BACKSTAGE WITH… Conductor Rafael Payare
What made you choose Mozart and Mahler for your final concert as music director of the Ulster Orchestra?
They are a winning combination. Mozart’s Piano Concerto
No. 20 is so dark and links so perfectly with the beginning of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The end of the Mahler is so joyful and full of light, which I thought was the perfect way to end my tenure with the orchestra. Coincidentally, my first concert as music director of the San Diego Symphony will also be Mahler Five, which a nice transition.
Looking back, what have been the high points of your five years with the orchestra?
We’ve done so much. We did all the Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Brahms symphonies and came up with crazy programmes in our series combining Shostakovich with Strauss. It’s been so varied. We sometimes combined works of the same number, putting Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2 with his Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2.
How has Belfast responded to the orchestra over the years?
At the beginning of my tenure, we were in a scary place because we didn’t know whether the orchestra could continue. There was a big campaign with the city and the beautiful thing has been seeing the audiences grow ever since. It has been great to take them on journeys with these symphonic cycles and see them react so well.
Final countdown: ‘The perfect way to end my tenure’