we're a couple I already know; and it's very special because it's more free as well, she thinks she can push the bar a little bit higher with me than with another conductor because she knows that I know her so she feels she can do something completely different."

At only 34 (considering he only began music properly at about fourteen) his rise has been somewhat meteoric, being awarded first prize at the Malko Conducting Competition in 2012.  He attributes his success to the work ethic of Maestro José Antonio Abreu in Venezuela which was:  "Discipline, hard work, believe you can do it and all the time aim for something higher."

Maestro Abreu founded El Sistema (National Youth Orchestra) and engrained his pupils with a sense of aspiration: "If you are going to do it you have to go 100% for it like it's going to be your last breath you're going to take." His progression from horn player to conductor seemed very natural: "I feel much more free when I started getting into the conducting path, it gives you the overall view sometimes. When you're playing you're thinking a little bit on your own par, but then when I started  conducting I looked at the bigger picture, it was much easier to do everything.

He hopes his role as conductor will enable him to both suffer and delight with the more repertoire throughout his career: that's my goal that my repertoire gets bigger and widens and that will mean you have to suffer and sometimes be very happy and sometimes very sad with all the repertoire that is out there.

Since 2012, Payare has made debuts with, among others, the London Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony, and after his debut with the Ulster Orchestra in October 2013, he was immediately offered the position of Chief Conductor. Since taking up this position for the 2014 / 2015 season, Payare says it has been a "wonderful ride" as he and the players have been getting to know each other.

He describes the Dublin performance as three perfectly chosen pieces. First there is the "wonderful" prelude to Act 3 of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner), which will provide the depth for the sound of the orchestra. Elgar's Cello Concert in E minor, Op. 85 then follows which is "almost like a symphony with a cello on top." The concert will finish with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, fraught with tension from Russia's political situation; "We have the wonderful massive symphony from Shostakovich that he did after finding out that Stalin was going to die. He was so afraid of composing symphonies for a while until this dictator died and you can feel everything. In the symphony you could have all the fears that he had." He further explains that the second movement has a reflection of Stalin and captures the emotion from all who died under his rule. "If you like this rollercoaster of emotions please come to the concert."

Ulster Orchestra Programme (Thursday 21st May 2015, 8pm)

Wagner Prelude to Act 3 (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85
Shostakovich Symphony No. 10

Prices: €45, €35, €30, €25 (€20 Choir Balcony)

Tickets available from the National Concert Hall Box Office. Tel: 01 417 0000 or www.nch.ie