Alexander Shelley appointed as Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
New Year's Eve celebrations
Alexander Shelley's Kiwi Odyssey
Click on the link below to watch the final of the 2014 Geneva Piano Competition on 'Arte concert':
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.
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.
“…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 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)
“…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)
“…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)
"...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
"...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
"...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
"...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
"...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
Alexander Shelley Transforms the OSQ [Translation]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 of article from 14. November 2013, Richard Boisvert (Le Soleil/ La Presse)
“...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
"...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 spürbarerwerden, 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 HoffnungHeidemarie Klabacher, Dreh Punkt Kulturund Erlösung hat dennoch nicht gelitten..."
'...The orchestral accompaniment, under the baton of Alexander Shelley, matched the solo playing in spirit and execution. The work's evocative orchestration came across beautifully. The interplay between the winds and the solo violin in the second movement was particularly delicious.Shelley opened the program with Schubert's two-movement Symphony no. 8 in B minor, traditionally called the Unfinished. There is no dearth of theories as to why the composer stopped writing it, but as it stands it is one of his most perfect works, and he may have considered it complete, as Beethoven considered his Opus 111, written at roughly the same time, complete in two movements...'The Ottawa Citizen
'...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
'...There was a remarkable air of expectation in the foyer of Cadogan Hall – one could not remember such a full gathering of concert-goers for what might, on paper, be regarded as a pretty standard programme, for some time, but there was something ‘in the air’. There was something else, too, which struck your correspondent: the number of distinguished musicians in the audience. This doesn’t happen very often, unless the conductor or soloist is an international figure, or has in some other way entered the musical public’s consciousness, but it certainly added an air of excited anticipation.Sharp-eyed members of the audience would have noted something else: there was no conductor’s stand. Clearly, he was to dispense with the music and conduct from memory. Now, an experienced concert-goer (which your correspondent is) will probably, in those few moments of individual thought in which he may indulge before the arrival of any conductor, be reminded of the adage (so familiar at one time that no-one can remember who first said it) that “the score should be in your head, not your head in the score” and welcome the self-assurance of any musician who has such admirable belief in his own abilities. But it can bring dangers: in the course of almost sixty years of regular concert-going, your correspondent can recall the (thankfully) few occasions when a score-less conductor has suffered a lapse of concentration and become embarrassingly flummoxed at a momentary loss of memory, only to be rescued by a dependable orchestra leader.Such thoughts did pass through my mind before this concert began, not least the fact that Richard Strauss’s Don Juan has arguably the most difficult beginning of any repertoire piece: Alexander Shelley was certainly risking a lot, even before we had heard a note. In the event, by bar four one’s fears proved groundless. Not only was this opening string flourish immaculately played, but the command of this 32-year-old conductor was such as to grab the attention – not only of the musicians but also of the members of his audience, distinguished or not – and hold it throughout. One can write about how experienced a concert-goer one is and how rather hard-bitten as a critic one may have become, but the thrill of encountering for the first time a musician of considerable gifts and extraordinarily impressive interpretative qualities – in other words, a musician who one can readily imagine has all the qualities required to become a great conductor – well, it happens very rarely, but it happened here at Cadogan Hall. Shelley inspired the Royal Philharmonic to play at the top of its game: that, in itself, is no mean feat, but the result was a totally, profoundly impressive account of Don Juan that has not, in my experience, been equalled since I heard Sir Thomas Beecham conduct this very work with this very orchestra (as was) in the Royal Festival Hall in the mid-1950s. This was a great performance, believe you me.Shelley wisely used a score for Elgar’s Cello Concerto. The soloist was the excellent Guy Johnston, who caught the mood of this (still, in many ways) elusive masterpiece to perfection. After the high-powered wide-ranging moods of the Strauss, it was no little achievement to enter Elgar’s world of immediate post-World War One contemplation, and to make convincing sense of it: Johnston, Shelley, and the Royal Philharmonic delivered a wonderful performance.And so to Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, no less; Shelley’s was once again without music – nothing, it seemed, was to come between this conductor and his musicians. And what that first half had led us to hope for came most assuredly to pass: a performance of this indestructible masterpiece that was total – total in its penetration and depth, in its profound musical understanding and in its extraordinary quality of reaching out to the audience as if for the first time: this was not Shelley’s Sibelius Fifth Symphony – it was Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. The details remain fresh in my memory: I hope they never fade. I have rarely heard the preparation for the concluding pages so superbly paced and prepared as they were on this occasion: the elision to 3/4 in the first movement – a Becher’s Brook of a symphonic passage – was positively life-enhancing and so completely, convincingly organic as to make one cheer. It was all as good as this.I have no doubt, on this one showing, that I was in the company of a conductor of superlative gifts; Alexander Shelley’s technique is splendid, never exaggerated and always clear and direct, yet equally propelled musically by a deep understanding of the passage in question, where the particular phrase is going and why, and its place within the overall symphonic picture. He is, despite his relative youth, an experienced orchestral musician himself who has played under some of the most admired conductors on the planet; the roster of international orchestras he has conducted is impressive and he is already Principal Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra – but why has he been snapped up by a good German orchestra whilst we in this country offer our native conductors so little in the way of the encouragement that such as he (not that there are so many of his quality) manifestly deserve?Only one of the five permanent BBC orchestras is conducted by a Briton; we have come to expect foreign conductors of our publicly-funded orchestras as a matter of course, in much the same way as we expect Polish plumbers to turn up when we have a leak. But if it means catching the Eurostar to hear Alexander Shelley in Nuremburg, then even a day out, Wallace and Gromit style, would be worth it. Hopefully the Royal Philharmonic will invite Shelley back. We shall see...'Robert Matthew-Walker, ClassicalSource.com