Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the Orchestra performs a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season, featuring world-class artists such as James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki, and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009 - 2017), he has been in demand around the world, conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Stockholm Philharmonic, among others, and maintains a regular relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.
National and international tours have been a hallmark of the National Arts Centre Orchestra from the very beginning. The Orchestra has toured 95 times since its inauguration in 1969, visiting 120 cities in Canada, as well as 20 countries and 138 cities internationally. In recent years, the orchestra has undertaken performance and education tours across Canada, as well as the U.K. and China. In 2019, the Orchestra marked its 50th anniversary with a seven-city European tour that included performances and education events in England, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, and that showcased the work of six Canadian composers.
The NAC Orchestra has recorded many of the more than 80 new works commissioned since its inception, for radio and on over 40 commercial recordings. These include Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos; the groundbreaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by Jocelyn Morlock, winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year; and from the 2019 JUNO nominated New Worlds, Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year.
The NAC Orchestra reaches a national and international audience through touring, recordings, and extensive educational outreach. The Orchestra performed on Parliament Hill for the 2019 Canada Day noon concert in a live broadcast for CBC Television.
Frank Martin was a Swiss composer, active in his native Switzerland and in the Netherlands during his lifetime. His musical style, which matured over a long period, is distinguished by an unorthodox eclecticism, shaped by the absorption of many types of music. A key influence was the music of J.S. Bach. He also experimented with Bulgarian and Indian rhythms, as well as ancient and folk music; other contemporary elements such as jazz and Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique he adapted for his own ends. Martin’s command of harmonic colour and instrumental timbre, combined with dynamic rhythms and a strong sense of drama, has made his music—particularly for orchestra—popular among performers. Among his works for large ensemble are several concertos and “ballades” (pieces for solo instrument and group accompaniment); his catalogue also contains music for the stage (incidental music, ballets, operas, oratorio), choir, solo voice, and chamber ensemble of various instrumental combinations.
Born in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 15, 1890, Martin began to compose when he was eight years old. He was given lessons in piano, harmony, and composition by Joseph Lauber, his sole music teacher. Despite being certain by age 16 that he wanted a career in music, Martin did not enter a conservatory for further studies; he opted instead to study physics and mathematics but did not finish the course. After the First World War, he lived in Zürich, Rome, and Paris, before moving back to Geneva in 1926. Upon his return, he became a student of Swiss composer Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and his method of rhythmic musical education (i.e., Dalcroze eurythmics, through which musical concepts are taught through movement). After two years, Martin became a teacher of rhythmic theory at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva.
Over the next decades, Martin pursued a range of professional activities, including as a performing pianist and harpsichordist, and taking on various teaching and administrative positions, such as a lecturer on chamber music at the conservatory, and director of the school Technicum Moderne de Musique. From 1943 to 1946, he was president of the Swiss Musicians’ Union. In 1946, Martin moved to the Netherlands, residing first in Amsterdam, and eventually settling in Naarden. From 1950 to 1957, he taught a composition class for the Cologne Hochschule für Music. Later, he travelled internationally to perform his works; his music became established in the concert repertories of choirs and orchestras, and he was the recipient of many awards and honours. Martin died in Naarden, on November 21, 1974.
By Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
Aaron Copland is considered to be one of the 20th century’s most enduringly successful of American composers. His substantial compositional catalogue is comprised of music for the stage (ballet, opera, and incidental music), screen (two documentaries and six films), radio, orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble, solo piano, and voice and piano. His musical style is considered distinctively American, bearing the influences of popular music, jazz, and folk music from Anglo-, African-, and Latin-American as well as Jewish sources. The works audiences find most appealing contain music of restrained emotional directness, often evoking a pastoral American ideal. Copland was also active as a pianist, conductor, and a prolific writer on music, including two notable music appreciation texts, What to Listen for in Music and Our New Music. An important mentor to several generations of composers, he was instrumental in the development of 20th-century art music in the Americas.
Born on November 14, 1900, in Brooklyn, New York, Copland had formal piano lessons from age 13, and studied theory and composition through private instruction from Rubin Goldmark. Attending concerts, operas, and dance performances were also a formative part of his musical education. In 1921, he went to Paris for further studies in piano with Ricardo Viñes and composition with Nadia Boulanger, who was his most significant teacher. While there, Copland voraciously absorbed the city’s cultural offerings and frequently travelled around Europe. In 1924, by Boulanger’s arrangement, his Organ Symphony was given its American premiere by the New York Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Thereafter, the latter’s conductor, Serge Koussevitsky, became a notable commissioner and champion of Copland’s music.
Although he initially struggled to earn his living as a composer (critics were fickle), Copland was determined to help himself and his American colleagues. Over the next two decades, he tirelessly organized concerts; was active in New York’s League of Composers, led the American Composers Alliance, and co-founded the American Music Center; and wrote about American music in journals, newspapers, and magazines. By the late 1940s, having achieved wide popularity and critical acclaim from his patriotic pieces, ballets (especially Appalachian Spring), and film scores, Copland was regarded as America’s leading composer of his day.
In the early 1950s, Copland’s long-held socialist sympathies and activism made him the target of anti-communist smear campaigns; and he endured questioning by a Congressional subcommittee (he denied being a communist). Ultimately, his reputation was unaffected; as he continued to compose, lecture, teach, and write, he accumulated numerous honours and awards as well as major recognition abroad. Beginning in 1958, he embarked on an international conducting career, leading performances of his own works and those of other American composers for over 20 years. After 1972, he ceased to compose, and began to suffer memory lapses, eventually living with the effects of dementia. Copland died on December 2, 1990, a few weeks after his 90th birthday, in North Tarrytown, New York.
By Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jethro Marks (principal)**
David Marks (associate principal)**
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)**
Max Cardilli (guest principal)*
Hilda Cowie (acting assistant principal)
Joanna G’froerer (principal)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
Darren Hicks (guest principal)*
Christopher Millard (principal)**
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
Donald Renshaw (principal)
Chris Lee (principal)
Feza Zweifel (principal)
ASSISTANT PERSONNEL MANAGER
Non-titled members of the Orchestra are listed alphabetically