Orchestra conductors are fascinating figures – often eccentric, mostly touched by genius. Such as Rui Massena, the well-known Portuguese maestro who helped Guimarães’ 2012 run as European Cultural Capital become such a success. As a programming director of the event, Mr. Massena created the Fundação Orquestra Estúdio, a singular foundation designed to plant a seed or the future in the shape of an orchestra with musicians from over 20 countries. Its success became living proof of Mr. Massena’s unique talents: a conductor who doesn’t only lead the different sections of the orchestra, but also a harmonizer of different attitudes, cultures and languages.
That vision is what has been setting Rui Massena’s work as conductor apart. Abroad, he has been the main guest conductor of the Rome Symphony Orchestra in the 2009-2011 seasons; he was the first Portuguese conductor to perform at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall, in 2007. In Portugal, he dived wholeheartedly into the unusual adventure of The Expensive Soul Symphonic Experience, a unique combination of classical orchestra and the modern hip-hop-pop of Oporto duo Expensive Soul; its DVD release was the best-selling Portuguese music DVD of 2012. Mr. Massena has also received a number of distinctions: the Cultural Merit Medals from the Brazilian Arts and Sciences Academy and the Vila Nova de Gaia City Hall, and the Rose d’Or television festival shortlisted his television series “Música Maestro” in the Arts category.
Mr. Massena has also been the artistic director and resident conductor of the Madeira Classical Orchestra from 2000 to 2012 and in that role he worked with names such as José Carreras, José Cura, Ute Lemper, Wim Mertens, Guy Braustein or Ivan Lins.
His challenge now, however, is a whole other ballgame and has already resulted in an acclaimed album, Solo, revealing a remarkable compositional talent. That was Rui Massena’s priority in 2015 – to show around the world his magical universe of melody as a solo pianist, performing his own compositions.
Who is Rui Massena? Meet this fascinated orchestra conductor and talented composer:
Watch here the single of his new work “Ensemble”:
Watch here the single of his first solo album as a composer and musician:
“The night before last I encountered Wim Mertens again at the Vila Flor Cultural Centre in Guimarães. Mertens, a pianist of excellence, 63 but not a day older, offered the assembled audience a memorable performance, accompanied by the Fundação Orquestra Estúdio, masterfully conducted by the always exuberantly elegant Rui Massena (…) The art of an experienced pianist, allied to the wisdom of an experienced maestro, played by a young orchestra, equaled a remarkable show!” (Paulo Ferreira in Jornal de Notícias)
“Both Leonard Bernstein’s thrilling Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and George Gershwin’s Caribbean-tinged Cuban Overture, a program closer that received many requests for an encore, were accompanied by finger-snapping, jazz elements and intercut rhythms. The whole was staged with energy and power by the temperamental and enthusiastic Portuguese maestro Rui Massena. The young audience rewarded them with many standing ovations.” (in Kleine Zeitung, Klagnfurt, Austria)
“Rui Massena” proved himself confident and musical, airily avoiding the transparent problems of the orchestral textures, conducting with real energy the final number with its impressive accelerando.” (Virgílio Melo in Público)
“It’s very unusual to watch an orchestra conductor, conducting stick in hand and in rigorous tails, refuse all protocols of classical music and raise his arms for the public as a rapper pronounces his irreverent verses. It’s even more unusual that he will not shake hands with the performers but perform a high five. But that’s the thing about daring to put on a symphonic hip-hop concert: it generates unseen possibilities, creates a unique sound experiment, diluting all genre borders and showing that music can be anything that makes you move, can be anything that goes further than your wildest dreams (…) The brain behind Sinfonic Goes Da Weasel is Rui Massena, a 33-year old conductor that had already dared to bring together pop and classical. But he wanted to go even further, take an adventure into other styles whose apparent contrast seemed to give him more limitations. (…) There was a promise of intensity in this evening, but what was transmitted was so transgressive and enveloping that nobody went home disappointed; except probably by the lack of an encore and for being unable to immortalize this vibrant, expansive atmosphere.” (Sonia Dominguez in El Mundo)
“The big attraction of this concert was the young Portuguese conductor who not only shone himself but also motivated his orchestra to perform a nicely judged rendering of Beethoven’s first symphony. Massena found the right balance between strings and winds. The sound was brilliant, clear, and always contagiously moving, and the audience applauded for a long time the young Portuguese conductor.” (Alejandro Fernández in El Norte Monterrey, Mexico)