Cristian Măcelaru

Music Director, The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music
Conductor-in-Residence, The Philadelphia Orchestra

Credit: Sorin Popa


Newly appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Cristian Măcelaru has established himself as one of the fast-rising stars of the conducting world. With every concert he displays an exciting and highly regarded presence, thoughtful interpretations and energetic conviction on the podium. He launched his inaugural season at Cabrillo in August 2017 with premiere-filled programs of new works and fresh re-orchestrations by an esteemed group of composers. Among the 2017 season’s highlights are seven world premieres, 11 composers-in-residence, a stunning roster of international guest artists, and two special tributes – one to commemorate Lou Harrison’s centenary and another honoring John Adams’ 70th birthday.

He recently completed his tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra as Conductor-in-Residence, a title he held for three seasons until August 2017. Prior to that, he was Associate Conductor for two seasons and previously Assistant Conductor for one season from September 2011. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra subscription debut in April 2013 and continues a close relationship with the orchestra in leading them on annual subscription programs and other special concerts.

The 2017/18 season sees Măcelaru opening the National Symphony Orchestra’s season in Washington D.C. and returning to the Philadelphia Orchestra on three subscription programs plus Messiah concerts. He guest-conducts the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Atlanta, Seattle, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, San Diego and Vancouver. Internationally he leads the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Swedish Radio Symphony, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In Summer 2017, Măcelaru made his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival and returns to the Grand Teton and Interlochen Festivals. Additionally, he leads the Philadelphia Orchestra in two programs at the Mann Center.


Performance Schedule


  • 21 Feb 14 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Chicago Symphony Center, USA
    More info  

    “The program began with a reading of “Jeux” that was precise of rhythm, fluid of line and transparent of texture. Macelaru was alert to the kaleidoscopic changes of mood and color that infuse a late Debussy masterpiece that’s still too little-known.”
    John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, 21 February 2014

    ” … this week’s CSO program, with young Romanian-born conductor Cristian Macelaru proved to be one of the best and most exciting concerts of the season to date … You could practically touch the respect that the large orchestra reflected back on the conductor, not yet 35.  He is the most insightful and serious young conductor out there today.”
    Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Time Media, February 2014

  • 15 Feb 15 Danish National Symphony Orchestra
    Carnegie Hall, New York
    More info  

    “Mr Macelaru … injected passion and drive, and they responded beautifully.”
    James R. Oestreich, New York Times, 15 February 2015

  • 23 Sep 15 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    Symphony Hall Birmingham, UK
    More info  

    “Winner of the 2014 Solti Conducting Award, and with highly regarded appearances in Philadelphia and Chicago under his belt, Romanian-born conductor Cristian Macelaru brought to Birmingham the reputation of a rising star. By the end of the concert, this reputation was largely confirmed. A solid Sibelius Finlandia immediately showed that he is no trickster, but an artist who builds his interpretations on respect and musical insight, almost to the point of self-effacement.

    The second half was given over to Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony ‘The Inextinguishable’. This may be the Dane’s best-known work, and the most direct in its impact thanks to its timpani duels in the finale. But it covers an enormous amount of ground in its 35 minutes, and can feel episodic unless the conductor keeps a firm grip on the structure. Never tempted to over-react to passages of violent disruption, or, at the other extreme, to exaggerate the score’s repeated requests for calm, Macelaru placed the climaxes with unerring instinct and led into and away from them with consummate skill.

    The drive towards the final affirmation was irresistible, thanks to the near-ideal pacing of everything that had preceded it.”
    David Fanning, The Telegraph, 25 September 2015

    “At the helm was Cristian Macelaru. A violinist turned conductor, Macelaru made his mark in the U.S. when he stepped in for Pierre Boulez in Chicago in 2012. He is now resident at the Philadelphia Orchestra and is the first of the CBSO’s roster of guests this season while the orchestra hunts for a new permanent conductor. Macelaru was not a showy presence but assured, steady and thoughtful, capable of letting the music breathe and tell its own story. His Sibelius Finlandia opened with a heavy tread, but was confidently steered to its triumphant end…. Nielsen’s ‘The Inextinguishable’ … was bold and compelling. Each section of the CBSO gleamed: the strings meticulous and intense, with particularly gutsy violas, the wind sensitive and the brass glorious. And in the final movement, the duelling timpanists were wonderfully exhilarating — surely the embodiment of what Nielsen wanted this music to express, ‘the Elemental Will of Life’.”
    Rebecca Franks, The Times, 25 September 2015 

    “Cards on the table: The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is looking for a new music director. Having filled its new season with emerging talents … it’s an open secret that any concert directed by a youngish, more-or-less unattached conductor in Birmingham for the foreseeable future is effectively an audition for the job. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. All of which created a certain buzz around this Birmingham debut by the Romanian-born, Philadelphia-based Cristian Macelaru. As winner of the 2014 Solti Fellowship, Macelaru comes attended by reams of praise from U.S. critics – never any guarantee of success with a British orchestra. His unassuming stage presence, though, suggested a certain seriousness which, within bars of the opening of Sibelius’s Finlandia, had translated eloquently into sound. Macelaru has already identified and harnessed one of the CBSO’s greatest strengths, Oramo’s and Nelsons’s joint legacy to the orchestra – the depth of its string section. He built textures from the basses up, shaping a sombre, Wagnerian Finlandia that traded roof-raising theatricality for tense symphonic drama.

    Macelaru’s ability to shape a phrase and to characterise a melody or tone-colour also paid handsome dividends in Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. Rachmaninoff once wrote that he conceived the first theme of the Third Concerto as something to be sung by the piano, and that’s exactly how it came across. It helped, of course, that Simon Trpceski was the soloist…. Macelaru drew seldom-heard colours from the orchestral part: a distant glint of Russian nationalist jewellery in the finale’s col legno passage; and meltingly soft horns in the transition out of the first movement’s epic cadenza – which drew from Trpceski, in turn, an exquisite tenderness of tone. I’ve heard more spectacular performances of this concerto, but rarely a more musical one.

    Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony looked on paper like a rather more severe test for Macelaru – not because in this anniversary year, we’ve heard it too many times (as if!), but because the CBSO has a Nielsen tradition dating back through Oramo and Rattle to Harold Gray’s cycle (the U.K.’s first) in the 1960s. All the more impressive, then, that he managed to say something distinctive about the piece from the very outset – and without any overt point-making or micromanagement…. Woodwind solos were fresh without being folksy; and he even managed to maintain a sense of pregnant symphonic tension throughout the Poco allegretto. The cumulative effect was powerful, coherent and entirely gripping. The orchestra looked like they were enjoying themselves too (not that one should read anything into that). But whether or not Cristian Macelaru proves to be the CBSO’s ‘Mr. Right’, this was a seriously impressive debut – and hopefully not the last time we’ll see him in Brum.”
    Richard Bratby, The Arts Desk, 25 September 2015 

  • 04 Dec 15 RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
    National Concert Hall Dublin, Ireland
    More info  

    with RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, Eleanor Dennis, Rachel Kelly, Robin Tritschler, Marcus Farnsworth 

    “Violinist Helena Wood and rising young American conductor Cristian Macelaru both deliver exquisite performances.

    There are few – if any – extended solo arias, but Beethoven rarely gave singers an easy time and the well-balanced vocal foursome of Scottish soprano Eleanor Dennis, Irish mezzo Rachel Kelly, Irish tenor Robin Tritschler and English baritone Marcus Farnsworth repeatedly impressed.

    But, as in many works of this nature, it is always the choral force that carries the brunt of expectation and the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir under chorus master Mark Hindley more than stood up to a daunting task, capturing not just the mighty grandeur of the piece, but also its striking originality.

    In many ways this solemn Mass is not as solemn as expected, being more a joyous outburst of faith and hope which was brilliantly captured on the night by all involved.”
    Dick O’Riordan, Sunday Business Post, 13 December 2015 


  • Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concertos More info  

    Label: Audite

    Release Date: 13 Oct 17

    Franziska Pietsch, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin

    Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19
    Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63
    Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19: II. Scherzo. Vivacissimo