CSO selects Mӑcelaru as next music director

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has selected Grammy Award-winning conductor Cristian Mӑcelaru to succeed Louis Langrée as the company’s music director.

Mӑcelaru – who among other positions is the music director of the Orchestre National de France – will become the 14th music director in the 129-year history of the CSO, the oldest and first orchestra in Ohio.

Mӑcelaru, who has appeared in Cincinnati four times in recent years, described himself as being “overjoyed and humbled” by the opportunity to lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He’ll begin his five-year tenure with the CSO in the 2024-25 season, serving as music director designate during the first year.

Cristian Mӑcelaru

“The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has consistently upheld a well-proven standard of artistic excellence and innovation, in combination with a unique focus on the community it serves,” said Mӑcelaru, who was born in Romania and educated in some of the top music programs in the United States.

“The invitation to lead the superb musicians who form this orchestra, building an even stronger legacy together, is only enhanced by the warmth and closeness of the community that I’ve experienced in Cincinnati,” he continued. “It is with deep respect to my predecessors and commitment to the orchestra’s future that I look forward to sharing the wonderful music we make with the greater Cincinnati community and the world.”

Meet Cristian Mӑcelaru 

In addition to his position with the Orchestre National de France, Mӑcelaru serves as artistic director of the George Enescu Festival and Competition in Bucharest, Romania. He’s also chief conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Cologne, Germany, where he’ll serve through the 2024-25 season and continue as artistic partner for the 2025-26 season.

In the U.S., Mӑcelaru is artistic director and principal conductor of the Interlochen Center for the Arts’ World Youth Symphony Orchestra, and music director and conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Măcelaru recently completed a tour in China with the WDR Sinfonieorchester and will take Orchestre National de France on a tour of South Korea and China in 2025.

Throughout his career, Măcelaru has worked with top soloists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, Daniil Trifonov, Julia Fischer and Renaud Capuçon. He has led commissioned works by 52 composers including Tan Dun, Gabriela Lena Frank, Nico Muhly, Sean Shepherd and Gabriella Smith.

Mӑcelaru should also help the CSO continue its impressive recordings legacy. He’s recorded on most major labels and just released an all-Enescu cycle on Deutsche Grammophon. Mӑcelaru won a Grammy Award for conducting the 2019 Decca Classics recording of composer Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

In announcing his hiring, the CSO emphasized Mӑcelaru’s passion for educating young musicians and his commitment to using the arts to build community through the arts. With the George Enescu Festival and Competition, for example, he made a point of increasing invitations for women conductors and dedicated programs for families and mental and physical well-being sessions for competition participants.

“We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Cristian Mӑcelaru as the Orchestra’s next Music Director,” Dianne Rosenberg, CSO’s board chair, said in a statement.

“In addition to his exceptional artistry, collaborative spirit and strong leadership of orchestras around the world, including in the United States, Cristian understands and embraces the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s vision to become the most relevant orchestra in America,” she added. “We look forward to the CSO’s bright future under Cristian’s leadership.”

A long line of musical greatness

Mӑcelaru joins a distinguished line of musicians who’ve served as CSO music director dating back to Frank Van der Stucken in 1895.

Jesús López Cobos and Paavo Järvi became household names among local classical music fans. And Langrée, whose decade-long tenure ends in May, is one of the most decorated directors in CSO history.

Langrée has commissioned more new works during his tenure than any other music director in CSO history and conducted 31 premieres. He appointed more than a third of the orchestra’s current roster of musicians.

At the end of his tenure, Langrée will become CSO’s music director laureate.

To search for Langrée’s replacement, the CSO assembled a committee made up of CSO musicians, distinguished volunteer leaders from the community and members of the organization’s board. CSO board members Peter Landgren and Sheila Williams were co-chairs.

No stranger to Cincinnati

Mӑcelaru had an advantage of previously working in Cincinnati and with many of the CSO’s current musician. He first conducted the orchestra during Cincinnati Opera’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” in 2015. He later made his CSO series debut on the Jan. 22-23, 2016, subscription program, conducting the world premiere of Gunther Schuller’s Symphonic Triptych alongside Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations and Julia Wolfe’s “riSE and fLY,” featuring percussionist Colin Currie.

In April 2018, Mӑcelaru returned to Cincinnati to lead a subscription program of Leonard Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town,” Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra, Charles Ives’ “Three Places in New England” and George Gershwin’s Concerto in F, with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Mӑcelaru most recently conducted the CSO in February, leading a program that included Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, featuring Kian Soltani, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 (“The Year 1905).”

Mӑcelaru leads the CSO in a performance of Shostakovich’s “The Year 1905” (Photo by Charlie Balcom)

“Each interaction with Cristian, on and off the stage, has been warm and collaborative, like reuniting with an old friend,” said Stefani Matsuo, CSO concertmaster and one of five musicians on the music director search committee.

Matsuo described Mӑcelaru as having a deep knowledge of the CSO’s legacy and a “clear vision for music and its place in a vibrant arts community like Cincinnati’s.”

Mӑcelaru will make his debut as CSO’s new music director on Feb. 8-9, 2025. He’ll lead his musicians in a performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”; Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Ernest Chausson’s “Poème,” both with violin soloist Randall Goosby; and Wynton Marsalis’ “Southwestern Shakedown” from Blues Symphony.

“He stretches us as musicians, drawing out new dimensions of sounds and textures, and inspires us as people,” Matsuo said of Mӑcelaru. “There’s a genuine admiration and mutual respect between the CSO musicians and Cristian, and it’s clear we are going to be great partners in this next chapter of our story.”

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Discover more from Movers & Makers

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.