One of the foremost conductors of his generation, Alexander Shelley is ‘a natural communicator, both on and off the podium’ (the Daily Telegraph), regularly performing across six continents with the world’s finest orchestras and soloists. A passionate and articulate advocate for the role of music in society, he has spearheaded multiple award-winning and ground-breaking projects unlocking creativity in the next generation and bringing symphonic music to new audiences.
‘immaculate, everything crystal clear’
With a conducting technique described as ‘immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality’ (Yorkshire Post), Alexander is known for the precision and integrity of his interpretations, for his creative programming and for the breadth of his repertoire, having led among other things, 36 major world premieres, highly praised cycles of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms symphonies, operas, ballets and innovative multi-media productions.
He collaborates with artists...
…such as Lang-Lang, Joshua Bell, Daniel Hope, Itzhak Perlmamn, Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson alongside some of the finest orchestras of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australasia, including Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Deutsche Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Helsinki, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Malaysian, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras and the Sao Paulo, Houston, Montreal, Toronto, Munich, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand symphony orchestras.
The NAC Orchestra ‘…hungry bold unleashed’
In September 2015 Shelley succeeded Pinchas Zukerman as Music Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, the youngest in its history. The ensemble has since been praised as ‘an orchestra transformed … hungry, bold, and unleashed’ (Ottawa Citizen) and his programming credited for turning the orchestra ‘almost overnight … into one of the more audacious orchestras in North America.’ (Maclean’s Magazine). Together they have undertaken major tours of Canada and Europe, have commissioned ground-breaking projects such as ‘Life Reflected’, ‘Encount3rs’ and ‘UnDisrupted’ and released multiple JUNO award winning albums. In April of 2022 they toured to Carnegie Hall, exploring the theme of “Truth in our Time” with the U.S. premiere of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 13, his ode to freedom of the press, commissioned by the Orchestra as a tribute to Canadian-born journalist Peter Jennings.
In January 2015 Alexander also assumed the role of Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he curates an annual series of concerts at Cadogan Hall and tours both nationally and internationally.
Nürnberger Symphoniker ‘…a golden era’
Having moved to Germany in his late teens to study cello and subsequently conducting, Alexander was 29 when he began his tenure as the the youngest ever Chief Conductor of the Nürnberger Symphoniker, a position he held from September 2009 until August 2017. The partnership was hailed by press and audience alike as a golden era for the orchestra, transforming the ensemble’s playing, education work and international reputation, including tours to Italy, Belgium, China and a re-invitation to the Musikverein in Vienna.
‘the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award’.
Born in London in October 1979 as the son of celebrated concert pianists Howard Shelley and Hilary Macnamara, Alexander began playing the piano as a toddler, later adding the cello. He continued his cello studies with Tim Hugh and Steven Doane in London and with Johannes Goritzki in Düsseldorf, and in masterclass with Aldo Parisot and Mstislav Rostropovich.
Early during his time in Düsseldorf he founded and was Artistic Director of the ‘Schumann Camerata’, a chamber orchestra with whom he toured Russia and created ‘440hz’, a ground-breaking multi-year series of concerts in the Schumann Saal. While in the midst of conducting studies with Thomas Gabrisch, Alexander gained widespread attention when he was unanimously awarded first prize at the 2005 Leeds Conductors’ Competition, praised as ‘the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award.’
As his career on the symphonic stage subsequently flourished so did his operatic credentials, leading productions that have included The Merry Widow and Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Royal Danish Opera); La Bohème (Opera Lyra/National Arts Centre), Louis Riel (Canadian Opera Company/ National Arts Centre), Iolanta (Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen), Così fan Tutte (Opéra National de Montpellier) and The Marriage of Figaro (Opera North).
Next Generation: Youth and Education
In 2016 Alexander was awarded the ECHO prize for his second Deutsche Grammophon recording, “Peter and the Wolf”, and both the ECHO and Deutsche Grunderpreis in his capacity as Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s “Zukunftslabor”, a visionary project of grass-roots engagement, which uses music as a source for social cohesion and integration.
Through his work with the Schumann Camerata and through his leadership roles in Nuremberg, Bremen and Ottawa, inspiring future generations of classical musicians and listeners has always been central to Alexander’s work. He has led the German National Youth Orchestra on multiple tours of Germany and of Africa and works with many thousands of young people a year in outreach projects.
He regularly gives informed and passionate pre- and post-concert talks, as well as numerous interviews and podcasts on the role of classical music in society. He has a wealth of experience conducting and presenting major open-air events – in Nuremberg alone he has, over the course of nine years, hosted more than half a million people at the annual Klassik Open Air concerts – Europe’s largest classical music event.