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"Beautiful minds" – Interview with Cristian Măcelaru

Thursday, 2 February 2023 , ora 10.16

What is actually hiding behind a success career such as conductor's Cristian Măcelaru?

It is a difficult question, since I have no idea what I could possibly say from my point of view; I am saying this as an encouragement for others: the fact that working hard is essential. The intensity that we use in order to better our potential is the detail that makes the biggest difference when talking about careers. It is true, talent plays an important role as well, but talent isn't everything. Talent must be cultivated, it must be nurtured. There is always this saying, you must be in the right place at the right time. I believe that we encounter opportunities every single day, yet the question is whether we are ready to meet them halfway. And that is why the only thing that we could do, as humans, is to prepare for every opportunity, every single day. Therefore, working hard, I would say, is the thing that makes the greatest difference in a career.

Some opportunities that emerged in Cristian Măcelaru's career, among these that you were talking about, that aided you in a launch or in a career ascension?

I describe the conductor career to the young conductors that I'm working with. I do not portray it as a constant ascension, rather as a multiple series of places that we get to, as a ladder, where, sometimes we get on a larger stepping stone and then, without even knowing it, we get to the next one, which could be way shorter, but this is the conductor career. Looking back, I realize that there are moments that have actually defined my career: meeting the Philadelphia orchestra for the first time was one of them, getting on the podium before the Concertgebouw orchestra from Amsterdam as well, and, in such moments, it is true, I had to be prepared in order to benefit from these opportunities, yet such things haven't always taken place because I got lucky, but rather because there were other people that noticed, without me knowing that they are watching, that I was prepared to be there.

Thus, consistency is necessary.

Consistency is truly important, indeed, especially when talking about music. It is so uncertain, who watches and sees the thing that we do every day, but… someone is watching. There are people who watch it and try to find: ah, who is the conductor able to stand on the podium before the London orchestra or Paris or Berlin? And that is the reason why we need this seriousness in the work that we are doing, every day is important. There is no such thing as an insignificant minute for a conductor!

And probably his repertoire as well, right?

Indeed, the repertoire is closely tied to the conductor's identity, since a diverse repertoire gives off a mature identity. Every time that I had to take over a concert at the last minute, it was with a repertoire that wasn't the standard one. Every single time. In Chicago as well, the first time that I had taken over from Pierre Boulez, when I had almost 36 hours before the first rehearsal, it was with a unique repertoire and I had to conduct Jeuxby Debussy, Chant du rossignolby Stravinski, Concert no. 2 by Bartok for the piano and also the Entertainment for chord orchestra by Bartok, so a program that isn't a standard one, but I was prepared, since I have always been fascinated by mastering repertoires in all their uniqueness. It is the thing that simply keeps me alive. I truly love knowing more and more about repertoires, it is the thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction and when the question came about: could you conduct this concert? I said yes, without thinking, since I had already known these compositions.

How did you transition from violin to conducting?

For me, it was a very simple thing, since by playing the violin and being the concertmaster, I already had a leadership position in the ensemble, where it was a natural thing and I remember having to take the stage a few times because the conductor wanted to listen to the orchestra from the hall and every time there were musicians from the orchestra coming up and telling me you are better than the conductor. They kept telling me you should become a conductor. Even at the age of 18, 19, when I was doing it; and since then, that is how I discovered the beauty of what it means to stand before an orchestra and it gave me great courage to take the wand in my own hands - it was a natural thing.

You grew up with music. Actually, when was the first time you
've encountered it, do you remember?

No, because it was long before I was born, since my whole family is into music; parents, brothers, sisters. Me, being the youngest out of 10 children, I had been surrounded by music non-stop. I was actually talking with the great violinist Julia Fischer about this, and she was telling me that she was five when she first sang chamber music for and the teacher came and wrote down something in her music sheet, but she told her: teacher, I am sorry, but I don't read letters, only musical notes. This was my case as well, because, before learning the alphabet, I had already known how to read the solfeggio and to write notes, since it was such a normal and natural thing inour family and then, music, indeed, was the first language that I have ever come to know.

Are there other professional musicians in your family?

Sure. I have two sisters that are a part of the Banat Philharmonic at Timișoara. I have a sister that who is in Barcelona at the philharmonic. There is also the generation after them, children of my brothers and sisters that enrolled in music high schools, they all learn music at the Conservatoire and they will be continuing their careers in music.

Soon enough you'll be able to create a chamber orchestra with the members of your family!

We have that planned as well. Actually, when we gather together, we always sing. Of course, not for a public, we sing for ourselves and the most beautiful and interesting thing is the fact the many of us compose and that is when we write stuff for one another. It is a life full of music.

Interview by Anca Ioana Andriescu
Translated by Adelina-Maria Mănăilescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu