Venezuelan maestro scoops first prize in Denmark
23rd May 2012
Category: Other News
With his thick curls, instant charisma and arresting smile – not to mention the fact that he’s worked with Claudio Abbado and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra – comparisons with Gustavo Dudamel are inevitable.
But Venezuelan Rafael Payare, who was crowned the winner of Copenhagen’s renowned Malko Competition this month, has his own style, more carefully measured and exacting than his wildly popular countryman.
Taking to the stage at the Malko finals on 12 May, the 32-year-old led the Danish National Symphony Orchestra with passion and flair.
Conducting the prelude to the second act of Carl Nielsen's opera Saul and David and the first movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, it was clear he also captivated the huge audience that had packed into the stunning concert hall of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR).
The jury – a collection of musicians, orchestra directors and conductors headed up by maestro Lorin Maazel – awarded Payare first prize, an honour that comes with a €20,000 price tag and, perhaps more importantly, 24 concert dates at some of Europe’s top orchestras.
But Payare had some serious competition: Spanish conductor Antonio Méndez and Estonian maestro Kristiina Poska, who were awarded second and third prize respectively.
IAM was granted special behind-the-scenes access to the rehearsals, which took place at the DR offices. Here the three finalists spent an hour with the orchestra, perfecting the pieces and giving last minute instruction.
It was a rare glimpse into how the conductors interact with musicians: Payare laughed, Méndez gave frequent pointers, and Poska’s face was set in concentration.
Jacob Soelberg, director of Nordic Artists Management (NAM), the company which took over responsibility for the triennial competition in 2009, spoke to IAM during the rehearsals.
‘We’re trying to find a conductor who we can all see standing in front of the Berlin Philharmonic in five to 10 years,’ he said.
While NAM does not offer a management contract to the winner, the ensuing performances across Europe, with top orchestras from Odense to Zagreb, as well as a three-year mentorship with Maazel, will be an undeniable boost to Payare’s conducting career.
Photograph: Payare prepares himself for an award-winning performance at Malko 2012
© Bjoern Bertheussen