Conductors

Cristian Măcelaru

“He has presence without being showy. He has command over musical moods. He has a fine sense of sweep and structure.” – The Herald Scotland

 

Chief Conductor, WDR Sinfonieorchesterfrom September 2019

Music Director, The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Musicfrom August 2017

Credit: Sorin Popa

Introduction

In May 2018 Cristian Macelaru was announced as the next Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, beginning his tenure in the 19/20 season. Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Macelaru launched his inaugural season at Cabrillo in August 2017. Among the 2018 season’s highlights are 3 world premieres, a record-breaking 16 composers-in-residence, a stunning roster of international guest artists, and two special tributes to commemorate William Bolcom’s and John Corigliano’s respective 80th birthdays.

Having established his career with the leading orchestras in North America, Macelaru’s rise to prominence in Europe has been characterized by immediate re-invitations from orchestras such as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; Das Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks; the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and City of Birmingham Symphony.

The first half of the 2018/19 season sees Macelaru opening the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s season in Scotland and continuing to strengthen his European presence with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, National Orchestra of France, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, National Norwegian Opera Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra and Orchestre National de Lyon. During this time he guest-conducts internationally the symphony orchestras of Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Baltimore and Detroit.
The second half of the 2018/19 season gives Maestro Macelaru a taste of his future relationship with WDR Sinfonieorchester, whom he leads in two programs at the Kölner Philharmonie. Additionally, his German profile is amplified by collaborations with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic. In January 2019, he brings the National Symphony Orchestra of Romania on their first-ever tour to the States in commemoration of Romania’s centennial, culminating a 7-city tour at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center in performances with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. On the opera front, he leads a Kasper Holten production of Don Giovanni at the Houston Grand Opera. In Summer 2019, Macelaru makes his debut at the Caramoor Festival and returns to the Grand Park and Interlochen Festivals.


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Performance Schedule

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    02 Jun 18 Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Atlanta Symphony Hall
    USA

    ★★★

    “It is rewarding when a conductor who has impressed in the past gets another opportunity to show his/her talents with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO). It is even better when that conductor has continued to grow in reputation and renown. Such is the case with Romanian-born Cristian Măcelaru, this week’s guest conductor, who, in addition to being music director of the Cabrillo Festival, was recently appointed as the new chief conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester.

    The final work was Tchaikovsky’s beloved Violin Concerto with Danish-Israeli Nikolaj Znaider as soloist. This concerto is frequently played and last heard in Atlanta in 2016. The most notable part of Znaider’s performance is the glorious sound of his 1741 Guarneri “del Gesu” instrument, previously owned by the legendary Fritz Kreisler. Znaider brought enthusiasm and grace to his performance but intonation and bowing issues arose from time to time. At the beginning of the second movement (Canzonetta) the delicate sound of his violin seemed a bit at odds with the more forward sound created by the orchestra. Măcelaru deserves credit for making Tchaikovsky sound more integrated, and not nearly as episodic, as he can with some other conductors. The conductor again demonstrated his attention to both the detail and overall structure of a work. Znaider played with great tone and enthusiasm, and the ASO demonstrated how powerful it can be.”

    William E Ford, Bachtrak, 03 Jun 2018 

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    18 May 18 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh
    USA

    “Debuts, like premieres, keep concert life fresh. Really successful first encounters lead to re-engagements.

    Upcoming Pittsburgh Symphony concerts feature the return of Grammy Award winning violinist Augustin Hadelich and the debut of rapidly rising conductor Cristian Macelaru. All three pieces on the program express the composers’ love of their homelands.

    Macelaru will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at May 18 and 20 concerts at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall. The program is Georges Enescu’s Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1, Antonin Dvorak’s Violin Concerto with Hadelich as soloist, and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3.

    These are beautiful for me because I identify with that nostalgia for a place one has left behind. I paired it with the Dvorak Concerto because both pieces look back with love for something they cherished. All three composers speak of nationalism, but from different perspectives.

    The conductor says he would admire Enescu’s music even if they didn’t share Rumanian heritage. Enescu was a complete musician, a “genius” Macelaru calls him, who was ahead of his time compositionally, and also a fine violinist and conductor. His two brilliantly orchestrated Rumanian Rhapsodies are early compositions and reflect his first study of the violin with gypsy musicians in his home town.”

    Mark Kanny, Trib Total Media, 16 May 2018

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    11 Mar 18 St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Powell Hall St. Louis, Missouri
    USA

    “War may be, as the classic songs says, good for absolutely nothing, but opposition to it has certainly inspired some great music, as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra program this past weekend (March 10 and 11, 2018) demonstrated.

    Guest conductor Cristian Macelaru led the SLSO in two works inspired by the horrors of World War I–Benjamin Benjamin Britten’s 1940 “Sinfonia da Requiem” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Symphony No. 4” from 1931. Also on the program was the “Violin Concerto No. 3,” one of several works Camille Saint Saëns wrote as part of a nationalist response to France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

    From the harsh, dissonant opening–cribbed, as the composer would later admit, from the opening of the final movement of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9”–to the complex fugal march of the finale, this is angry and ultimately nihilistic music. There’s a kind of majestic horror to the piece, rather like a Shakespearean tragedy boiled down to its essence, and Mr. Macelaru’s intensely committed performance brought out every bit of its drama.”

    Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX Community Media, 12 Mar 2018

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    28 Jan 18 Hallé Orchestra Bridgewater Hall Manchester
    UK

    ★★★★

    Guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru tonight led the Hallé in an enjoyable evening’s entertainment with a programme which took us on a journey from the film music-esque sounds of Vaughan Williams’s Wasps Overture via the elegiac, lost world of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, closing in the second half with a surefooted performance of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony.

    Beethoven employs a great use of sudden accents, coupled with offbeat and syncopated rhythms to create tension and urgency and the Hallé were faithful in deploying these as directed in the score. Opting to proceed into the development section without repeating the exposition, Măcelaru effectively maintained a sense of progressive momentum – the stormy, ranging passages at the outset of this section were delivered with real drama.

    The mood changes considerably in the second movement (a funeral march in C minor) a section that examines the depths of despair and human tragedy. Not many performances capture the searing nature of this music effectively, although the Hallé came close tonight and this is a true compliment.

    Aaron Davies, Bachtrack, 29 Jan 2018

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    27 Jan 17 RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra National Concert Hall Dublin
    Ireland

    “What does a conductor do with an orchestra? Well, according to the US-based Romanian conductor Cristian Macelaru, he finds a way to let the musicians play. Or, more precisely, he frees them up so that they can play at their best

    …The big question is whether a conductor with Macelaru’s goals will just bring a group of players to the point where they achieve the best that they have already achieved, or whether he can somehow nurture them further so that they can move into a region that’s genuinely new for them.

    Macelaru’s concert on Friday suggested the former rather than the latter. It was a programme that blended folksiness and orchestral splendour, and included two late 20th-century works, one from Ireland, the other from Poland.”

    Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 1 Feb 2017

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    15 Oct 16 Royal Scottish National Orchestra Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
    Ireland

    ★★★★

    “COULD we have asked for more? The RSNO produced the goods on Saturday with a conductor new to its books. His name is Cristian Macelaru, he’s been around for some years, is attracting attention in the States and last month was appointed music director of the Cabrillo Festival where he succeeds Marin Alsop with immediate effect.

    Macelaru is the real McCoy. He has presence without being showy. He has command over musical moods on the small scale, as he demonstrated in in Jorg Widmann’s witty Beethovenian opus, Con Brio, launching the concert with a piratical edge. He has a fine sense of sweep and structure, as we heard in his red-blooded account of Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony, with the RSNO in full flight and Macelaru not getting in the way of the musicians actually playing the stuff, though the brass section did fire a few deafening salvos.

    And he was a superbly responsive partner to pianist Paul Lewis in one of the finest concert performances of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto it has been my pleasure to hear. Lewis is many things: he has wonderful mastery of the poetry and expressiveness of the Emperor. He has impenetrable acuity of insight into its structure while revealing myriad subtleties within the big paragraphs.

    In page after page he brought detail into focus. The majesty of the first movement, not overstated, was pellucid in its direction. In the heavenly slow movement, Time was suspended. And the finale was a musical life force. Macelaru and the RSNO were always on the pulse of Lewis’ superlative account. Let’s get this conductor back while we can afford him.”

    Michael Tumelty, The Herald Scotland, 17 Oct 2016

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    04 Dec 15 RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra National Concert Hall Dublin
    Ireland

    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 

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    23 Sep 15 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Symphony Hall Birmingham
    UK

    “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 

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    15 Feb 15 Danish National Symphony Orchestra Carnegie Hall, New York
    USA

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

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    21 Feb 14 Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chicago Symphony Center
    USA

    “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

Interviews

“Music works best in its purest form” – Maestro Macelaru in an interview with BR Klassik, Sylvia Schreiber, 12 July 2018

 

Discography

 
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    Torke: Unconquered / 2018

    Label: Ecstatic Records

    Release Date: 04 May 18

    The Philadelphia Orchestra

    Michael Torke:

    UNCONQUERED

    1. Summon
    2. Dawn
    3. Advance
    4. Liberty
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    Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concertos / 2017

    Label: Ludger Böckenhoff Audite Musikproduktion

    Release Date: 13 Oct 17

    Franziska Pietsch, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin

    Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19

    1. Andantino
    2. Scherzo. Vivacissimo
    3. Moderato – Allegro Moderato

    Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63

    1. Allegro Moderato
    2. Andante assai – Allegretto
    3. Allegro, ben Marcato