Payare in a mellow mood


No big symphony on the second webcast by Rafael Payare and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Unless we count Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, which the Venezuelan conductor took to be a symphony in spirit.

There is a case to be made for such an approach, given the length, weight and complexity of the first movement. Payare emphasized its dark character with a broad interpretation of the Allegro marking and full string sound made to sound fuller still with ample legato. 

Pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin was like-minded, making the apparently naive theme of the Larghetto seem dignified and exploring the philosophical nooks and crannies of the finale. This solemn, unrushed performance suggested that Kent Nagano’s interest in historical practice has been stored in the attic. 

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Payare led the concerto with calmly circular gestures. He needed to be more exacting in the program opener, Fairytale Poem by the Russian modernist Sofia Gubaidulina. This 12-minute piece of 1971 is made of filaments of sound that follow each other with hard-to-pierce logic. Sometimes jazzy syncopation makes an unexpected appearance. Playing was expert (wonderful harp arpeggios) and Payare balanced the materials adeptly. He also – somehow – made the music flow. 

The hourlong concert (not including commentary) ended with Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, something of an MSO classic. As in Mozart, Payare took his time, which is viable option when the string playing is fine. There was also good work from the winds, staffed mainly by non-principals.

This concert was recorded in the Maison symphonique on Jan. 13. The webcast is available through Feb. 2. Go to



About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. From 2019-2021, Arthur was co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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