Cristian Măcelaru and Ray Chen guest with San Francisco Symphony

Romanian conductor Cristian Măcelaru in rehearsal – Photo: Sorin Popa courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Romanian conductor Cristian Măcelaru takes up the baton at Davies Symphony Hall this week to lead the San Francisco Symphony and violin virtuoso Ray Chen in a performance of Édouard Lalo’s vibrant and tuneful Symphonie espagnole. The program also includes Richard Strauss’ lovely suite from Der Rosenkavalier, and two works which will be heard here for the first time – an orchestral work entitled Masquerade by Anna Clyne, and the World Premiere of the Suite from Kevin Puts’ opera Silent Night.

Cristian Măcelaru – Music Director of The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music since August 2017 – becomes the new Chief Conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Cologne next September. Described by The Herald in Scotland as having “… presence without being showy” and “…. a fine sense of sweep and structure”, Maestro Măcelaru first attracted international attention in 2012, when he stepped in for Pierre Boulez to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was awarded the Sir Georg Solti Award for young conductors that same year, and in 2014 was honored with the Solti Conducting Award.

Enjoying a particularly close collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he was Conductor in Residence for three years, Cristian Măcelaru has also guested for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, the Cleveland Orchestra, and now the San Francisco Symphony. In Europe, he has led the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk, Royal Concertgebouw, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

Among the highlights of Maestro Măcelaru’s 2018-2019 season are his celebration of Romania’s centennial, bringing the National Symphony Orchestra of Romania on their first-ever visit to the United States – a 7-city tour which culminates at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center in performances with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Very much a 21st century musician with his huge online following, Ray Chen has what The Huffington Post described as “…. the kind of liquid tone that carries with it emotional depth of great intimacy”. His international career took off when he won the Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Cardiff in 2008, following which he was invited by Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov to appear with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in St Petersburg.

Ray Chen also won the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2009, and since then has made a name for himself across Europe, Asia, the USA and Australia, appearing with ensembles such as the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, and the Orchestra Philharmonique du Luxembourg, the Taipei Symphony, Orchestre National de Lille, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Münchner Philharmoniker, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and National Orchestra of Spain .

Labelled as “one to watch” by The Strad and Gramophone magazines, Ray Chen has featured in the Forbes list of the 30 most influential Asians under 30, appeared in the TV series Mozart in the Jungle, and performed at events such as the 2012 Nobel Prize Concert in Stockholm – which was telecast across Europe – the 2015 Bastille Day Concert de Paris, and at BBC Proms concerts in 2016 and 2018.

Violinist Ray Chen – Photo: John Mac courtesy San Francisco Symphony

French composer Édouard Lalo wrote his Symphonie espagnole for the brilliant Spanish violinist Pable de Sarasate, in a tribute to both Sarasate’s nationality and is own Spanish heritage. Although the work has elements of a symphony about it, it’s really a suite of five movements which Sarasate played for the first time in Paris, on February 7th, 1875 – a time at which Spanish-style music was much in fashion, due to the popularity of Bizet’s opera Carmen.  It’s a delightful work, melodic and passionate – a perfect vehicle for Chen’s impressive talent.

This week’s concerts open with Masquerade by London-born Anna Clyne, a Grammy-nominated composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music, described by The New York Times as a “composer of uncommon gifts and unusual methods”. Her work often includes collaborations with choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers and musicians worldwide. Masquerade was commissioned by the BBC, and first performed at the 2013 Last Night of the Proms by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under conductor Marin Alsop.

Composer Kevin Puts – Photo: David White courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Kevin Puts’ opera, Silent Night, with a libretto by Mark Campbell, was based on the 2005 film Joyeux Noel. It was premiered by Minnesota Opera in November 2011, won the composer the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, and has been described by The New York Times as “exhilarating and compelling”. A multi-award-winning composer, Puts already has two operas, four symphonies and several concertos in his portfolio, works which have been commissioned, performed and recorded by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists around the globe. The orchestral Suite from the opera, which has its World Premiere in these concerts, was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and co-commissioned by the Indianapolis and St Louis Symphonies.

The program ends with another orchestral Suite from an opera – this one from Richard Strauss’ much-loved work, Der Rosenkavalier. Despite the popularity of the opera, Strauss was apparently not keen on creating a suite from the score, but in 1924, his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who was involved in plans to make a film of Der Rosenkavalier, persuaded Strauss to provide a score for the film, using music from the opera. Unwilling to take on a new project, Strauss allowed Otto Singer and Karl Alwin to arrange the music for the film, paving the way for other sanctioned arrangements – as well as some which weren’t. In 1934 and 1944 Strauss himself arranged his own version of the waltz sequences from the score, but the best-known suite was made by an anonymous arranger, which Strauss eventually approved in 1945, and it’s this interpretation that the Symphony plays at this week’s performances.

Cristian Măcelaru leads the San Francisco Symphony, with guest artist Ray Chen, in music by Édouard Lalo, Richard Strauss, Anna Clyne and Kevin Puts, at Davies Symphony Hall from October 25th to 27th. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.


Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Cristian Măcelaru

Ray Chen

Anna Clyne



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