Shelley Gets Ready to Conduct and Play with Omaha Symphony


March 26th, 2015

Omaha, NE – You can see (and hear) a performer who is comfortable both on the podium and at the keyboard – at the same time!

Shelley - through piano lid small(Eric Richmond photo credit)

Howard Shelley (Photo by Eric Richmond)

The next Omaha Symphony Masterworks program is this weekend. The concert will open with a work to set the evening’s mood: Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” Overture.

“A very electric, short piece of music that everyone loves, it just – like so much Mozart – it is music you can listen to anytime and it refreshes, like a sorbet almost over the pallet.”

That was Howard Shelley, who is conducting this weekend’s performances. Shelley is also an accomplished pianist and says that, when soloing, he also prefers to do what Mozart did and conduct from the keyboard.

“I maintain, after 30 or 40 years of doing it, that it’s easier to do it directing at the keyboard,” Shelley said. “Oftentimes when you meet a conductor to give a performance of a work you will fly maybe in last minute into the city you’re giving the concert in. The conductor you will meet for the first time there, and you’ll have a quick few words, but in that time there’s supposed to be an osmosis between the conductor and the soloist, which doesn’t alway happen, you know.”

Shelley will solo and lead the Omaha Symphony in Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor,” written while the composer was in high demand.

“It was in the middle of three years when he wrote in Vienna at the height of his popularity twelve absolutely masterpiece concertos,” he said. “Twelve for a public – not a huge public, he had maybe 150 people maybe paying to listen to these concertos – but they never wanted to hear the same concerto again, they had to have a new one, several new ones each year, so Mozart was just throwing off these masterpieces…”

Also on the program is a masterpiece from Franz Schubert: the ‘Great’ “Symphony No. 9 in C.” Shelley points out that while it can seem imposing at first, enjoying this symphony should be effortless:

“Actually this work is probably one of those works that you should sit back and allow to flow over you,” he said. “It should take you into another world, you should be just floating along with it, like on a calm water with glinting sunlight – maybe a beautiful summer’s day – and close your eyes and allow it to carry you along is exactly the case.”

Howard Shelley will join the Omaha Symphony for Schubert and Mozart this Friday and Saturday, March 27 & 28 at the Holland Center in Omaha. Both performances begin at 7:30 pm and more
information is available at

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