The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music has been celebrating new works for more than half a century in Santa Cruz, and returns this weekend. Music Director and conductor Cristian Măcelaru, who began in that post last year, says discovering what a piece of music is asking of him as a conductor is as much of the process as learning the music.  The festival runs through August 12th.

You can find out more at the Cabrillo Festival website.

“It was a little bit overwhelming,” Măcerlaru says of his experience last year, “How intense everything ended up being, because there is just so much to do, but at the same time there was a pretty incredible energy about it all, which propels you to the next step. Looking at all the things that we were going to do in two weeks, feeling like it would take a lifetime to achieve all that. And then, before I could blink twice, it felt like it was over.” The festival begins with free open rehearsals (the first one is Sunday evening), as the players, conductors, and audience learn more about what each composer is trying to express, and the musical language they use. “Part of the learning process has to do with me finding out what is it that will be required of me to conduct a score by John Corigliano, versus a score by William Bolcom, for example, just to name sort of the two most senior composers we’ll have at this year’s festival.” Those composers both are celebrating their 80th birthday this season. But the work of many younger composers, like Zosha Di Castri, Gabriela Lena Frank, Anna Clyne, and Nico Muhly will also be on display. “One thing that I have discovered is that every composer, and every musical score will teach you what you need to learn about it… The wonderful thing about music is that both similarities and contrasts inform the other pieces on the program, and somehow it magically comes together, but it’s definitely a long road of discovery.”