Tchaikovsky’s third movement of the Serenade for Strings, Élégie, opens with what Philadelphia Orchestra Associate Conductor Cristian Măcelaru calls a simple motion scale, in which the upper strings ascend the scale and the lower strings descend.
When the same four-measure passage returns later in the piece, there is a subtle difference, but one that is a special moment for Măcelaru, who will be conducting the Serenade January 16, 17, and 18 as part of the Orchestra’s Tchaikovsky Celebration.
“The notes are identical but Tchaikovsky mutes the entire orchestra,” Măcelaru said. “The way I understand it, it’s to be a shadow of the beginning, a distant memory. I love it. It’s a very tender moment. It’s a very special, simple device but incredibly effective to achieve that by muting,” he said.
The Serenade for Strings is tailor-made for the Orchestra’s world-famous string section and Măcelaru is eager to perform it with the musicians.
“At the rehearsal it’s an image I’ll give to the players to remind them to be a shadow of the beginning,” he said. To remind himself to share the shadow image with the musicians, Măcelaru has marked his score accordingly.
When the musicians perform the passage in concert, with strings muted, the sound may be hushed, but Măcelaru’s interpretation will loom loud in their playing.
Concertgoers attending performances on January 16, 17, or 18, can hear more of Cristian Măcelaru’s interpretation of the Serenade works by attending a PreConcert Conversation with him before the concert. PreConcert Conversations are free to all ticket holders and begin one hour before every Orchestra subscription concert. They are held in the Rendell Room of the Kimmel Center or in Verizon Hall.