2017 Press Quotes

“the incorrigibly progressive Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music” —Richard S. Ginell, Classical Voice North America

“Măcelaru is eager to embrace the forward-thinking West Coast atmosphere that has long distinguished this annual new music event.”    —Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News

“Măcelaru is 37, personable, Romanian-born. He speaks with animated, sharply-etched diction that reminds me a little bit of Gustavo Dudamel (who happens to be only a year younger). Everyone calls him ‘Cristi,’ which fits the casual atmosphere of this two-weekend beach-town festival where the orchestra members perform in street clothes. The old-fashioned, multi-purpose Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium was packed to the top of the room on opening night to greet the new young maestro.”   —Richard S. Ginell, Classical Voice North America

“Cristi and the orchestra created a magical mood at the opening in the ascending and descending lines beginning in the lowest instruments. This beguiling introduction led into the main body of the work, agitated and forward-moving.” (re: Bolcom)  —Roger Emanuels, Performing Arts Monterey Bay 

“The orchestra sounded marvelous, and appears clearly comfortable with Cristi. The question up front for many people, audience and orchestra alike, is how the transition to a new music director is going? For this listener and observer, there doesn’t seem to have been even a ripple in the process. As a former member of the Festival Orchestra, it would have been a pleasure to play under Cristi Măcelaru. The Festival is in for a good future.” —Roger Emanuels, Performing Arts Monterey Bay 

“If someone can find an orchestra like Cabrillo’s, the Rountree and the Smith together make a fabulous pair of sonic adventures and delight.” —Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay

“Arguably, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is one the very finest anywhere to be found. To add the deserved exclamation point, add the Festival’s newly appointed Music Director Cristian Măcelaru, affectionately called ‘Cristi.’ The Maestro has brought yet another amazing dimension to programming — the excellent selection of guest composers and artists, plus, of course, the splendid orchestra he has the pleasure of directing. ‘Cristi’ is charismatic in his approach to the Festival Orchestra and its audience. In the short space of a week he has demonstrated how well prepared he is for the challenge of the scheduled contemporary works and to become the new, highly polished cornerstone of this unique Festival.” —Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews

“Yes, there is another side of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Festival that in many ways is at least of equal importance as the incredible programming of newly composed modern music. The side in question is education in general and the introduction of what a symphony orchestra is and its importance to youngsters. All of this takes place at the annual Family Concert held in the Civic and it’s FREE of charge! It took place on Sunday, August 6 at 1 pm. By 12:30 pm there was an incredible line of parents and their young family members anxiously waiting for the doors to open. Youngsters ranging from infants to those making the double-digit mark filled the Civic beaming with energy and curious expectations. A string quartet consisting of talented Festival musicians sat on stage waiting to start the festivities. Maestro Cristi Măcelaru greeted the audience and laid out the afternoon’s program with introductions and then turned matters over to Galen Lemmon, Principal Percussionist who in turn introduced the instruments of the orchestra’s percussion family. After the introduction and a taste of what these instruments sounded like, the remaining families of the orchestra were positioned in various locations of the Civic and groups of children had the opportunity to hear and examine them close up.

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to a 4 year old who said she liked the piano and trumpet. After some minutes of hustle, bustle from one instrumental group to the next she returned and said she now liked the clarinet. Great! Soon matters settled down in preparation of the scheduled work — none other than “Pinocchio’s Adventures in Funland” (1999) (West Coast Premier), a wonderful, well composed work by Michael Gandolfi, one of the featured composers in the Festival. Gandolfi’s musical interpretation conjured up a thoroughly enjoyable, artistic music experience. Maestro Cristi provided the narration in animated, profound classic style with at least four different vocal interpretations to cover Pinocchio, Geppetto, the Coachman and anther puppet — oh and the Donkey, of course. All were most impressive and quite entertaining to the delight of adults and children alike!” —Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews

“Cristian Măcelaru made an impressive entrance last weekend as the new maestro of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. When a conductor first takes the reins of a world-class music festival, the fires of anticipation burn brightly. … That he asks to be called informally by his first name ‘Cristi’ reflects his desire to dissolve barriers to the music, to share this noble art form as friends and equals. …

After full immersion in the first weekend of Cabrillo’s talks, discussions, and the brilliant, complex and technically superb music making, it seems evident that Măcelaru is an ideal match for this important festival. He said he adores Santa Cruz and the warm, open reception the community has given him. He was amazed that more than 300 people showed up at his first open rehearsal. Acknowledging the significance of the leadership role entrusted to him, he sparked laughter Friday evening by quoting the Festival’s management team as saying, ‘We’re handing over the keys to you, Cristi. Drive safely!’

Driving safely in the world of new music poses a challenge, as by their nature these compositions tend to push boundaries and bend rules. Watching Cristi at the podium last weekend, there can be no doubt, however, that he is a consummate master of this realm, a daredevil maybe, but one who knows exactly how fast to take the hairpin curves, when to ease the pace and reengage full throttle. It’s an exhilarating ride and returns you to your seat in one piece, probably changed a little from the journey.” —Barbara Rose Shuler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“During the wonderful, highly informative open rehearsals, it was readily apparent that Cristi sought to capture each and every orchestral detail, even on the minutest level of the scheduled works. At time he would stop to adjust dynamic levels and articulations to the satisfaction of both composer and orchestra.” —Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews

“Glennie’s dazzling virtuoso performance stayed in perfect accord with Măcelaru and this facile, intrepid orchestra journeying from the womb to birth, infancy and childhood to adulthood, death and rebirth. Glennie physically glided through the orchestra to her various instrument stations, like a goddess of time, creating a kaleidoscope of sounds that magnificently displayed her unmatched genius as a percussion artist. The piece began and ended with Glennie evoking the infinite with tiny bell-like sounds. The conductor held the final moment for a long reflective silence before signaling the end.”   —Barbara Rose Shuler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“David T. Little’s three-movement ‘The Conjured Life’ was commissioned by the Festival as a special tribute to composer Lou Harrison on his centenary. Harrison, a prominent and much-loved figure at the Festival, died in 2003. Little’s score gave the impression of a bold conjurer indeed, with its pounding sounds and tempos suggesting an emphatic purpose. In the midst of the conjuring came Asian melodies and flavors that would make Harrison lovers smile.”  — Barbara Rose Shuler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“We are now halfway through Cristi Măcelaru’s inaugural season, with his culminating musical message rolling out Friday and Saturday evenings Aug. 11 and 12 at the Civic. At the podium, he is physically fully engaged as if no separation exists between himself and the music he brings forth. He leads this stellar and courageous orchestra with nuance, precision, vigor and spirit. Măcelaru does have a huge heart full of fire. When you are in the concert hall with him you feel it. Tickets are still available. Don’t miss the next chapters.”   —Barbara Rose Shuler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“The arts may be a grace in our world but they are not a luxury. By his words and music, Cristian (‘Call me Cristi’) Măcelaru affirms that the arts are a necessity reflecting our aspirations, our essence and the choices we make as humans. In this understanding, he is aligned perfectly with the ideals and mission of Cabrillo Music Festival of Contemporary Music in his first exciting season as its new music director.

Judging from the program he selected in his inaugural season at Cabrillo, Măcelaru seems to feel in his marrow this urgent responsibility as an artist to make a difference and he brought his creative vision into focus through the works chosen for the four concerts of Cabrillo’s 2017 season, which closed last weekend. Though he collaborated with composers whose scores offer lighter notes of dance, humor, zesty musical exploration and fun, throughout the festival’s two weekends a sober message of collective responsibility for the challenges of our era emerged as an important theme.”   —Barbara Rose Shuler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“When Adnan Latif died a prisoner in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, he left a legacy of heartrending letters sent to his lawyer, which formed the basis for the libretto of Măcelaru’s gripping season finale. Composed by Karim Al-Zand, ‘The Prisoner’ is a shattering and maddening portrait of injustice.

‘Do whatever you wish to do, the issue is over,’ is Latif’s refrain. ‘This is a prison that does not know humanity.’ His lyrical writing, interspersed with words of other poets, including verses of Rumi and Rilke, comes alive through the vibrant and powerful vocal sonorities of Samoan-born bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu.”   — Barbara Rose Shuler, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Măcelaru, 37, is stepping into the spot left by Marin Alsop, whose remarkable 25-year tenure at the festival’s helm transformed it from a scrappy bastion of California experimentalism into a sleek international venue for a more well-behaved brand of contemporary music.”      —Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Măcelaru and the orchestra delivered two nights of fiery, tender and technically excellent music-making. Whatever the diverse merits of the works on offer — and let’s face it, any collection of recent music is inevitably going to be a qualitatively mixed bag — the level of passion and precision achieved on a tight rehearsal schedule was remarkable.”  —Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“The Cabrillo Festival’s new director, Cristian Măcelaru (succeeding longtime director Marin Alsop), didn’t shy away from the unabashed emotionality of Kernis’s piece. He masterfully traced the work’s dramatic arc toward the unrelenting final theme, which is obliterated by an extended gong crash. In this gut-wrenching final moment, I understood Kernis’s pre-performance remark that he saw his symphony as a voodoo doll that ‘takes all the dark things, all the destructive things, and then destroys them.’ While the work shows its age in some passages (the sentimental slow theme sounds straight out of a ’90s Spielberg war epic), I appreciate the festival’s commitment to establishing a canon of recent works rather than simply pumping out an endless string of new commissions.”  —Joe Cadagin, San Francisco Classical Voice 

“The Cabrillo Festival Orchestra played with its customary flair and brilliance; there can’t be too many orchestras that prepare so much new music so well and in such a short period. In a program of unfamiliar music, it’s hard to draw broad conclusions about Cristian Mačelaru, but on first hearing, it seems that he’ll be a worthy and musical successor to Marin Alsop.”    —Lisa Hirsch, San Francisco Classical Voice

“…every year Cabrillo engages the Santa Cruz and broader community with uncommon authenticity. In their own ways, all four composers expressed gratitude for the exceptional caliber of not only Cabrillo’s musicians, but also the community this festival fosters. Both the musicianship and the community make Cabrillo special and important. In their own small way, these phrases pay the Cabrillo Festival a tribute it surely deserves.”—Jessica Balik, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Cabrillo celebrated the 70th birthday of Berkeley-based John Adams with a new piece dedicated to him. Gabriella Smith’s Field Guide combines her dual passions for music and ecology. For years, Smith has recorded soundscapes both natural and human — and also both beautiful and decaying. Field Guide combines some of these soundscapes. The piece ranged from an opening section evoking morning bird songs and frog calls that felt like walking through a vibrant rainforest into another with dystopian trills reminiscent of distant — and dissonant — urban sirens. Smith is dauntingly original and competent. Just as she enjoys being awestruck by her physical environs, I look forward to being gobsmacked by the marvelous music she will surely continue to create.”—Jessica Balik, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Cabrillo numbers among the country’s most important venues for new orchestral music.”—Jessica Balik, San Francisco Classical Voice 


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