Cabrillo Festival Hires New Musical Director and Conductor

Cristian Măcelaru, new Music Director and Conductor for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (Photo: Sorin Popa)

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music , one of the country's most prominent and long-running annual festivals devoted to new music for orchestras, announced Friday the appointment of a new musical director and conductor.

After a year-long search, the Santa Cruz-based festival's board of directors hired award-winning conductor Cristian Măcelaru to take over the artistic reins of the 53-year-old event.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have found Cristian Măcelaru,” said Cabrillo Festival executive director Ellen Primack, who led the search with the board of directors. “His curiosity and genuine passion for new music, coupled with his skill and dynamism on the podium, make him a perfect fit for the festival."

Măcelaru's tenure at Cabrillo is effective immediately. The 36-year-old maestro, who hails from Romania, will also continue to serve as the conductor-in-residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra. He makes his home in that city, where he lives with his wife Cheryl and children Beniamin and Maria.

Widely considered a rising star in the orchestral music world, Măcelaru has conducted orchestras all over the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra.

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Măcelaru is a good fit for Cabrillo because of his passion for new music. "My interest in working closely with living composers, to also be able to go deeper into the meaning of the music they write, never diminished," he said in an email interview. Măcelaru consistently programs works by living composers, such as John Corigliano, Jake Heggie, Jennifer Higdon, Pierre Jalbert, and Karim Al Zand. His credits include leading the U.S. premieres of the Wynton Marsalis Violin Concerto at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony and Nicola Benedetti, and Colin Matthews' Turning Point at the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival.

Măcelaru takes over from Marin Alsop. Alsop was the first conductor to win a MacArthur "Genius" Grant and became the festival's music director in 1992. As the 58-year-old Alsop leaves after conducting her 25th season at Cabrillo, Măcelaru says he plans to continue the course that his predecessor set out on with the festival.

"During the process of learning about the Cabrillo festival I never felt there was something that needed to change immediately," Măcelaru said. "Thus my current approach is to continue identifying great talent, both in terms of composition and performance, remain flexible in our embrace of innovation and work hard in maintaining a standard well established already."

The first Cabrillo Festival with Măcelaru at the helm will run from Sunday, Jul. 30 to Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

Learn more about Marin Alsop's tenure at Cabrillo and her ongoing fight to put more women on the podium here.

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