At the helm of the Orfeón Donostiarra since 1986, José Antonio Sainz Alfaro has taken the Orfeón to the height of its international standing and overseen a constant expansion of its repertoire. In 1992 his work was recognised with the Critical Eye Music Award.
With a BSc in Physical Sciences, José Antonio Sainz Alfaro (San Sebastian, 1956) has been linked to music both vocationally and professionally from a very early age: he studied music at the conservatory in San Sebastian with teachers such as Francisco Escudero and Tomás Aragüés, and continued his education abroad, with different courses on choir direction.
Between 1980 and 1988, he directed the San Ignacio Choir, at the same time carrying out important educational work at the Choir Federation of Gipuzkoa.
His first contact with the Orfeón Donostiarra took place in 1974, when he joined as a baritone. Throughout the 1980s he collaborated closely with the director, Antxon Ayestarán, whose assistant he soon became. Appointed as the deputy director, he contributed to the preparation and production of new pieces and helped to promote a still tentative policy of expansion. After the sudden death of Ayestarán in 1986, he became the director of the Orfeón. And since then, the choir has entered a new period characterised by its presence on international stages and by the constant expansion of its repertoire. This work was acknowledged by Radio Nacional de España, rewarding it in 1992 with the Critical Eye Music Award.
Oedipe by Enesco, The Death of the Bishop of Brindisi by Menotti, Oedipus Rex by Stravinsky, All-Night Vigil by Rachmaninov, The Bells by Rachmaninov, The Dream of Gerontius by Elgar and Glagolitic Mass by Janacek are some of the scores that have been added to the repertoire of the choir in recent years.
Sainz Alfaro has taken the Orfeón to festivals such as: Salzburg (1999); Montreux (1999); the German Rhine festival (2002) and the Ruhrtriennale (2002 and 2004); the Lucerne Festival (2003), the Saint-Denis festival in Paris (2006), the Chorégies of the French city of Orange (2008 and 2011) and the festivals of Radio France and Montpellier (2012).
From among the many recordings made during the period with Sainz Alfaro, it is worth highlighting the CD Orfeón 1987-1997 Entre lo sagrado y lo profano, which became a Platinum Album; the Requiem Mass by Verdi released by EMI in 2003, which was nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Choral Performance” category, a nomination that the director of the Orfeón shared with the directors of the other two choirs participating in this recording: the Swedish Radio Chorus and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir. Also from 2003 is the CD of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 recorded during the concert at the Lucerne Festival under the direction of Abbado with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, an album that received a Diapason d’Or awarded by the French magazine Diapason, and the CD called Canciones, more popular in nature, which became a Gold Album.
More than two decades ago Sainz Alfaro began a new stage in his career as an orchestra conductor, which has led him to lead the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra, the Radiotelevisión Española Symphony Orchestra, the Basque Symphony Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, the Istambul Symphony Orchestra, the Filharmonia Pomorska, the National Opera of Sofia, the George Enescu Philharmonic in Bucharest, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, the Teatro San Carlos Orchestra in Lisbon, the Vallés Symphony Orchestra and the Málaga Orchestra.