In September 2015 Alexander Shelley took up the mantle as Music Director, leading a new era for the National Arts Centre’s Orchestra. Shelley has an unwavering reputation as one of Europe’s leading young conductors, notably as Chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and most recently as the Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Formed in 1969 at the opening of Canada’s National Arts Centre, the NAC Orchestra gives over 100 performances a year with renowned artists including Itzhak Perlman, Renée Fleming, James Ehnes, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma. It is noted for the passion and clarity of its performances and recordings, its ground-breaking teaching and outreach programs, and nurturing of Canadian creativity.
Since its inception the Orchestra has commissioned 80 works, mostly from Canadian composers. In 2001 it inaugurated the National Arts Centre Awards for Canadian Composers and the recipients thus far have been Denys Bouliane, John Estacio, Peter Paul Koprowski, Gary Kulesha, Alexina Louie and Ana Sokolovic.
Previous NAC Orchestra Music Directors include Pinchas Zukerman, Mario Bernardi and Trevor Pinnock. The 2015-16 season features Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds , Alain Trudel as Principal Youth and Family Conductor and Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly completing the strong artistic team.
In addition to a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season, tours are undertaken to regions throughout Canada and around the world, most recently to China (2013) and the UK (2014). The latter commemorated the start of the First World War and explored themes of remembrance and healing through music in over 50 education and performance events. Following the footsteps of Canadian troops 100 years ago, it showcased the brilliant work of Canadian composers and the NAC Orchestra’s musicians, both as performers and as educators, and received standing ovations in packed halls throughout the UK.
In 1999, Pinchas Zukerman founded the NAC Young Artists Program, part of the wider NAC Summer Music Institute, which provides elite training to talented young musicians. Students all over the world are also taught via videoconferencing in the NAC’s cutting-edge Hexagon Studio. The Orchestra also created and continues to pioneer education work locally and in indigenous communities in northern Canada.
The NAC Orchestra has made over 40 commercial recordings, including Angela Hewitt’s 2014 Juno Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos conducted by Hannu Lintu. Many more concerts are freely available through NACmusicbox.ca on the NAC’s performing arts education website ArtsAlive.ca. These include many of the 100 new Canadian works commissioned by the NAC Orchestra in its 45 year history.