Alexander Shelley Unveils a Spectacular 2016-17 Season for the NAC Orchestra

Music Director Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra announced the 2016-17 Season today at the National Arts Centre, heralding remarkable guest artists including Joshua Bell, Angela Hewitt, Rick Mercer, Jan Lisiecki, Pinchas Zukerman, and Canadian Brass, amongst the dozens of talented performers who will grace the stage of the NAC.

Season 2016-17 has over 50 concerts featuring some of the world’s greatest classical artists, pop and Broadway stars, and collaborations with visiting orchestras.  The NAC Orchestra will offer great classics, romantics such as Chopin and Rachmaninoff, dazzling entertainment in the pop genre and powerful new Canadian commissions.  

As Alexander Shelley says, “It will be a spectacular season for first-time symphony-goers and lifelong subscribers alike. Some of the most exciting musicians of our time will perform the masterpieces of Brahms, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. I am delighted to present our two-week Beethoven and Schumann Festival, new works and beloved classics reflecting the diversity of music our audiences have come to expect.”

In October, the season opens with internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell performing Brahms’s sublime violin concerto. This follows Mr. Bell’s sold out recital in Southam Hall in March of 2015, and will be his first appearance with the NAC Orchestra in 20 years.

This year’s festival, Beethoven and Schumann: The Intimate Collection, offers the experience of two complete sets of repertoire -- the five Beethoven piano concertos and the four Schumann symphonies. Alexander Shelley has invited an exciting roster of internationally acclaimed pianists for the festival, including Ottawa’s Angela Hewitt, American Jonathan Biss and German Rudolf Buchbinder.  Get set for dazzling virtuosity, passion and soul as each soloist brings a unique voice to the season.

On the music of Robert Schumann, Alexander Shelley offers, “There is a joyful melancholy just on the surface of brooding and fragile emotion. For me, his symphonies should be painted with light brushstrokes, vivid sound palettes, and sharp contrasts.”

The festival continues with a shift from convention, as Alexander Shelley and Petr Canura co-host late night music salons exploring the craft of song writing, from Schumann’s lieder to today’s vibrant Ottawa alt-folk scene.

Adding to the line-up of orchestral performances and talks with singer-songwriters members of the Orchestra and guest Angela Hewitt perform chamber music by Schumann and Beethoven at the National Gallery of Canada on October 15.

Throughout the nine-month concert season, the NAC Orchestra will play host to a dazzling array of artists from across Canada and the world. Renowned international soloists include Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and esteemed American pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. 

Russia’s legendary St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Yuri Temirkanov will make their NAC debut in February with Shostakovich’s monumental fifth symphony. And in June world-renowned Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra will explore the craft of Baroque performance in one of the ensemble’s signature multimedia programs, performing the music of J.S. Bach from memory.

Principal guest conductor John Storgårds will conduct Mozart’s final work and choral masterpiece, his Requiem, in May 2017, and has invited a stellar quartet of soloists: soprano Karina Gauvin, mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy, tenor Andrew Haji (returning after his stunning last minute debut this season in Messiah), and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn.

By commissioning and presenting new works, the NAC Orchestra continues to be a catalyst for creation. In addition to championing new works by Canadians Derek Charke and Gary Kulesha, Alexander Shelley tapped Oscar-winning Canadian composer Howard Shore to write a guitar concerto for sensational classical guitarist Miloš, which will have its world premiere in February 2017. 

As Howard Shore says, "I am so very pleased to be composing a new piece for the brilliant artistry of Miloš and Alexander Shelley.”

NAC Orchestra’s own star principal double bass Joel Quarrington takes a solo turn in a concerto written especially for him by NAC Award Composer Peter Paul Koprowski. The Concertante for Double Bass, Strings and Percussion will have its world premiere on November 16th.

Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration puts Canadian talent in front and centre during the 2016-17 Season.

Anchoring the NAC Orchestra’s celebrations of Canada’s 150th, is a new co-production, with the Canadian Opera Company, of the Harry Somers’1967 opera Louis Riel.  Acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun will sing the title role of the polarizing Métis leader, Alexander Shelley will conduct the NAC Orchestra,  and Peter Hinton, former Director of English Theatre at the NAC, will direct this landmark work about Canada’s westward expansion. This production is made possible by generous donors to the NAC Foundation, including Kimberley Bozak and Philip Deck, Earlaine Collins and TD.

With a groundbreaking new project entitled “Encount3rs”, the NAC Orchestra and NAC Dance have commissioned three new one-act ballets for three Canadian ballet companies. The project features three of Canada’s outstanding choreographic talents Emily Molnar, Jean Grand-Maître, Guillaume Côté with three of the country’s most exciting composers Nicole Lizée, Kevin Lau and Andrew Staniland, in works for (respectively) Ballet BC, Alberta Ballet, and the National Ballet of Canada. Alexander Shelley will conduct the world premiere in April 2017. 

 “The idea of commissioning choreographers and composers together to create original works for a shared program has been a desire of mine for some not only shines a light on the incredible talent of our Canadian artists, it also allows the NAC to uniquely contribute to the canon of Canadian work. I am thrilled to be working with Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra on this significant project in honour of Canada 2017,” says Executive Producer, Dance Cathy Levy.

“Encount3rs” is made possible by the generous donors to the National Arts Centre Foundation who believe in investing in Canadian creators.

Another exciting season of NAC Orchestra Pops opens in November with everyone’s favorite quintet, Canadian Brass. Series highlights include the iconic classic film Casablanca with live music performed by the NAC Orchestra and Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly, an evening of the music of Star Wars hosted by comic actor Charles Ross of “One Man Star Wars” fame, and performances by chanteuse Louise Pitre, and The Tenors.

Rick Mercer headlines the popular TD Family Adventures, with his telling of the classic “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev. Joining Rick onstage on May 20th is Quebec’s Les 7 doigts de la main performing to “Carnival of the Animals”. The all-Canadian series, led by Principal Youth and Family Conductor, Alain Trudel, also features comic soprano Natalie Choquette, hockey legend Ken Dryden, and the acclaimed Platypus Theatre.

Christopher Deacon, Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra is enthusiastic about the upcoming season. “Alexander Shelley’s thoughtful approach to programming is apparent throughout the season. In his second year as Music Director, he will continue to inspire musicians and audiences alike, with fresh interpretation by classical masters celebrating the rich sound and great artistry of the NAC Orchestra.” 

Season highlights include:

Beethoven & Schumann Festival: with Alexander Shelley and piano soloists Angela Hewitt, Jonathan Biss, Conrad Tao, Saleem Ashkar, and Rudolf Buchbinder;

Mozart Requiem with principal guest conductor John Storgårds;

Canadian Brass

World premiere commission by Howard Shore; the Oscar-winning Canadian composer of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack;

The always-sold-out series Music for A Sunday Afternoon at the National Gallery of Canada: hear exceptional soloists in chamber music with members of the NAC Orchestra, including Angela Hewitt, Karen Donnelly, Jethro Marks, Jon Kimura Parker, Measha Brueggergosman, and the Ironwood Quartet;

A new co-production of Harry Somers’ opera Louis Riel by the Canadian Opera Company and the National Arts Centre;

Peter and the Wolf with Rick Mercer;

Casual Fridays with the NAC Orchestra means new artists, new wines, and new culinary adventures for you in 2016-17. Experience performances by superstar Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki and classical guitarist Miloš. Conductor / Hosts for the season are Alexander Shelley and Matthias Pintscher.

This season includes a roster of incredible pianists, performing in all our series -- Air Canada Ovation, Mark Motors Audi Signature, Bravo, and Great Performers:

Saleem Ashkar – Beethoven Piano concerto No. 3;

Jonathan Biss – Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 32, No. 2, “The Tempest” and Piano Concerto No. 2;

Rudolf Buchbinder – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4;

Yefim Bronfman – Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 2;

Ken Dryden – Hockey Sweater

Stewart Goodyear – Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1

Charles Richard-Hamelin – Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23;

Angela Hewitt – Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, Op.79 and Piano Concerto No. 1;

Denis Kozhukhin – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3;

Jan Lisiecki – Chopin Piano Concerto No.1;

Louis Lortie –the complete Chopin Preludes and Etudes in recital;

Rick Mercer – “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev

Jon Kimura Parker – Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2;

Conrad Tao – Schumann Piano Concerto and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto;



In September 2015 Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director with 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. 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.

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 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 NAC 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 on the NAC's performing arts education website These include many of the 100 new Canadian works commissioned by the NAC Orchestra in its 45 year history.


The National Arts Centre Foundation wishes to thank the individual donors and corporate partners who have made the 2016-17 NAC Orchestra season possible. They include title sponsors Air Canada, Mark Motors of Ottawa – Audi, TD, NAC Gala presenting sponsor CIBC, Rogers TV, VIA Rail the official rail partner of the NAC and the Government of Canada.

Special thanks to the generous donors who believe in investing in Canadian creators, including Kimberley Bozak and Philip Deck, Earlaine Collins and TD for Louis Riel, and ENCOUNT3RS.

For their support of youth programming and music education the NAC wishes to acknowledge the supporters of the National Youth and Education Trust, with Lead Partner CIBC and supporters and patrons of the annual NAC Gala and the donors of the NAC Foundation, Corporate Circle and Donors’ Circle.

The NAC is proud of its Share the Spirit program which offers free tickets to deserving children and their families. Thanks to presenting partner Sun Life Financial, major partner Trinity Development Group, as well as the donors who have contributed to Share the Spirit through the NAC Foundation’s Donors’ Circle.



Andrea Ruttan

Communications Officer

NAC Orchestra

Cell: 613-220-5487