The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Announces Season With New Music Director Cristian Macelaru

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music Announces Season With New Music Director Cristian Macelaru

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America's longest running festival of new orchestral music, celebrates the arrival of its brilliant new Music Director and Conductor, Cristian M?celaru, with a sensational series of commissioned works that continue the Festival's forward-looking tradition and opens creative doors for its dynamic young conductor.

Following Marin Alsop's fruitful 25-year leadership, M?celaru, the Romanian-born Conductor-in-Residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra, begins his Festival tenure with premiere-filled programs of new works and fresh re-orchestrations by an esteemed group of composers. Among this season's highlights are seven world premieres, one US premiere and three west Coast premieres. The Festival commemorates two significant anniversaries: the centenary of Lou Harrison will be celebrated with a tribute composed by David T. Little; and John Adams' 70th birthday will be celebrated with a tribute composed by GabriElla Smith.

The eleven composers in residence this season are Karim Al-Zand, Clarice Assad, Gerald Barry, Michael Gandolfi, Jake Heggie, Aaron Jay Kernis, David T. Little, Cindy McTee, Christopher Rountree, GabriElla Smith and James Stephenson.

Special guest artists include Dame Evelyn Glennie (percussion), Jennifer Frautschi (violin), Gemma New (conductor), Clarice Assad (piano/vocals), Keita Ogawa (percussion), Jason Hardink (piano), and Jonathan Lemalu (bass-baritone).

In addition to the featured evening concerts, the Festival continues its tradition of hosting open rehearsals, pre-rehearsal talks, and the Conductors/Composers Workshop, a professional training program focusing on the creation and performance of new music.

M?celaru talks about his inaugural season here.

Departures, Friday, August 4, 8pm

The new chapter in the festival's 55-year history opens with a bountiful program of new, refashioned and relevant music. It begins with Michael Gandolfi's spiraling Points of Departure, which the Boston-based composer originally wrote for chamber orchestra. The Cabrillo Festival commissioned him this year to reshape this exciting piece for full orchestra, in a re-orchestration receiving its world premiere at Cabrillo. "Angularity can be beautiful," New York Times critic Allan Kozinn wrote in a record review of Points of Departure, the work of a composer "drawn to both the rigor of the mid-20th-century atonalists and the melodic breadth and textural lushness of the neo-Romantics."

Maestro M?celaru leads the Festival Orchestra and the great Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie in the world premiere of another festival-commissioned work, Clarice Assad's percussion concerto, AD INFINITUM. Assad is a Brazilian pianist, singer and composer whose rich music draws on many genres and styles and has been performed by everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to the Philadelphia Orchestra to the Turtle Island String Quartet. Assad consulted with Glennie on the concerto, which the composer says began with the idea of exploring childhood toys and imaginary worlds, and then developed "into a suite of different phases of life, starting with birth and evolving through adulthood." To open up the sonic possibilities, Assad incorporated improvisational elements in the score. "Evelyn will be able to be very creative in her choices of instruments and sounds, making this a true collaboration," says Assad. This work is the third in the Festival's "Nexus: Creative Collaborations" Initiative, which fosters collaborations between composers and other artists.

Pulitzer-prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, whose soulful and imaginative music draws freely on Romanticism, Minimalism, the Impressionists and Hip-Hop, offers his Second Symphony, the composer's response to the Gulf War. "The absurdity and cruelty of this war, in particular the 'surgical' nature of its reliance on gleaming new technological warfare used at a safe distance, made an enormous and lasting impression on me," Kernis wrote about the piece.

Tributes: Part One, Saturday, August 5, 8pm
The richly inventive Bay Area-based composer Gabriela Lena Frank, whose music finds inspiration in South American folk songs, Bela Bartók and other varied musical and literary sources, wrote the lively and evocative piece opens tonight's concert, Three Latin American Dances for Orchestra. The work begins with an introductory scherzo the composer describes as "an unabashed tribute to the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein before turning to harmonies and rhythms derived from various pan-Amazonian dance forms." The middle section summons up the Andean harawi, a melancholy adagio traditionally sung by a single bamboo flute to accompany a solo dancer, and ends with "The Mestizo Waltz," which "evokes the 'romancero' tradition of popular songs and dances that mix influences from indigenous Indian cultures, African slave cultures, and western brass bands."

David T. Little, whom The New Yorker called "one of the most imaginative young composers on the music-theatre scene" and The New York Times characterized as an artist with "a knack for overturning musical conventions," pays tribute to the late, great composer and Cabrillo family member Lou Harrison with The Conjured Life. Little writes of this work "When Lou Harrison died in Indiana, I was living in Michigan. We were both far from our homes on the coasts; his west, mine east. Though we had never met, his death marked the first time I had mourned the passing of a composer as an elder within a community. That we had been so close geographically when he died-a mere four-hour drive-made it feel all the more tragic to me that we'd never met: a missed chance, a lost moment. His Threnody for Carlos Chavez had changed my life-so moving, deep, and full of humanity-and it pained me that I would never get to tell him; never get to thank him. Ever since, Lou and his work have never been far from my mind and I am grateful to have the chance to honor and thank him with this new work, The Conjured Life."

M?celaru leads the Festival Orchestra in the West Coast premiere of Chicago-based composer James Stephenson's Concerto for Violin, Tributes, featuring the sterling violinist Jennifer Frautschi, for whom it was written. Stephenson calls Tributes "a conscious nod to all of the people who have contributed to the creation of this work: Composers and soloists - past and present - who have written/performed timeless and inspiring violin concertos." They include Frautschi, whom he praises "for her wonderful technical mastery and musical elegance on the violin," and trumpet genius Louis Armstrong, "who every day would 'compose' improvised solos of incomparable form and structure."

Award-winning composer Cindy McTee, whose music The Houston Chronicle has called "a charging, churning celebration of the musical and cultural energy of modern-day America," offers up Double Play. Written in honor of the late composer Elaine Lebenbom, the piece, whose instrumentation includes horns, harp, bongos and cowbell, spans 17 minutes in two continuous movements entitled "The Unquestioned Answer" and "Tempus Fugit." The composer writes that she has "always been particularly attracted to the idea that disparate musical elements - tonal and atonal, placid and frenetic - can not only coexist but also illuminate and complement one another. I can think of no composer more capable of achieving these kinds of meaningful juxtapositions than Charles Ives. As in Ives' Unanswered Question, my Unquestioned Answer presents planes of highly contrasting materials: sustained, consonant sonorities in the strings intersect to create dissonances; melodies for the principal players soar atop; and discordant passages in the brass and winds become ever more disruptive." "Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)" begins with the sounds of several pendulum clocks ticking at different speeds. The work, wrote The Washington Post, "hums with craftsmanship and a catholic array of influences across several centuries."

Free Family Concert, Sunday, August 6, 1 pm

The festival's annual free and always engaging family concert features the West Coast premiere of the full orchestral version of Michael Gandolfi's Pinocchio's Adventures in Funland. It was composed with librettist for piano, percussion, strings and narrator. Gemma New conducts this full-blown version, with Music Director Cristian M?celaru narrating. The piece retells some of the adventures of Geppetto's famously prevaricating marionette, consisting of 15 short scenes that, as the librettist put it, "are designed to entertain and educate young audiences by introducing them to the riches of concert music."

In the Blue Room with Clarice Assad, Sunday, August 6, 8 pm

This year's intimate In the Blue Room concert showcases the sensational Brazilian-born pianist, singer and composer Clarice Assad. Performing in duet with percussionist Keita Ogawa, Assad plays and sings her vivid pieces, which embrace Western classical forms and Brazilian folkloric styles, French chanson and jazz. Called "a triple threat" by the San Francisco Chronicle and "a dazzling vocal soloist" by the Los Angeles Times, Assad uses her voice freely as an instrument, creating a range of textures and moods that mark her imaginative music.

Con Brio, Friday, August 11, 8pm

The second weekend of the Cabrillo Festival kicks off with works by William Bolcom, Gerald Barry, Jorg Widdman and Cindy McTee.

National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award-winner William Bolcom's short, one-movement work, Symphony No. 9, gets its West Coast premiere under the baton of Maestro M?celaru. Bolcom wanted this piece to be intentionally short, as his final statement in the symphonic form. Of this work Bolcom writes, "Our current world situation is the most stressful I can remember in our country or elsewhere since my childhood, but it was brewing full force already when I wrote the Ninth. The recent disastrous elections here and in the UK are only part of the fallout of what I already felt -- an elemental war between two bitterly opposing forces. There is ample reason for despair, but I still believe in the 'still, small voice.' The formal shape of this one-movement Ninth Symphony generates from the opposing forces in battle, both ranked against that voice. My hope is in the voice's quiet recurring statement; may it prevail."