Orchestra conductors are fascinating figures – often eccentric, mostly touched by genius. Such as Rui Massena, the wellknown 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 for 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.
Now, in 2016, Universal Music released his most recent album “Ensemble”, partly recorded in Prague, with the collaboration of the Czech National Symphonic Orchestra and a straight entry #1 at the Portuguese Charts, a rare deed for this genre of music.
The new compositions signed by the conductor are very inspired by the moods that one feels in Sintra, the village where they were composed and mostly recorded.
“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 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.”
Kleine Zeitung, Klagnfurt, Austria