PRSO: Promoting Symphonic Music in Puerto Rico
Established in 1956 under the leadership of Pablo Casals, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra (PRSO) has been entertaining sold-out audiences since its inaugural concert in Mayagüez in 1958. The PRSO has among its goals the creation of an environment to encourage the development of Puerto Rican musical talent; the promotion of an appreciation for symphonic music through educational programs; the opening up of opportunities for young graduates in the field of music and providing opportunities for soloists and composers to showcase their works; and to collaborate with educational, cultural, governmental, civic and private organizations in promoting critical appreciation of the symphonic repertoire.
The violin soloist for the first PRSO concert was José (Pepito) Figueroa, who went on to become the concertmaster for the orchestra until retiring in 1990. Born in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, in 1905 José Figuero started his musical career at the age of seven and by twelve years of age completed his first concert tour through Cuba and Mexico where he was critically acclaimed. Figuero studied at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid where he was awarded the prestigious Pablo Sarasate prize. He toured Spain and Portugal playing as both a soloist and with orchestras. He later studied at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where he was awarded the Licence de Concert having achieved the highest grade in the history of the school. He spent some time as concert master and soloist in the Paris Symphony Orchestra. Later in his career Figueroa became the PRSO concertmaster, as well as being a member of the Festival Casals Orchestra and an educator at the Conservatory of Music and University of Puerto Rico.
Chilean master Maximiano Valdes is the current principal conductor of the PRSO which brings together musicians from around Puerto Rico, as well as Cuba, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Colombia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Russia. The PRSO has hosted numerous internationally famous artists, including Luciano Pavarotti, Kiri Te Kanawa, Justino Díaz, Plácido domingo and Alicia de Larrocha. The orchestra has events and performances all year around, and performs in the United States and various countries in Central and South America. A number of these events take place to fulfill Pablo Casals’ dream of promoting classical music in Puerto Rico, such as La Sinfónica en los Residenciales, La Sinfónica en tu Pueblo, Conoce tu Orquesta, La Sinfónica en las Universidades, and the ever-popular annual Casals Festival.