Experience Soul-Stirring Music with the NAC Orchestra’s Spectacular 2017-18 Season

OTTAWA (Canada) – Today, Music Director, Alexander Shelley and the National Arts Centre Orchestra announced the 2017-18 Season, heralding remarkable guest artists including Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Lang Lang, Branford Marsalis, Angela Hewitt, Karen Gomyo, and Joshua Bell amongst the dozens of talented performers who will grace the stage of the NAC.

Season 2017-18 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 classical music’s most loved composers like Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart and Brahms, dazzling entertainment in the pop genre and powerful new Canadian commissions.  

As Alexander Shelley says, “This season the NAC invites you to explore the theme of ‘Heroes and Heroines,’ in which our outstanding Orchestra will bring the essence of iconic characters and historical figures to life.  You’ll hear Korngold’s Robin Hood, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade, Ravel’s Pavane, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, and Beethoven’s ode to the heroic power of human friendship, his Ninth Symphony.”

In September, the season opens with the world’s most famous violinist Itzhak Perlman who performs a musical love letter to the movies. Perlman brings remarkable artistry, joy, and charisma to the music from Casablanca, Cinema Paradiso, Out of Africa, Sabrina, Schindler’s List – and many more.

On September 16, Iconic Canadian super star k.d. lang headlines the 21st annual NAC Gala, in support of youth and education programming. The iconic Canadian super star k.d. lang—the Grammy- and Juno-Award winning singer/songwriter and her band, will take to the Southam hall stage, in a performance that celebrates the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking album Ingénue.

This season’s 12-day festival in October, Ideas of North, marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and Finland’s centennial year, and audiences are invited to hear, see and taste the North through a five-part program. In music: Sibelius’ massive orchestral textures meet the asceticism of Glenn Gould as the link between the traditions of the Inuit and the Sami are explored. In Dance: One of Finland’s leading cultural exports, Tero Saarinen Company, graces the stage with a muscular and poetic work. In architecture: a lecture series highlights the exceptionally innovative features of Nordic arts centres. In video: ideas of the North are transformed by cutting-edge creations by young Canadian videographers. And in food: The extraordinary regional flavours of the North are enhanced by contemporary culinary techniques. No matter when you visit the NAC during the twelve days of Ideas of North, you’re sure to make exciting discoveries.

Throughout the ten-month concert season, the NAC Orchestra will play host an array of exceptional orchestras from across Canada and the world: China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra performing Brahms, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with violinist James Ehnes in a performance of Brahms and Elgar, and a visit by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart and Bruckner.

Our brilliant Principal Guest conductor John Storgårds returns for another exceptional season. In May, Mozart’s Symphony No. 39. will get a fresh treatment, when he leads the orchestra, in a concert featuring Dutch Cellist Harriet Krijgh performing Haydn’s elegant cello concerto. In January, Storgårds will lead the NAC orchestra in an electrifying program of Russian masterpieces, Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 and Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 3.

By commissioning and presenting new works, the NAC Orchestra continues to be a catalyst for creation. In addition to championing new works by Canadian composers Vivian Fung and Zosha Di Castri, the new season also features Matthew Whittall’s Nameless Seas, a new piano concerto for Angela Hewitt, co-commissioned with PianoEspoo in Finland will have its world premiere October 5, 2017.

On December 22, we will see the return of the undisputed holiday favourite Handel’s Messiah led by Alexander Shelley. December 20, includes a performance the whole family will love. Kathy Stinson and Dusan Petricic’s celebrated children’s book The Man with the Violin is transformed multi-media work by composer Anne Dudley, Normal studio and world renowned violinist Joshua Bell. This is the Canadian premiere of an NAC Orchestra co-commission with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Another exciting season of NAC Orchestra Pops opens in November with Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly and the iconic film An American In Paris with its lively score by George and Ira Gershwin, including the timeless songs “Embraceable You” and “I’ve Got Rhythm.” The series highlights include: Disney in Concert: A Dream is a Wish (December 14-16) a mesmerizing evening of song and storytelling, The Doo Wop Project (March 15-17) will trace the evolution of doo-wop from classic 1950’s five-part harmony to today’s biggest hits, The best of Broadway (April 16-28), The Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel (February 8-10) and Let’s Dance! An electrifying showcase of music and dancing from swing, jazz, 1950’s bop, the waltz, cha-cha and much more, led by conductor Jeff Tyzik.

The popular TD Family Adventures Series kicks off in January 2018, with The Firebird, marking the NAC debut of the internationally-acclaimed Enchantment Theatre Company. In February, 2018, the NAC Orchestra teams up with the creative engines of at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, pHacktory, and Artengine, and invites audiences to “Hack the Symphony” with audacious explorations of sound and symphonic classics. Principal Youth and Family Conductor, Alain Trudel, leads a performance of Vivaldi and the Four Seasons (April 21, 2018), and on May 26, 2018 Superheroes abound when Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra and the Ottawa Youth Orchestra join forces in an afternoon of movie and classical favourites.


Season highlights include:

Canadian premiere commission of Kathy Stinson and Dusan Petricic’s celebrated children’s book The Man with the Violin. The book is transformed into a multi-media work by composer Anne Dudley, Normal studio and world renowned violinist Joshua Bell. This is the Canadian premiere of an NAC Orchestra co-commission with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Ideas of North Festival: with Alexander Shelley, John Storgards, pianist Angela Hewitt, violinist Karen Gomyo, Finlan’s vocal ensemble Rajaton, Lapland Chamber Orchestra, and violinists Jonathan Crow, Andrew Wan and Yosuke Kawasaki;

The NAC Gala with iconic Canadian superstar k.d. lang;

The NAC debut of Solti Award-winning conductor Karina Canellakis;

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. This year’s guests include saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trombonist Alain Trudel and violinist John Storgårds.

Matthew Whittall’s Nameless Seas, a new piano concerto for Angela Hewitt, co-commissioned Finland’s PianoEspoo festival.

The return of Handel’s Messiah led by Alexander Shelley;

Casual Fridays with the NAC Orchestra means new artists, new wines, and new culinary adventures for you in 2017-18. Experience performances by superstar violinist Karen Goymo, master saxophonist Branford Marsalis and Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh. Conductor / Hosts for the season are Alexander Shelley, Andrey Boreyko, and John Storgards.

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

Emmanuel Ax – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”,

Alice Sara Ott – Grieg Piano Concerto

Alain Lefèvre – Walter Boudreau Concerto de l’asile

Beatrice Rana – Brahms Piano concert No. 1

Angela Hewitt – The Bach Odyssey: Part IV

Stephen Hough – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1

Boris Giltburg – Shostakovich Piano concerto No. 2

Louis Lortie – Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24

Itzhak Perlman – Cinema Serenade

Pinchas Zukerman – Haydn Violin Concerto

Karen Goymyo – Sibelius Violin Concerto  

Alina Ibragimova – Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1

Jessica Linnebach – Bartok Violin concerto No. 2

Yosuke Kawasaki – Alexina Louie Concerto for Three Violins

John Storgards – Kaija Saariaho's violin concerto, Graal théâtre

James Ehnes – Brahms Violin 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 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.



The National Arts Centre Foundation wishes to thank the individual donors and corporate partners who have made the 2017-18 NAC Orchestra season possible. They include title sponsors Air Canada, Mark Motors Group of Companies, TD, Peng Lin and Yu Gu, NAC Gala presenting sponsor Rogers, Rogers TV, VIA Rail the Official Rail Partner of the NAC and the Government of Canada. 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 Rogers 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 Sponsor Sun Life Financial, a Donor- Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Ottawa at the Associate Partner level, and Supporting Partners The Honourable John Manley, P.C. O.C. & Mrs. Judith Manley, Glenview Management Limited and the Leacross Foundation, as well as other donors who have contributed to Share the Spirit through the NAC Foundation Donors’ Circle.



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Andrea Ruttan

Communications Officer

NAC Orchestra

Cell: 613-220-5487