Alexander Shelley conductor born 1979

Alexander Shelley dirigent

Alexander Shelley, whose parents are professional musicians, has studied conducting with Professor Thomas Rabrisch and has worked closely with Yan-Pascal Torelier as conductor. In 2005, he won the prestigious first prize at the Leeds Conductors Competition. He regularly conducts programs for the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and has conducted the NAC Orchestra Ottawa, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Caracas, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Stockholm Philharmonic and the Orchester Nationale Bordeaux.

Alexander Shelley conductor born 1979

Alexander Shelley (born 8 October 1979, London, England) is an Echo Music Prize-winning English conductor. He is currently music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, as well as principal associate conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Shelley was the unanimous winner of the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition. From 2009 to 2017 he was chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. He is also artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s Echo and Deutsche Gründerpreis winning ”Zukunftslabor”.


The son of the pianists Howard Shelley OBE and Hilary Macnamara, Alexander Shelley learned piano from his mother and cello from his grandmother.  In 1992, he won a music scholarship to Westminster School from The Hall School Hampstead. He studied cello with Timothy Hugh, Steven Doane and Johannes Goritzki at the Royal College of Music and at the Robert Schumann Hochschule, Düsseldorf respectively.

Master-classes with Mstislav Rostropovich, Janos Starker and Aldo Parisot led him to France, Italy and North America. Alexander Shelley was a member of the World Orchestra for Peace during the 2003 tour with Valery Gergiev. He studied conducting with Professor Thomas Gabrisch  in Düsseldorf and worked closely with Yan-Pascal Tortelier as his assistant conductor, among others with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

Early career

In 2001,  while still studying in Düsseldorf, he founded the Schumann Camerata, a chamber orchestra with whom he subsequently performed over 80 concerts, including a substantial tour of Russia, with performances in Moscow, Kazan, Simbirsk, Samara, Saratov, Volgograd and Astrachan. In 2005, he won first prize in the 2005 Leeds Conductors Competition, with the press describing him as ”the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award.

”440Hz” project

His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality.”  In the same year, Alexander Shelley conceived the ”440Hz” project, a series of concerts involving prominent German television and stage personalities, to attract young adults to the concert hall.   Guest artists have included Konrad Beikircher, Götz Alsmann&Band, Wise Guys (band), Blank & Jones, BASTA, Ensemble Six, Miki, Curse, Reen, Mellow Mark, Ono, Chima, Marlies Petersen and Ralf Bauer.

In 2009, Alexander Shelley became Artistic Director of the Zukunftslabor project of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen  with whom he went on to win the 2012 Echo Klassik award in the category of Youth Engagement.

Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra

In September 2009, Alexander Shelley was named the youngest ever Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, with an initial contract of four years. In 2011, his contract was extended to 2017.

During his tenure the orchestra dramatically increased their international touring, travelling t o China, Italy, the Czech Republic and Austria. Live recordings of their performances in Vienna’s Musikverein and Prague’s Smetana Hall were released on Colosseum Records.

For nine consecutive years Alexander Shelley conducted and presented Nuremberg’s ‘Klassik Open Air’ concerts – Europe’s largest annual classical concerts – performing to a combined audience of over 500,000. His final concert was attended by over 80,000 people.
He concluded his Nuremberg tenure at the close of the 2016–2017 season.

Alexander Shelley´s first album for Deutsche Grammophon, with Daniel Hope and the Stockholm Philharmonic, was released in September 2014. Alexander Shelley’s second album for Deutsche Grammophon, a recording of Peter and the Wolf with Germany’s National Youth Orchestra featuring Die Toten Hosen singer Campino, was awarded the Echo Klassik prize in 2016.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

In January 2015, after several years of collaborations as a guest conductor, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra named Alexander Shelley its principal associate conductor, curating an annual series in London’s Cadogan Hall, as well as touring nationally and internationally with the orchestra.

Alexander Shelley has focused on a variety of themes in his Cadogan Hall programming, including:

2015/ 2016 season: ‘Paris to New York’, celebrating the wide variety of styles and influences on the transatlantic musical output of the 1920s and 1930s.  2016/ 2017 season: ‘Symphonic Soundscapes’, exploring the music of Sibelius and Prokofiev on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. 2017/ 2018 season: ‘Myths and Fairytales’, which featured the many scores that have taken inspiration from the literature of myths and fairytales.  2018/2019 season: ‘Seeking New Horizons’, a series of concerts that looks at the influence of immigration on the music of the last 150 years. 2019/2020 season: ’Composer 360’, exploring musical influences and relationships that inspired great composers.

National Arts Centre Orchestra

In October 2013, the NACO announced the appointment of Alexander Shelley as its youngest ever Music Director, succeeding Pinchas Zukerman as of the 2015–2016 season, with an initial contract of 4 years.  In 2018. it was announced that Alexander Shelley had renewed his contract as Music Director of the NAC Orchestra through to 2023.

Major creative projects since the beginning of Alexander Shelley tenure have included the commissioning of ”Life Reflected”, a multi-media exploration of the lives of four Canadian women (Rita Joe, Roberta Bondar, Alice Munro and Amanda Todd)   and ENCOUNT3RS, a set of three new ballets in collaboration with the National Ballet of Canada, Ballet BC and Alberta Ballet Company.  The seven new scores that Shelley and the NAC Orchestra commissioned for these projects were recorded on the Analekta label in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

For two years running, works commissioned and recorded by Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra won the Juno Award in the Classical Composition of the Year category, with Jocelyn Morlock winning in 2018 for her work ’My Name is Amanda Todd’ from NAC Orchestra’s Life reflected album, and Ana Sokolovic winning in 2019 for ’Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes’ from the NAC Orchestra’s album Bounds of our Dreams.

Alexander Shelley has led two major tours with the NAC Orchestra. In 2017, Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra undertook a cross-country tour of Canada in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.  In the spring of 2019, Alexander Shelley led the NAC Orchestra on a landmark European tour in celebration of the National Arts Centre’s 50th Anniversary. Over 17 days, they travelled to Saffron-Walden, London, Paris, Utrecht, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg.

The tour marked the first international performances of the NAC Orchestra’s flagship Life Reflected project. Entitled CROSSINGS, the tour included eight concerts featuring four internationally renowned Canadian soloists: Jan Lisiecki, James Ehnes, Erin Wall and David D Q Lee.

Each and every concert included at least one major work by a Canadian composer. The tour also included 60 learning activities and community events. Wherever they went, Alexander Shelley and NAC Orchestra musicians worked with community partners and young musicians to share their passion, make some music, and offer workshops and master classes.

Guest conducting

Alexander Shelley appears as a guest conductor on 6 continents. Alongside his positions in Ottawa and London, regular collaborators include Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and more recently Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo.

Alexander Shelley has a close relationship with Germany’s National Youth Orchestra (Bundesjugendorchester), having led them on two separate tours of Germany. In November 2018 the orchestra sat side by side with the National Arts Centre Orchestra for a performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.  In the summer of 2019 Alexander Shelley led the Bundesjugendorchester on a tour of Germany and Africa.

To date, Alexander Shelley has conducted over 32 world premiere performances.


Alexander Shelley’s professional opera conducting debut was for Royal Danish Opera in 2008, conducting a production of The Merry Widow. He has since led productions of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette (Royal Danish Opera), Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte (Opéra national de Montpellier)  and Marriage of Figaro (Opera North),  La Bohème (Opera Lyra)  and Louis Riel (Canadian Opera Company/ National Arts Centre).

Personal and philanthropy

Alexander Shelley and his wife Zoe, a personal trainer and fitness model, were married in July 2011 at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge. They have one son, Sasha Felix Shelley, born in Ottawa on August 25, 2018.

Alexander Shelley is the Dance4Life Ambassador for Germany and patron of House meets Charity e.v.  Along with Angela Hewitt, he is one of the two current OrKidstra Ambassadors.


2010 Nürnberger Symphoniker Live in Prag (Nürnberger Symphoniker and Oliver Triendl on Colosseum Records)

2011 Nürnberger Symphoniker Live in Wien (Nürnberger Symphoniker on Colosseum Records)

2014 Escape to Paradise (Stockholm Philharmonic and Daniel Hope on Deutsche Grammophon)

2015 Brahms Violin Concerto/ Double Concerto (Nürnberger Symphoniker, Eric Schumann, Mark Schumann on Berlin Classics)

2015 Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood (Bundesjugendorchester, Alice Cooper on Deutsche Grammophon) (ECHO Klassik 2016)

2017 Life Reflected (National Arts Centre Orchestra on Analekta); Encount3rs (National Arts Centre Orchestra on Analekta)

2018 New Worlds (National Arts Centre Orchestra on Analekta)

2018 Bounds of our Dreams (National Arts Centre Orchestra on Analekta)

2019 American Recorder Concertos (Copenhagen Philharmonic, Michala Petri)

2020 Darlings of the Muses (National Arts Centre Orchestra, Gabriela Montero on Analekta)

Music Director

Alexander Shelley was appointed Music Director-designate of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in October 2013 and will take up the position of Music Director in September 2015. In 2015 he  enters his seventh year as Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra where he has transformed the orchestra’s playing, education work and touring activities which have included tours to Italy, Belgium, China and a re-invitation to the Musikverein in Vienna. In January 2015 Shelley was named Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he will curate and perform a series of concerts at Cadogan Hall each season.

He is in demand from orchestras around the world including the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Stockholm Philharmonic, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Simon Bolivar, Seattle and Houston Symphony Orchestras.  Further afield Alexander is a regular guest with the top Asian and Australasian orchestras.

The 2014/15 season and beyond includes regular appearances in Ottawa and Nuremberg and guest engagements with, among others, Camerata Salzburg, Czech Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Gothenburg Symphony,  Helsinki Philharmonic, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, NDR Hannover, Melbourne Symphony, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, and the Royal Philharmonic. His first recording for Deutsche Grammophon, an album with Daniel Hope and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, was released in September 2014.

På Danska

Som chefdirigent for Nürnberg Symfoniorkester skal Alexander Shelley i sæsonen 2010/2011 turnere til Italien, Belgien og Musikverein i Wien. I Danmark har han dirigeret en koncertrække med nyere klassisk musik specielt for unge i Tivolis,koncertsal under navnet 440 Hz (kammertonen),et program, som han i øvrigt også optrådte med på Roskilde Festivalen i 2008. Han har stået i spidsen for Nytårskoncerten 2009 på Det Kongelige Teater og for Nytårskoncerten 2010 Tivolis Koncertsal. Shelleys debut som operadirigent fandt sted i 2008 på Det Kongelige Teater i forbindelse med Den glade enke.

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