Donato Cabrera

conductor
biography

Donato Cabrera has been the Music Director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra since 2014 and Music Director of the California Symphony since 2013. He served as the Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO) from 2009-2016.

Under Donato's leadership, the Las Vegas Philharmonic has enjoyed subscription sales higher than ever and expanded its season, adding Sunday matinees. In addition to time-honored symphonic works by Dvořák, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Strauss, and Schumann, the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 2016-2017 season will include new music by acclaimed American composers Kevin Beavers, Nathaniel Stookey, Jennifer Bellor, and Michael Torke, plus Brazillian-American composer Clarice Assad, demonstrating Cabrera’s commitment to programming music by living composers.

Since Cabrera's appointment as Music Director of the California Symphony, the organization has been reinvigorated. With its increased subscription programs and an expansion of concerts to three new venues around the Bay Area, the California Symphony and Cabrera are redefining what it means to be an orchestra in the 21st Century.  Through the California Symphony’s celebrated Young American Composer in Residence program, Cabrera has supported the burgeoning careers of composers including D.J. Sparr and Dan Visconti. 

As SFS Resident Conductor from 2009-2016, Donato Cabrera worked closely with San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, and frequently conducted the orchestra throughout the year, including the annual Día de los Muertos Community Concert, Concerts for Kids, Adventures in Music, and Music for Families concerts. In 2012, Cabrera led the San Francisco Symphony Chorus with Paul Jacobs on organ in the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Mass Transmission, subsequently conducting it with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City in Carnegie Hall for the American Mavericks Festival. Cabrera made his San Francisco Symphony debut in April 2009 when he conducted the Orchestra with 24 hours’ notice.

The 2015-16 season marked Cabrera's seventh and final season as Music Director of the SFSYO. In 2012, he led the orchestra in their eighth European tour, which won a 2011-12 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of American Music on Foreign Tours. From this tour, a critically acclaimed live recording from the Berlin Philharmonie of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 is available on SFS Media. Cabrera led the orchestra in their ninth tour of Europe in summer 2015, performing celebrated concerts in Amsterdam's Het Concertgebouw, Milan's Sala Verdi, Prague's Smetana Hall, and again in Berlin's Philharmonie.

A champion of new music, Donato Cabrera was a co-founder of the New York-based American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), which is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. In September 2012 he conducted ACME in the world premiere of the all-live version of Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11 for three string quartets and tape at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Cabrera will lead performances of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson's Drone Mass with ACME and Theatre of Voices at Duke Performances and the Big Ears Festival in spring 2017. He made his Carnegie Hall and Cal Performances debuts leading the world and California premieres, respectively, of Mark Grey’s Ătash Sorushan. In 2010, Cabrera stepped in on short notice for the acclaimed British composer/conductor/pianist Thomas Adès to conduct the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

In 2002, Cabrera was a Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellow at the Salzburg Festival. He has served as assistant conductor at the Ravinia, Spoleto (Italy), and Aspen Music Festivals, and as resident conductor at the Music Academy of the West. Cabrera has also been an assistant conductor for productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 2016, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performances with Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs. From 2005 to 2008, he was Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Opera and in 2009, he made his debut with the San Francisco Ballet. In March 2009, Cabrera was asked to be one of eight participants in the 2009 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview, leading the Nashville Symphony over two days in a variety of works. Cabrera was the rehearsal and cover conductor for the Metropolitan Opera production and DVD release of Doctor Atomic, which won the 2012 Grammy® Award for Best Opera Recording.

In 2010, Donato Cabrera was recognized by the Consulate-General of Mexico in San Francisco as a Luminary of the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee, for his contributions to promoting and developing the presence of the Mexican community in the Bay Area. He holds degrees from the University of Nevada and the University of Illinois and has also pursued graduate studies in conducting at Indiana University and the Manhattan School of Music.

Acclaim:
"Tall and energetic, he's a passionate, heart-on-the-sleeve conductor, with eclectic musical tastes and a wealth of experience.” – San Jose Mercury News

“Cabrera’s conducting – beautiful, accurate and attentive – steers this wonderful mechanism with authority.” – instArt

“Cabrera delivered thunderous energy.” – Bachtrack

“Cabrera cuts a commanding figure on the podium but his conducting style is not overbearing. It’s apparent the players like him.” – Las Vegas Review Journal

“With precise direction, conductor Donato Cabrera drew a taut, highly responsive performance eliciting rich, luminous tone from the ensemble.” – Chicago Classical Review

“His fluid, energetic podium style continues to yield forceful results… [bringing] the orchestra together with strength and cohesion.” – San Jose Mercury News


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Reviews
"Lila Downs in Concert" Review- a very special night at the CSO
2016-07-07 Splash Magazine, Chicago
""Cabrera...handled the baton with grace, energy, and a deft hand."

"This was a never-to-be-forgotten performance by a world-class singer, a great band, a super conductor and a splendid orchestra."
"
(Debra Davy)
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The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Donato Cabrera, conductor, with Chen Zhao, violin, and Katie Kadarauch, viola in Mason Bates, Mozart, and Bartók
2016-06-05 Arts journal,
""Our Piece de resistance here, of course was the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra. Cabrera led a gleaming account, energetic, creepy when necessary and very lovely where it mattered to have a touch of rubato."

"Donato Cabrera's way with the Mozart was Bruno Walterish and lovely."

"Simply put, Donato Cabrera wasn't standing in front of a student orchestra. He was conducting an orchestra–a good one."
"
(Steven Kruger)
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Rejuvenated California Symphony finishes strong
2016-05-12 San Francisco Chronicle,
""Concluding his third season as the orchestra's music director, Donato Cabrera led his forces in superbly wrought performances of music by Brahms and Philip Glass, and introduced a world premiere that, for all its infelicities, showed an eagerness to embrace a broad musical landscape.""
(Joshua Kosman)
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Composer Dan Visconti endows the guitar with 'Living Language'
2016-05-09 San Jose Mercury News,
""After intermission, Cabrera conducted an elegant performance of Brahms' Symphony No. 2, shaping the music with warmth and natural flow."

"The program opened with Philip Glass' "Company." Though it was originally scored for string quartet, Cabrera led the composer's own arrangement for string orchestra; it made a brisk, appealing curtain-raiser."

"Cabrera, bringing together all the discrete threads in this musical tapestry, led a crisp performance."
"
(Georgia Rowe)
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‘New Voices Old Muses’ at The Kennedy Center’s KC Jukebox
2016-04-20 DC Metro Theater Arts, Washington, D.C.
"The program was masterfully conducted by Donato Cabrera and concluded with a post-concert party, again featuring DJ Masonic (Mason Bates) and  Dominic Johnson on electronic violin."
(Kendall Mostafavi )
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Safe adventures: KC Jukebox offers new music, with guardrails
2016-04-19 Washington Post, Washington, D.C.
"

This group, firmly led by the conductor Donato Cabrera, included a number of members of the National Symphony Orchestra, and did yeoman service through a challenging evening. Particular kudos go to the cellist Rachel Young, who played in all five pieces, including a solo turn in "Sit and Dance, for Baroque Cello and Electronics," an impassioned if slightly unfocused piece by Molly Joyce.




Bates and the Kennedy Center have learned how to work together this year: from a technical standpoint, this was the smoothest and tightest of the three KC Jukebox concerts. After five Bates performances in six days - starting with a chamber performance for the S&R Foundation last Wednesday - Washington may have been suffering from some measure of Bates fatigue; the hall was not as full as it was for the first two KC Jukebox concerts. Still, the experiment is worthwhile; I wouldn't claim Bates has found a silver bullet for successful new-music presentations, but I've enjoyed the series so far, bumps and all, and look forward to seeing what it will offer next year - over five concerts.

"
(Anne Midgette)
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Donato Cabrera and California Symphony celebrate the swing that jazz gave to 20th-century music
2016-01-25 Newspaper, San Jose
"Conventional wisdom tells us that jazz and classical works occupy discrete musical spheres. But there was a great deal of overlap throughout the 20th century, as Cabrera demonstrated with great enthusiasm in Sunday's performances. Each work showed the ways that these composers -- from France, Germany and the U.S. -- admired, and were inspired by, the music of the Jazz Age."
(Georgia Rowe)
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California Symphony sparkles under Donato Cabrera's guidance
2014-05-05 newspaper, San Jose
"Donato Cabrera has been leading the California Symphony for a relatively short time -- he was appointed the orchestra's music director last June, and began his tenure in that capacity last September -- but he's forged a remarkably cohesive ensemble since then. The results were on dynamic display throughout the orchestra's season-ending concert Sunday afternoon at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts."
(Georgia Rowe)
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