A Fearless Podium Debut

Maestro Donato Cabrera’s trip down memory lane reveals a bold choice for a young conductor.

Now and Then: Music Director Donato Cabrera at the podium at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek (left) and at the University of Nevada, Reno in the 1990s (right).

Our upcoming PASTORAL BEETHOVEN concerts include a nostalgic selection for California Symphony Music Director Donato Cabrera. It’s a piece by Bedřich Smetana, who composed six symphonic poems titled Má vlast (“my homeland” in Czech), the most famous of which is Vltava (Die Moldau), which was written about a river that flows through Prague.

For Cabrera, Vltava also happens to be the first piece of music he ever conducted for an audience, as a 19-year-old student at the University of Nevada at Reno.

“It was a piece that I had fallen in love with when I was in high school,” says Cabrera. “As a sophomore at college, I was given the opportunity to conduct the university orchestra and I chose to conduct this piece. Looking back, it is far too difficult for a young conductor’s debut effort, but ignorance can be bliss!”

When asked what he recalls from the evening, he says that he doesn’t remember much, but he does remember that he wasn’t at all nervous.

We dug through the archives and found these early pictures of a very assured-looking maestro-in-the-making from his UNR days in the early 1990s.

Photo credits: Stuart Murtland



Why Perform “Vltava” Again Now?

Music Director Donato Cabrera explains that he paired Smetana and Beethoven’s Symphony №6 (aka the Pastoral) together for the upcoming PASTORAL BEETHOVEN concerts because they both describe outdoor scenes, but from entirely unique perspectives.

“The symphony is like a day in the country, from the exuberance of the early morning sunrise, to the final lullaby at the very end. In Smetana’s piece, it’s almost like it’s from the perspective of the river, starting from the sounds of its source, to reaching its full force at the St. John’s Rapids, finally ending as it joins with the Elbe River in Germany.”


Donato Cabrera conducts PASTORAL BEETHOVEN Saturday, January 20 at 8pm & Sunday, January 21 at 4pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.

For more information, visit californiasymphony.org.