Grammy Award-winning conductor Cristian Măcelaru is the Music Director Designate of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, a post that commences with the 2024–25 season. His inaugural season as Music Director begins in the 2025–26 season. Măcelaru holds the titles of Artistic Director of the George Enescu Festival and Competition, Music Director of the Orchestre national de France, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Interlochen Center for the Arts World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and Chief Conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester in Cologne, Germany, where he will serve through the 2024–25 season and continue as Artistic Partner for the 2025–26 season.

In his inaugural season as Artistic Director at the 2023 George Enescu Festival, Măcelaru led the George Enescu Philharmonic, WDR Sinfonieorchester and Orchestre national de France alongside the Romanian Youth Orchestra. The 2023 festival presented more than 100 concerts in six separate series spanning four weeks in five different venues. Some 3,500 guest artists took part, including Martha Argerich, Gautier Capuçon, Yuja Wang, Zubin Mehta, Klaus Mäkelä and Sir Simon Rattle. Performances included 39 Enescu compositions, as well as Romanian premieres from composers Tan Dun, John Adams, Jörg Widmann and others. Orchestras from 16 different countries participated, including the Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony and Concertgebouworkest. In 2024, Măcelaru serves as Artistic Director of the festival’s sister event, the George Enescu International Competition for young artists in Bucharest, Romania, where he also leads masterclasses in conducting.

During the 2023–24 season, Măcelaru toured with the WDR Sinfonieorchester to China and with the Orchestre national de France to major cities in Austria and Spain, including Vienna, Madrid and Barcelona. Additional highlights included Măcelaru’s debuts with the Philharmonia and London Philharmonic orchestras and return engagements with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Măcelaru’s previous seasons include European engagements with the Concertgebouworkest, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Staatskapelle Berlin and Budapest Festival Orchestra. In North America, he has led the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and The Cleveland Orchestra. Măcelaru maintains an especially close collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra, where he previously held the position of Conductor-in-Residence for three seasons. Măcelaru has conducted more than 150 performances with the orchestra since his debut in April 2013.

He is equally at home as a conductor of opera, including productions of Don Giovanni with Houston Grand Opera and Madama Butterfly with Opera Națională București.

Măcelaru has released an array of albums, including the complete symphonies of Saint-Saëns on Warner Classics with the Orchestre national de France as well as albums featuring works by Bartók and Dvořák on Linn Records with the WDR Sinfonieorchester. His most recent Linn Records album, Brahms: Piano Concertos with Simon Trpčeski and the WDR Sinfonieorchester, was featured as Classic FM’s November 2023 “Album of the Week” as well as BBC Music Magazine’s January 2024 “Concerto Choice.” His highly anticipated recording of Enescu’s Symphonies 1-3 and the composer’s two Romanian Rhapsodies with the Orchestre national de France was released in April 2024 on Deutsche Grammophon.

In 2020, Măcelaru received a Grammy Award for conducting the Decca Classics recording of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti and The Philadelphia Orchestra. His international career was launched in 2012 when he was asked to step in for Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During that same year, he received the Solti Emerging Conductor Award, followed in 2014 by the Solti Conducting Award.

He also makes a great effort to open classical music to a broader audience through accessibility and education. In his role as Chief Conductor with the WDR Sinfonieorchester, he created the ensemble’s Kurz und Klassik program, in which he shares personal insights into each of the major compositions chosen for performance. This video series has built a significant following, a testament to Măcelaru's continued impact in bringing audiences closer to the music. With the Orchestre national de France, he created a new series of concerts, L’œuvre augmentée, conceived to deepen patrons’ appreciation of the music by offering insights into the themes and backgrounds of the works presented. Most recently, in his Artistic Director role with the George Enescu Festival and Competition, Măcelaru created a new series of concerts for children as part of an initiative to enrich and modernize the festival. Emphasizing contemporary compositions, these programs enhance listeners’ appreciation of the music while promoting social values of equality, empowerment and diversity. He has also increased invitations for women conductors and implemented mental and physical well-being sessions for Competition participants. Through a historic collaboration with organizations including Romania’s Special Olympics, Măcelaru and the Festival are striving to modernize Romania’s concert halls to make them more accessible.

With the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Măcelaru has helped nurture the collaborative spirit underlying the festival’s core mission. Using his leadership role as a platform for engagement, he has brought artists, audience members and festival executives into a shared creative process through open rehearsals and interaction with the composers in residence. Through the Cabrillo Emerging Black Composers Prize, Măcelaru and Cabrillo have partnered with the Emerging Black Composers Project, a ten-year commitment to spotlight early-career Black American composers and their music.

A champion of commissioning and premiering the music of today, Mӑcelaru has commissioned premieres from 52 composers across his titled positions in Paris, Cologne and Cabrillo. This illustrious group of composers includes Wynton Marsalis, Tan Dun, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jennifer Higdon, Jake Heggie, Nico Muhly, Sean Shepherd and Gabriella Smith.

Măcelaru devotes significant time to mentoring young musicians in his capacity as an educator, continuing the great legacy of the Cabrillo Conductors/Composers Workshop, which brings together the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and leading faculty with early career conductors and composers for a professional training program focused on the creation and performance of new music. He also holds annual conducting masterclasses in Timișoara  with the Romanian Chamber Orchestra and each year calls for scores from young Romanian composers. More than 40 compositions have been written through this initiative thus far. This season, Măcelaru will also work with young musicians during his residency at the Kronberg Academy in Germany.

Măcelaru was born in Timișoara, Romania and comes from a musical family. As the youngest of 10 children, all of whom received instrumental lessons at an early age, Măcelaru excelled on the violin. His studies took him from Romania to the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, University of Miami in Florida and Rice University in Houston, where he studied conducting with Larry Rachleff. He then deepened his knowledge at Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festival in masterclasses with David Zinman, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Oliver Knussen and Stefan Asbury.

Măcelaru was the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and made his Carnegie Hall debut with that orchestra at the age of 19. He also played in the first violin section of the Houston Symphony for two seasons.