“Living up to ‘bigger and better than ever’ hype, here comes the 56th season of the homegrown festival with a worldwide reach. Under the leadership of Cristi Măcelaru, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music comes to town next week with an abundance of very fresh musical ideas that span the globe from Romania to China to Canada to Korea.” —Christina Waters, Good Times Weekly
“America’s leading edge of new orchestral music, Santa Cruz’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is a national treasure with a strong international identity and importance. The Festival is a bright beacon of creativity and inspiration for living composers and new music lovers throughout the world. The Wall Street Journal described the Festival as ‘two of the most thoughtful and original weekends anywhere in America.’
This miraculous and generous happening, which has evolved over decades, is not just about the music-making, though that is extraordinary. It’s not just about art though art resides at the core of this summer encounter. It’s certainly not about money though sufficient funds arrive, from people and institutions to allow it to happen.
The most precious aspect of the Cabrillo Festival is the people who gather from around the region, nation and world to share this unique creative occasion now led by Romanian-born Cristian Măcelaru, a world-class music director and conductor. The lively and talented group of emerging and eminent composers are joined by top professional musicians and supported by the deeply committed board of directors, volunteers, staff members, tech crews, members of the press, students and amazingly dedicated audiences.
The Festival’s great strength is the willing and joyful collaboration of all of these individuals who together create the ideal environment in which this new repertoire can be developed, performed and appreciated.
Cabrillo’s music reflects our times — our personal and universal challenges, desires, strivings and experiences along the spectrum from the scary to the sublime. It speaks to the urgent issues of now, inspiring, awakening and stretching us.” —Barbara Rose Shuler, Monterey County Herald
“Ask composer Huang Ruo to describe the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and his answer is unabashedly enthusiastic. ‘Magical is the first word that comes to mind,’ he says. ‘First of all, it’s such a wonderful place to be. And to have a festival dedicated to music of our time, with living composers very much involved, is a dream come true.’“ —Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News
“A crazy idea back in the 1960s, starting up a symphonic music festival studded with living composers not yet household names. But while many arts-center orchestras shy away from music less than a century old, the Cabrillo Festival has thrived on the unlikely formula, filling most of the 900 seats every August for contemporary fare. The ink of the scores may not have dried complete yet, but they offer the listener discovery—like a bracing swim in the chilly ocean here, in effect, as against lolling in your warm hometown pool. —Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF.com
“The knot of some 18 composers featured this year are in their 40s on average, mostly on the way up, representative of the new wave in the classics. And the Aug. 4 concert had three women composers, no less—a sign of the times.” —Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF.com
“[the program] allowed Music Director Cristian Măcelaru to demonstrate his sensitive stick work on the podium, eliciting some dazzling-shimmering effects from the impressive young festival orchestra. I am now a believer in his eloquence and hard-soft versatility.” —Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF.com
“Cristian Măcelaru started his second summer as the helm of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium over the weekend of Aug. 3 and 4. Already, from the evidence of this weekend, the 38-year-old Romanian-born conductor is putting his stamp on the programming here.
Măcelaru seems to prefer loud, flashy, splashy pieces that make abundant use of the unlimited bag of tricks that a full orchestra with an overflowing assortment of percussion instruments can supply. In a highly engaging pre-concert talk outdoors, he enthused about the ‘unanimous excitement’ that the orchestra has about approaching new music, while adding that the musicians were often ‘stretched to the maximum’ in going about it. He’s a crowd-pleaser alright – funny, sharply articulate.” —Richard Ginell, Classical Voice North America
“Nobody actually got up to dance in the aisles of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium over the course of the opening weekend of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. But a little shimmy here or there would not have been out of place, and there were times when Music Director Cristian Măcelaru and the orchestra seemed to be urging us to go for it.
It was that kind of weekend — zesty, invigorating, largely joyous — and the musical ideas were flying thick and fast. Even in works of a more serious bent, the profusion of inventive and often unpredictable strokes kept audience members on their toes.
That brand of elegant buoyancy may well be taking shape as a stylistic fingerprint for Măcelaru, the Romanian-born conductor who is in his second season at the festival’s helm after taking over from longtime Artistic Director Marin Alsop. The concerts on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4, were shaped with a winning combination of rhythmic precision and interpretive fluency, and the programming offered an alluring blend of familiar and new voices.” —Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
“I can resolutely confirm that Cabrillo remains an almost magical mecca for new music. … Exceptionally, all the composers were at this festival concert. And with Cabrillo’s magic in the air, the performance managed to weave in life affirming meditations on how — irrespective of any political climate, including the current one in the U.S. — we are all dynamic humans who, commonly and constantly, are always migrating to and from somewhere.
Judging not only by this concert but also by my several years of visiting Cabrillo, there truly is something akin to magic in the air here: Vitality, originality, humble inclusivity, and a warm je ne sais quoi palpably radiate from this festival. If you want to hear world-class new music, or if you’re simply craving reaffirmation of basic human decency and goodness, turn off your television and migrate, however briefly, to Santa Cruz while Cabrillo’s concerts are still sounding.” —Jessica Balik, San Francisco Classical Voice
“It doesn’t matter how many times you attend the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, there’s no particularly solid way of knowing just what to expect. That’s one of the joys of an event devoted to all-new material, and the fact that it’s all orchestral music only gives the festival an extra kick.” —Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
“[Karim Al-Zand’s Luctus Profugis] is an elegy for the displaced…after which Christi (sic) asked us not to applaud, but reflect instead on who we are and where we come from. What a difficult, yet poignant way to engage the audience…” —Sarah Morris, Peninsula Reviews
“The 2018 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music finished this weekend with two exciting orchestral concerts at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Music director and conductor Cristian Măcelaru led the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra in nine different pieces, five on Saturday and four on Sunday. Of the nine composers being performed, seven were present and each gave a short talk before their piece was played. Each piece was given an enthusiastic and unique reception by the audience that was custom-tailored to the impact of the music, personality of the composer whom they had just heard speak, and circumstances surrounding the creation of the work. The one thing that remained constant, and this cannot be said enough, was the quality of the orchestra and its performances of all the music. Credit for this must be given equally to both the excellence of the individual players and the solid and emotional leadership provided by Măcelaru. It was a privilege and inspiration to be in the same room where all of these musical elements were brought together in such a masterful and artistic fashion.” —Don Adkins, Performing Arts Monterey Bay
“For someone who loves both orchestral and contemporary music, this concert was a validation that the Cabrillo Festival is a treasure that any place would hold with pride. The audience walked out of the auditorium to be greeted by tables of champagne, sparkling cider and cake. Those who had tickets for the final concert on Sunday went home in anticipation of another great evening yet to come.” —Don Adkins, Performing Arts Monterey Bay
“I have said so little about the performers and conductor partly because they gifted us such tight performances that the music itself is what stood out the most: no distracting theatrical displays of virtuosity, no attention-grabbing accidents. Rather, impeccable playing led by an awesomely effective conductor.” —Tysen Dauer, San Francisco Classical Voice