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The National Arts Centre Orchestra (NAC Orchestra) is a Canadian orchestra based in Ottawa, Ontario led by Music Director Alexander Shelley. The NAC Orchestra's primary concert venue is the eponymous National Arts Centre. Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 90 works, mostly from Canadian composers. The NAC Orchestra releases two recordings per year. The Orchestra has visited more than 125 cities in Canada and more than 130 cities internationally in its 50-year history, including a coast-to-coast Canadian tour in 1999 and again in 2016. Most recently in May 2019, the NAC Orchestra completed a major European tour, performing and delivering education events five countries in 7 cities and .

National Arts Centre Orchestra
Concert hallNational Arts Centre Southam Hall
Principal conductorAlexander Shelley


The NAC Orchestra was founded in 1969 as the resident orchestra of the newly opened National Arts Centre, with Jean-Marie Beaudet as Music Director and Mario Bernardi as founding conductor. Bernardi became Music Director in 1971 and held the post until 1982. The NAC Orchestra undertook first international tour in 1973 to Europe, travelling as far as Leningrad.[1] The NAC Orchestra has remained committed to touring internationally, averaging approximately one tour per every two years. Previous tours have taken them to the UK, China, the United-States of America, and all over Europe.

Beaudet and Bernardi are the only Canadian conductors to be appointed Music Director of the NAC Orchestra. Bernardi was named Conductor Laureate in 1997. Subsequent NAC Orchestra music directors have included Franco Mannino (1982 to 1987), Gabriel Chmura (1987 to 1990), and Trevor Pinnock (1991-1997). From 1999 to 2015, Pinchas Zukerman was the NAC Orchestra's Music Director.[2] The orchestra expanded to 61 players during Zukerman's tenure.[3] In October 2013, the NAC Orchestra announced the appointment of Alexander Shelley as its next music director, as of the 2015-2016 season, with an initial contract of 4 years.[4][5] In 2018, the NAC announced that his contract was renewed through to 2022.

Franz-Paul Decker was Principal Guest Conductor from 1991 to 1999. In 2001, Jean-Philippe Tremblay became the NAC Orchestra's Apprentice Conductor, a then newly created post, for a two-year term. John Storgards is the current Principal Guest conductor of the NAC Orchestra while Jack Everly is the Principal Pops Conductor.


The Bounds of Our Dreams is the NAC Orchestra’s sixth album released by Analekta over the last three years and the fourth under the direction of Alexander Shelley. It follows New Worlds, with Music Director Alexander Shelley, which won the JUNO award for Classical Album of the Year, Large Ensemble. in 2019. Montreal composer Ana Sokolović had also earned a nomination for Classical Composition of the Year for her work “Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes”, commissioned and recorded by the NAC, and featured on New Worlds. Additional previous recordings with Analekta include Life Reflected, from which Jocelyn Morlock's My Name Is Amanda Todd won the Juno Award for Best Classical Composition of the Year in 2018 and ENCOUNT3RS, all of which featured today’s best Canadian artists and composers.

Prior to its recording relationship with Analekta, the NAC Orchestra had already released more than 40 recordings, six of which were with most recent former conductor Pinchas Zukerman: Haydn, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schubert and two of Mozart (a CD of flute quartets, and a CD of orchestral music and string quintets). The commissioning of original Canadian works has been an important part of the National Arts Centre's mandate, with over 90 works commissioned to date.

An all-Mozart double CD was released in 2003 featuring both orchestral and chamber music with Pinchas Zukerman as conductor and violin soloist. A CBC Records chamber music CD of Mozart Flute Quartets featuring principal flutist Joanna G'froerer, guest violinist Martin Beaver, Pinchas Zukerman on viola, and principal cellist Amanda Forsyth was named best Canadian chamber music recording of 2001 by Opus Magazine.

Music DirectorsEdit


  1. ^ "Canadian orchestra a big hit in Leningrad". Lethbridge Herald, via Newspaper Archives. May 19, 1973 - Page 7
  2. ^ Mark Brownlee (2012-03-06). "The maestro steps down". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  3. ^ Michael Vincent (2015-06-22). "Pinchas Zukerman says heartfelt farewell to National Arts Centre Orchestra". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  4. ^ "Canada's National Arts Centre announces Alexander Shelley as its Music Director-designate Renowned conductor to lead NAC Orchestra in 2015-2016". NAC. October 30, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
  5. ^ Martin Knelman (2015-09-16). "Meet Alexander Shelley, Ottawa's charismatic new conductor". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2015-09-20.

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