Howard Shelley

Howard Shelley

Piano

• Born 1950

Biography

A fixture of the Hyperion label's Romantic Piano Concerto series, pianist Howard Shelley has also specialized in the music of Rachmaninov, and in British music of the 20th century. He often conducts from the keyboard.

Shelley was born March 3, 1950, in London. His early skills were prodigious; he made his debut at the age of ten on BBC television and graduated from the Royal College of Music in London at 21. In 1972, he made his debut at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, and he has been a frequent presence both there and on BBC broadcast outlets. Shelley's focus on Rachmaninov was most pronounced in the 1980s. He began a complete series of recordings of that composer's solo piano works on the Hyperion label in 1982, and the following year he performed them all in a marathon over several days at Wigmore Hall in London. Shelley recorded Rachmaninov's four piano concertos for Chandos in 1989 & 1990. By that time, he had already begun conducting, both from the keyboard and, in non-keyboard works, from the podium. He was associate conductor and then principal guest conductor of the London Mozart Players in the early 1990s. He also made guest appearances with top British orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. Later, Shelley performed a complete cycle of Beethoven's concertos with the BBC Philharmonic.

Shelley has recorded prolifically for Hyperion and Chandos, often issuing several albums in the course of a single year. He has often recorded the music of post-Classical composers such as Cramer and Clementi. That specialization grew into a major series of recordings for Hyperion under the auspices of its series The Romantic Piano Concerto, which aimed at a large-scale excavation of forgotten 19th century works. On these recordings, Shelley often conducted the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from the keyboard. By 2019, the series had reached its 78th volume, with Shelley performing and conducting the piano concerto of the young Clara Schumann, as well as concertos by Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Henri Herz, and Ferdinand Hiller. A second Hyperion series, The Classical Piano Concerto, launched in 2014 with Shelley again as pianist/conductor.

Appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2009, Shelley is married to pianist Hilary Macnamara. The couple have a son, Alexander Shelley, who is a conductor, and Howard Shelley has performed under his baton.

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