Conductors

Alexander Shelley

Music Director, National Arts Centre Orchestra
Principal Associate Conductor, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Chief Conductor, Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra

© Thomas Dagg

Introduction

Alexander Shelley is Music Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre, Chief Conductor of the Nürnberger Symphoniker and Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s ECHO and Deutsche Gründerpreis winning “Zukunftslabor”.

Born in London in October 1979, Shelley, the son of celebrated concert pianists, studied cello and conducting in Germany. Unanimous winner of the 2005 Leeds Conductor’s Competition, he has since worked regularly with the leading orchestras of Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. This season sees him returning twice to Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, as well as to the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Göteborgs Symfoniker and Melbourne and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. In January 2017 he again leads the Bundesjugendorchester on an extensive national tour.

Alexander’s operatic engagements have included The Merry Widow and Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Den Kongelige Opera); La Bohème (Opera Lyra/National Arts Centre), Iolanta (Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen), Così fan Tutte (Opéra national de Montpellier) and The Marriage of Figaro (Opera North) in 2015. In 2017 he led a co-production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel with the NACO and Canadian Opera Company.

Reviews of his recent recordings for Deutsche Grammophon praised an “uncanny gift for looking past but not indiscriminately discarding accumulated traditions and forming his own interpretations of familiar pieces” (Voix des Arts).

Download Alexander’s full 2016/17 biography


Contact


Video & Audio

Performance Schedule

Online Performances

 
  • 13 Sep 17
    More info  
  • 22 Jul 17 Bartok New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
    Auckland Town Hall
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    Shelley, with full NZSO forces, revelled in the glowing affirmation of this watershed score […], swaying to woodwind and snare-drum syncopations, letting loose with a wicked Shostakovich parody and surrendering to Bartok’s final blast of almost brazen celebration, the English conductor took orchestra and audience to new heights.
    William Dart, New Zealand Herald (July 25th 2017)

  • 02 Jun 16 C. Rouse Percussion Concerto National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    ”…The significantly expanded orchestra rose to the occasion under Shelley’s attentive, laser-beam direction. Among many thrilling moments was a triumphant arch of a horn fanfare, like a distant echo from the gods’ golden halls…”
    Natasha Gautier, Ottawa Citizen (June 2nd 2016)

  • 15 Apr 16 Haydn Orchestra Svizzera Italiana
    Lugano
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    [On Haydn’s Symphony No. 99] ”…the development of the first movement … accompanied solely by the conductor’s left hand, was concerted with care and the gradual escalation led to exciting results. The impeccable choice of tempo and noteworthy decision to slow some bars down – those subsequent to the exposition of the first movement, the trio in the third and in the moments just before the coda in the forth – was pleasantly surprising and maintained an overall cohesion…’’ [Translation]
    Stefano Bazzi, Corriere del Ticino (April 18th 2016)

  • 17 Feb 16 Bizet National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    ”…The evening had opened with Bizet’s Suite No. 1 from Carmen. Again, Shelley conducted with the keen dramatic and rhythmic sense which must have left many listeners hoping he will eventually conduct the complete opera.”
    Charles Pope Jr., concertonet.com (18th February 2016)

  • 23 Jan 16 Weber Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
    Prague
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    ‘’…When performing the Overture to Der Freischutz it is necessary to highlight every colour and dramatic detail. At the hands of Alexander Shelley Weber’s talent stood out … the choice of tempo was perfect. The listener could feel the essence of the entire opera; I wonder what he could accomplish with Mozart’s Don Giovanni…’’ [TRANSLATION]

    ”…Na provedení Předehry k opeře Čarostřelec nutno vyzdvihnout zejména barevnost a dramatičnost provedení. Pod rukama Alexandera Shelleyho vynikla Weberova schopnost … volba tempa byla ideální. Posluchač mohl vnímat děj opery ve zkratce, jakou dovedl vytvořit pouze Mozart ve své předehře k Donu Giovannimu…”
    Libor sen. Nováček, Operaplus.cz (January 25th 2016)

  • 27 Nov 15 Prokofiev RTÉ Concert Orchestra
    Dublin
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    ”From the breezy opening Allegro of Prokofiev’s Symphony no. 1 in D major, visiting conductor Alexander Shelley proved to be a safe pair of hands, keeping a satisfyingly tight rein on the rhythm throughout. The witty lines of music went trippingly along, bouncing off accents and capturing the good-humoured cheer inherent in this work. All sections of the orchestra responded instantly to Shelley’s laconic and at times detached, though always pellucid style of conducting. In the third movement Gavotte, it was sufficient for a mere twitch of his baton to make the strings play up the ironic dance element while in the finale, the strict marshalling of the troops meant that the chasing contrapuntal lines between strings and woodwind bubbled with controlled excitement.”
    Andrew Larkin, Bachtrack.com (28th November 2015)

  • 17 Oct 15 Gershwin, Ravel National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    ”Shelley is a superb musician, with an impressive command of technique and repertoire. He has made intelligent, long-overdue changes to section placement, and is bringing in new blood. The musicians seem more engaged and relaxed, and are certainly playing better than ever.”
    Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen (October 18th 2015)

  • 12 Oct 16 Schumann Beethoven & Schumann Festival - National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    ”… Shelley’s conducting was virile and vigorous, producing robust weight and lofty tone from the orchestra. In the two first Schumann symphonies, Shelley showed deep sensitivity to the composer’s tenderness and emotional vulnerability, as well as his peerless lyricism and bold imagination. The conductor has a clear, decisive concept of these four symphonies as an ensemble. There was a current of bubbling exuberance and volatility in the First Symphony Wednesday night. Shelley crafted curvaceous, fairy-tale phrases; tempi were spirited but dignified, with an action-packed last movement.”
    Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen (October 13th 2016)

  • 26 Apr 16 Weill Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    Cadogan Hall
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    ”A natural communicator on and off the podium, he justified every work’s place in the concert, which had opened with Weill’s Little Threepenny Music. The anticapitalist satire from which this Weimar-era suite is drawn references New York in a number of ways, but its musical DNA stretches back to Bach, something not lost on Shelley, who drew a pungent performance.”
    John Allison, The Times (27th April 2016)

  • 08 Oct 15 Janáček, Elgar, Bartok & Mahler National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    ”NACO’s brass section continues to impress under Shelley, who has rearranged the back row set-up to show off the musicians to their best advantage. The positive changes showed in Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, with glossy, bell-like effects from the horns and trombones. In the first movement, Shelley crafted a hypnotic swell that was oceanic in its grandeur.”
    Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen (October 10th 2015)

  • 16 Sep 15 Di Castri, Elgar & Mahler Opening night as Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    ”Expectations were high and were met impressively, head on. In Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, Shelley brought unwavering transparency to the entire work, almost putting the score under a tonality microscope, relishing every detail and consistently delivering a range of subtle, almost sybaritic dynamics, especially at quieter levels which, to say the least, is rare. The finesse Shelley brought to the Mahler was staggering, and something more commonly heard from a fine string quartet, or from a few legendary pianists from the past like Sviatoslav Richter or Vladimir Horowitz. Indeed, listening to Wednesday evening’s concert I was reminded of the noted British music critic Neville Cardus and his comment that Horowitz “distills the essence of a chord”. One could say something very similar about Shelley’s conducting.”
    Charles Pope Jr., Concertonet.com (September 17th 2015)

  • 12 Mar 15 Mozart The Marriage of Figaro
    Opera North
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    “…From the opening bars of the Overture onwards he [Alexander Shelley] showed an infallible sense of tempo; his balancing of the orchestra, and of the singers against the orchestra, is masterly — many woodwind details were new to me and added significantly to my internal sonic image of Figaro. And he reached his peaks of detailed but forward moving musical drama in the sublime finales to Acts 2 and 4. My touchstones, Figaro’s melody when he complains that he twisted his ankle, built up in a few bars to a hymn; and the astounding passage in the finale to Act 4 where the madness briefly pauses and Figaro invokes mythic heroes to the accompaniment of solemn winds…”
    Michael Tanner, The Spectator (January 31st 2015)

    “…Alexander Shelley has led the Orchestra of Opera North several times in concert, including a prizewinning performance at the Leeds Conductors competition in 2005, but has yet to oversee a stage production. Though his tempos are fairly sedate, he supplies a grace and subtlety that, while the doors are flapping wildly on stage, open an expansive window on to Mozart’s remarkable score…”
    Alfred Hickling, The Guardian (February 1st 2015)

    “…Alexander Shelley breathes fire into this inspired score at the appropriate moments. The overture crackles with energy; the inventive Act II finale is paced to perfection and the excellent balance between the pit and stage enables the singers to project the text to the very top of the house. Shelley’s burgeoning international career to date has focused on the concert hall more than the opera house. It is clear that he gives as much attention to the projection of instrumental “voices” in the orchestra as he does to the human voices on stage. The nuances of Mozart’s resourceful writing for the woodwind and brass could have scarcely been more lovingly shaped by the Orchestra of Opera North than under the baton of this conductor…”
    Geoffrey Mogridge, Opera Britannia (January 26th 2015)

    “…Wittily directed by Jo Davies, crisply conducted by Alexander Shelley, and full of newcomers (new to me, anyway) who prove to have winning stage personas, Opera North’s new Figaro will give a lot of pleasure in its travels this spring…”
    Richard Morrison, The Times (January 26th 2015)

    “…Alexander Shelley, conducting at Opera North for the first time, but familiar from Kirklees concerts, relishes the detail of Mozart’s familiar, but always surprising, score, bringing out all the nuances of the wonderful woodwind writing…”
    William Marshall, Huddersfield Examiner (January 26th 2015)

    “…The show is nicely held together by Alexander Shelley’s conducting. Things began somewhat overemphatically – I felt the overture was being punched rather than played with – but the pulse soon relaxed without losing energy. The net result is a Figaro of exceptional ensemble, rich in charm, humour and vitality: beautifully sung, sensitively staged. For pure enjoyment, what more can opera offer?”
    Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph (January 25th 2015)

  • 19 Feb 15 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    Cadogan Hall
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    “…This first concert conducted by Alexander Shelley since his appointment last month as Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra drew a very full house, doubtless attracted by a combination of the relatively wide-ranging Russian programme and the reputation this compelling young conductor is building. … Thankfully, within the UK, the RPO has been the first major orchestra to secure Shelley’s services, and his new position hopefully will lead to many more appearances in Britain. Shelley’s qualities are considerable: his musicianship and experience are of the highest, his gestures are clear and economical, never exaggerated for ‘effect’, and (at the concerts I have seen with him) he conducts all the purely orchestral items from memory, using the score solely in concertos. Coupled with his profound musicality, the results have been impressive, as we heard again here, the evening opening with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, not as often encountered as it once was, although it remains a brilliant piece and as difficult technically to bring off satisfactorily as ever. Shelley led a thrilling account that was full of energy, but not so much to prevent that wonderfully melodic second subject, beginning with that important F-natural in the cellos, being superbly brought off. … The concert ended with Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. In the 77 years since this masterpiece first appeared, views on the nature of the work have varied, until it is now generally accepted that the extended passage of quasi-rodomontade with which the Symphony ends is the very opposite of the triumph it appears to portray. Nonetheless, these final pages have to be rammed home with all possible conviction, as they were on this occasion, concluding a reading of the Symphony overall and of the highly problematical finale that was well-nigh perfect. The problem facing a conductor of this finale is not to fall prey to the temptation of myriad tempos, for Shostakovich writes a clear (but so often misunderstood) accelerando in the opening pages that actually screws the tension up almost unbearably without overdoing the inherent pulse. In this, Shelley was absolutely spot-on, the music unfolding before us with astonishing clarity and impressive interpretative insight.The frequent misreading of the finale can so often send a fine account southwards, but here it proved to be a wholly compelling conclusion to a reading of the first three movements that were particularly well judged – beautifully measured with each note given its full value, the emotion and character of the music given with natural freedom, the first movement deeply impressive, the rural characterisations of the second flowing admirably (leader Clio Gould a brilliant soloist), and the third movement’s profundity fully explored…”
    Robert Matthew-Walker, Classical Source (February 3rd 2015)

  • 13 Nov 14 Shakespeare's 450th Birthday National Arts Centre Orchestra
    Ottawa
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    “…Alexander Shelley, NACO’s designate music director, was in town for the first of two guest concerts before he officially takes up the mantel next September. Shelley is clearly on a charm offensive with his new audience, although in all fairness this elegant, affable man doesn’t have to try too hard. He opened with an engaging, vivid description of the works on the program (and in impeccable French, too). But in conducting, actions need to speak at least as loudly as words, and Shelley promises to be an eloquent leader.His balletic, extroverted style could not be more different from Pinchas Zukerman’s phlegmatic approach. Where Zukerman stands grounded, Shelley is constantly on the balls of his feet, taut as a greyhound. Conducting from memory all evening, his left hand drew curlicues and spirals in the air, a little showily perhaps; but his right hand was reassuring and meticulous … Shelley’s reading balanced polish with exuberance…”
    Natasha Gauthier, Ottawa Citizen (12th November 2014)

    “…Conducting from memory, Shelley brought authority, finesse and tight control to all of this music, demonstrating he is a musician who knows what he wants and knows how to get results from his players. His lithe, nimble figure and flowing arm directions suggest a dancer as much as a music conductor, all reflecting his intense concentration and keen focus and the orchestra responded consistently well throughout the Nicolai and Korngold works. Shelley’s charisma is as much internal as external…”
    Charles Pope Jr., ConcertoNet.com (November 13th 2014)

  • 10 Mar 14 Dutilleux & Franck Orchestre National de Montpellier
    Montpellier, France
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    “…The concert was masterfully directed.The baton of the magnificent conductor Alexander Shelley danced gracefully throughout the evening. The exceptional control of the maestro was particularly evident when he dispensed with his score, like a tightrope-walker without a safety net, this in the romantic and sublime symphony in D minor of Franck entirely from memory! A talent which seems to predict a beautiful future for the maestro, amply evidenced by the fact that he is so widely in demand  by the greatest orchestras world-wide, such as the Orchestra of Canada’s National Arts Centre where he will take up the post of Music Director in September 2015.

    At the peak of their artistry, the talented musicians of the Opera Orchestre National  de Montpellier and the brilliant  conductor were able to reveal all the beauty of César Franck’s work. Between power and restraint, the passionate notes giving way naturally to moments of tender sweetness in a romantic flow. Each note was controlled, fluid, in its place.  Nothing was missing. Except perhaps an encore,  warmly pleaded for by the enraptured audience…” [TRANSLATION]
    Eléonore Vern, Le Nouveau Montpellier

  • 15 Jan 14 Mozart Cosi fan tutte
    Opéra National de Montpellier
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    “…Cosi fan tutte finishes the cycle [Montpellier Mozart/da Ponte trilogy staged by French metteur en scène and esthète Jean-Paul Scarpitta] again with splendid players from the Orchestra National de Montpellier here conducted by Alexander Shelly. This young English conductor made immediate musical impact in the overture by imposing musical depth rather than dramatic thrust. Each moment of Mozart’s music was explored, there was no beginning nor end…”
    Michael Milenski, Opera Today (January 13th 2014)

  • 19 Nov 13 Borodin, Shostakovich & Rimsky-Korsakov Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec,
    Grand Theatre de Quebec
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    Alexander Shelley Transforms the OSQ
    If you missed this concert, hurry along to the grand theatre this morning for the repeat performance. You will hear the Quebec Symphony Orchestra at its best. Appearing on the rostrum of the OSQ,  Wednesday evening, the conductor Alexander  Shelley transformed the instrumentalists  of every section and every  desk. He respected them and treated them as true musicians from first to last.  As a result, they were with him all the way; put themselves totally at his service; never let go  of him. The performance that emerged was truly exceptional and held the audience spellbound. Alexander Shelley is British.  Barely  into his mid-thirties, he has just been named music director of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. With luck we should see him again in Quebec one of these days. This conductor is not only young, he is inspiring.  He remains in close and continuous contact with the orchestra and it is in this way that he manages to get the best out of them. From the Steppes of Borodin, the first work on the programme, one was aware of the efficiency of his beat, understated, clear, consistent, based on economy of means and discipline, and which completely transcends the technical dimension.  He obtains results of great expressive strength. Like that moment where, in the 121st bar the fortissimo erupts. It was like a cry of joy. The Franco -Belgian cellist N. A. Brought fire to the stage or so it felt with his ardent interpretation of Shostakovich’s concerto. The young man captivates enchant/ mesmerises the audience.  In the cadenza, we sink /decend with him into what seems like a void. Time seems to stand still. One hardly dares breathe. For some moments one comes close to madness. THE OSQ kept the best till after the interval, with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade.  AS drew  diverse  energy  from each movement.   A specific flavour, a unique perfume. Everything was paced to perfection, from the sparkling trombones to the twinkling triangle. The harp has never had such panache. The innocent grace of the charming clarinet duo and of the little drum which open The Young Prince and the Princess led to heights of  mad sensuality.The audience perfectly heard the difference. The hall, full for once, leapt to its feet to cheer orchestra and conductor. [Translation]
    Richard Boisvert, Le Soleil/ La Presse (November 14th 2013)

  • 14 Aug 13 Debussy & Brahms DSO Debut at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival
    Konzertkirche Neubrandenburg
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    “…One was already able to vouch for the artistic authority of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and now one can say the same thing of Alexander Shelley … He let Debussy unfold in all possible colours and forms, created varied images – or their reflections – and turned the sonically diverse moods into a kaleidoscope of living and virtually visible natural phenomenon. In the Brahms he drilled deeper, increased the intensity of sound and heightened the expression…” [TRANSLATION]
    Ekkehard Ochs, Ostsee-Zeitung

  • 08 Feb 13 Verdi Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg
    Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg
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    “…Der Dirigent Alexander Shelley setzte auf schlankes, über weite Strecken filigranes, leises und transparentes Singen und Musizieren. Das ausgezeichnet disponierte Mozarteumorchester lohnte den präzisen Schlag und die souveräne Werkdisposition Shelleys mit delikat durchhörbarem, selbst in den dramatischen Ausbrüchen des „Dies irae“ mit mächtigem Schlagwerk und Ferntrompeten genau fokussierten Klang … Dieses Salzburger Verdi-Requiem war (und ist noch heute, Freitag) eine eigenständige, kluge, überzeugende und ernsthaft durchgestaltete Interpretation. Alexander Shelley empfiehlt sich damit für weitere Aufgaben…”
    Karl Harb, Salzburger Nachrichten

     

    “…Das Mozarteumorchester unter der Leitung von Alexander Shelley brachte diese Achterbahnfahrt der Armen Seelen zu einer packenden Aufführung. Der Salzburger Bachchor – diesmal in Bataillons-Stärke angetreten – stand für die Menge der himmlischen und höllischen Heerscharen.Die Schrecken des Himmels und der Hölle könnten nicht spürbarer

    werden, als in diesem ständigen Wechsel der Extreme. Das Mozarteumorchester zeigte sich – wenige Tage nach Auftritten bei Mozartwoche mit ihren auch nicht geringen Anforderungen – wieder einmal in Bestform. Präzision und Klarheit im Streicherklang, bedrohlich dramatisch gaben sich die Blechbläser, lieblich versöhnlich (sofern sie nicht höllisch zu pfeifen hatten) die Holzbläser: Technisch perfekt sind sie alle miteinander. Auffallend in der insgesamt mitreißenden Aufführung bei der Kulturvereinigung im Großen Festspielhaus war, das der Dirigent Alexander Shelley die dramatischen Teile wohl mit größter Energie und Verve vorüberdonnern, in den lyrisch sängerischen Passagen das Spannungsniveau aber beinahe zu sehr sinken ließ. So manche der elegischen Linien hätte man sich doch spannungsvoller, pulsierender gewünscht. Der bewegende Gesamteindruck der vielfarbig geschilderten Episoden zwischen Tod und Verzweiflung und Hoffnung und Erlösung hat dennoch nicht gelitten…”
    Heidemarie Klabacher, Dreh Punkt Kultur

  • 28 Jan 13 Elgar, Enigma Variations Houston Symphony Orchestra
    Houston, USA
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    ‘…Shelley, principal conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, showed subtle command with a balanced, tasteful reading. After the carefully measured initial statement, each variation found its distinct flavor, yet overall continuity was sustained through the music’s quiet strength and nobility. Shelley showed flair highlighting the droll touches and novel colors in livelier sections yet gave gently flowing movement and warmth to the more deeply felt variations…’
    Everett Evans, The Houston Chronicle

Discography

 
  • Brahms More info  

    Label: Berlin Classics

    Release Date: 20 Mar 15

    Violin Concerto
    Double Concerto

    Violin: Erik Schumann
    Cello: Mark Schumann

    Alexander Shelley
    Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra

  • Daniel Hope - Escape to Paradise More info  

    Label: Deutsche Grammophon

    Release Date: 01 Sep 14

    The Hollywood Album

    Alexander Shelley

    Sting · Max Raabe
    Maria Todtenhaupt · Jacques Ammon

    Quintet of the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin
    Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

Interviews & Podcasts

You can watch Alexander Shelley conduct the Bundesjugendorchester accompanied by the Bundesjugendballett. Recorded at the Philharmonie Berlin and streamed on their Digital Concert Hall, click here to watch now.

BR Klassik did a feature on Alexander Shelley’s open-air concert in 2016 with Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, which is the biggest open-air concert in Europe. Click here to read more.

Click here to watch Alexander Shelley speaking on CTV Canada AM about his opening season with the National Arts Centre Orchestra Ottawa in 2015/16.

Classical Music Magazine featured Alexander Shelley in their March 2014 edition. Click here to read the article.

German video interview with NZ-Klickparade about Alexander’s Chief Music Directorship at the Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra.

You can also hear Alexander discuss the state of Opera with Nicholas Atkinson (principal tuba of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottowa) on their NACOcast from September 17th 2012. Click here to listen now.

Recently the BBC broadcast a short profile featuring Alexander working with his orchestra in Nuernberg and talking about the role of a conductor. To view this exciting insight into Alexander Shelley’s world click here.

Click here to listen to Alexander Shelley in discussion with Houston Public Radio further to his concerts with the Houston Symphony in October 2012.