Howard Shelley Discography

Shelley’s discography now exceeds 160 CDs featuring over 80 composers (as at March 2019):

Alwyn, Bache, Balakirev,Beethoven,  Benedict, Benoit, Berkeley, Bridge, Britten, Carwithen, Casadesus, Chopin, Clementi, Cramer, Czerny, Delius, Dickinson, Dobryznski, Dussek, Döhler, Dohnanyi, Dreyschock, Dupont, Farrar, Fauré, Ferguson, Finzi, Foulds, Franck, Gershwin, Godard, Goosens, Gounod, Grieg, Haydn, Henze, Herz, Hiller,Hindemith, Howells, Hummel, Kalkbrenner, Korngold, Kozeluch, Krogulski, Krommer, Leighton, Lessel, Lyapunov, Macfarren, Mendelssohn, Messiaen, Moscheles, W.A. Mozart, F.X. Mozart, Newman, Nikisch, Onslow, Pixis, Potter, Poulenc, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Reinecke, Rosenhain, Rubbra, Saint-Saëns, Schubert, R. Schumann, Clara Schumann, Scott, Shostakovich, Smith, Spohr, Stanford, Steibelt, Sterndale-Bennett, Szymanowski, Taubert, Thalberg, Tippett, Vaughan Williams, Williamson.

His discography includes several complete cycles:  Rachmaninov’s works for solo piano, concertos and songs, Beethoven’s works for piano and orchestra,  Haydn’s ‘London’ symphonies, Spohr’s symphonies, Clementi’s solo piano works, Mendelssohn solo piano works (in progress). In 2019 Shelley will record his 20th volume of world première recordings for Hyperion’s Romantic Piano series.

Below is a selection of his most recent releases followed by some earlier benchmark recordings.

CIPRIANI POTTER Concertos No 2 & 4 / Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra / Hyperion
Awarded ‘Concerto of the Year’ in the prestigious German Opus Klassik Awards:

‘Not for the first time, I was lost in admiration by his dazzling dispatch of the fantastically demanding writing in the outer movements of both concertos … Add to that his simultaneous and complete control of his fine Tasmanian players. I cannot think of another musician who is Shelley’s equal in this dual role. Gramophone, August 2017.
MENDELSSOHN The Complete Solo Piano Music Vol 3 / Hyperion

‘Mendelssohn and Howard Shelley are a musical marriage made in heaven.
Stylish and delectably light-fingered’. Gramophone, May 2015

‘Shelley has the ideal touch and tone for Mendelssohn: fleet-fingered, light and clear, with a fine balance between the energy and élan of this often very busy music and the clarity of its elegant melodic lines and supremely civilised phrasing’. BBC Music Magazine, May 2015
DUSSEK Piano Concerto Op 1 No 3, Op 29, Op 70 / Ulster Orchestra / Hyperion
(Volume 1 of a NEW series from Hyperion Records: ‘The Classical Piano’)

‘To get the incredibly demanding solo parts into his fingers so securely as to make them sound as if he has been dashing them off for years — and, moreover, to play them while conducting from the keyboard… This is skill and dedication of a high order and I can’t think of another living pianist who can equal him in this particular field of musical endeavour.’ Gramophone Awards issue 2014
BRITTEN Piano Concerto / BBC Philharmonic / Edward Gardiner / Chandos

‘[Richter’s] own performance with the composer in 1970 burns with a special fire, but here Howard Shelley and Edward Gardiner create something more mercurial … Shelley moves from teasing to demonic as the movement begins to snarl. His Impromptu’ opens with childlike solemnity before launching into its rhetorical display.’
BBC Music Magazine, July 2013
BEETHOVEN Complete works for piano and orchestra (4-CD set) / Orch of Opera North /
A Gramophone Editor’s Choice and Critics’ choice:

‘This is a major new cycle, an important addition not only to the catalogue, but also to Shelley’s exceptionally fine discography… Throughout the set there is humanity to Shelley’s music-making … The benefits of directing from the keyboard are evident both in the intimacy and the immediacy … There’s gentleness but also steel to Shelley’s approach, the drama arising from the notes themselves.’ Gramophone / January 2012
CLEMENTI: The Complete Sonatas – Vol 6 : Op 40 / 1-3, Op 50 /1-3 / Hyperion

This must be one of the most handsome of all recent homages to a lesser-known composer, with nothing about the performances, recording or presentation falling sort of first-class…If one of this cycle’s abiding impressions has been of a gifted composer with a natural flair for the piano …then another must be of an outstanding performer offering him the very best of his considerable musicianship and understanding at every turn. A heartening achievement on all counts”
Gramophone / November 2010
GRIEG SCHUMANN SAINT-SAENS No 2 with Orchestra of Opera North / Chandos

Lauréat d’un Classica ‘Choc de l’année 2009 and Gramophone Editor’s Choice.

‘Fleet and joyous…These are intimate performances, an effect no doubt enhanced by the fact that Shelley directs from the piano. Intimate but also sharply characterised. And when virtuosity is required Shelley provides it in spades.’ Gramophone / May 2009 ‘
HAYDN ‘London’ Symphonies (4 cds) / Orchestra della Svizzzera Italiana / Hyperion

‘Ces interprétations dégagent une extraordinare vitalité… et dans la 96e (Le Miracle) ou la 93e par exemple, on ne saurait faire mieux’. Le Monde de la Musique “CHOC”

‘If I had to choose between this new set and those of such celebrated conductors as Bernstein and Karajan I’d go with Shelley’s. His readings are generally more animated and suggest greater variety from one work to the next… Prevailingly musical and stylish in doing justice to these corner-stones of Viennese classicism.” International Record Review, February 2009

Earlier benchmark recordings

Howard Shelley has recorded six volumes of works by Hummel for piano and orchestra, a disc of solo piano music and a disc of ballet suites. Chandos

Concertino in G Op 73, Piano Concerto in A flat Op 113 , Gesellschaft Rondo Op 117:
‘This disc is one of Howard Shelley’s finest, directing the London Mozart Players from the keyboard in buoyant, stylish fashion while tossing off the many pages of brilliant passagework with a flair and assurance that compels admiration’.
Classic CD / Christmas 97
Piano Concerto in E Op 110, Concerto for piano and violin Op 17:
‘As Shelley proved on his first Hummel disc, he is outstanding in this music, synthesising the classical and romantic elements perfectly. A natural Mozartian, he allies his poise and clarity to a fearless technique’. Gramophone / April 99
Piano Concerto in C Op 34, Rondo Brillant Op 56, Rondo Brillant Op 98:
‘This is Hummel at his most delightful, full of sparkling ideas deliciously delivered by Shelley… These are rarities well worth sampling, unlikely to be performed or recorded better’. Gramophone Sept 04
Piano Cto in A, O du lieber Augustin, L’enchantement d’Oberon, Le Retour à Londres
‘The early piano concerto in A major, written when Hummel was in his late teens and steeped in the influence of Mozart who had taken the boy in as a pupil-protege, is exquisitely revealed by Howard Shelley… This heart-lifting disc will delight more than just lovers of piano virtuosity’ The Observer, 5 March 2006.
Howard has recorded six exceptionally praised volumes of Mozart piano concertos. Chandos

Volume 3 / No 14 in E flat K449 & No 27 in B flat K595
‘Shelley is a superb musician: not only does he play with great taste and insight but his conducting is impeccable… the sound is beguiling and the record can be recommended without reservation.’ BBC Music Magazine, June 93
Volume 5 / Nos 13 in C K415 & No 24 in C minor K491
‘As to Shelley, whose Mozart has often been welcomed in these pages, it is perhaps time to salute him as a Mozartian in the Curzon class, with a grace and capacity for spontaneous and deep feeling that can only be wondered at’. Gramophone, Nov 98
Volume 6 / No 21 in C K467 & No 22 in E flat K482
‘He is an artist of electric vitality and cultured exuberance. The beauty of Shelley’s Mozart playing is not so much that its fundamental correctness can be taken wholly for granted, but rather that it transforms those virtues of sincerity and textual integrity into a joyously compelling listening experience’. Fanfare, USA, May-June 96
GERSHWIN Piano Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, Second Rhapsody • Philharmonia Orchestra / Tortelier • Chandos

‘Anyone who can shape Rachmaninov with Shelley’s instinctive feeling for those subtle internal rubatos has to be a natural for Gershwin. And he is. His Rhapsody in Blue is all urban chic and sophistication, born of the concert-hall but mindful of the jazz club. The manner is free and easy, laid back but ready and eager to party’. Gramophone

‘Shelley can be as magisterial and poetic as he can be skittish and whimsical’.
Classic CD Choice, September 1998

No overview of Shelley would be complete without reference to the reputation he has achieved in the music of Rachmaninov. In 1983 he performed the complete solo piano music at the Wigmore Hall, broadcast in entirety by BBC Radio 3. At the same time he recorded the works in 9 volumes for Hyperion and a reviewer of one volume stated: ‘one of the finest examples I know of a truly flawless pianistic mechanism at the service of a musician who has few rivals for his sensitivity, elegance, and complete identification with Rachmaninoff’s idiomatic style’ (American Record Guide, Jul/Aug 1992). Shelley won CLASSIC CD BEST RELEASE OF 1993 IN THE LARGE SCALE PROJECT category for this unique set.

During the 1989/90 season he performed the complete cycle of four concertos and Paganini Rhapsody with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Bryden Thomson and recorded the same for Chandos Records.

RACHMANINOV: The Four Piano Concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Bryden Thomson • Chandos

In March 2006 the major French magazine ‘Classica-Répertoire’ published a six-page article in which they compared the 70-plus recordings of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto that were currently available, including Horowitz, Argerich and Ashkenazy. Their top critics unanimously chose Howard Shelley as the winner, saying:

‘L’interprétation de Howard Shelley reçoit tous les éloges et sort victorieuse. Nous sommes unanimement convaincus …par la justesse de la pulsation, l’aspect rhapsodique du piano…. Dans L’Intermezzo qui recueille quatre fois la note maximale, chaque phrase semble mûrie, vécue avec un mélange de passion et de pudeur. “L’impression de dignité domine”. Le finale est “presque chorégraphié, “d’une sérénité magistrale autant pour l’orchestre que pour le soloiste” “Ces musiciens vivent leur partition et en transcendent le trouble sensible” … Le Piano d’Howard Shelley synthétise à lui seul les qualités que nous espérons entendre dans cette partition. Classica-Répertoire mars 2006
(‘the playing of Howard Shelley alone combines all the qualities that we would hope to hear in this score” … ‘convinced by the precision of his timing, the rhapsodic quality of his playing. In the Intermezzo the impression of dignity prevails: each phrase shaped and matured in a blend of passion and restraint. The Finale is almost choreographed… having a magisterial serenity, as much from orchestra as soloist. These musicians inhabit the music, transcending its turbulent and complex emotions’.

‘Globalement, cette integrale est donc l’un des plus belles disponibles à ce jour, avec à son sommet un 2e Concerto d’une noblesse rare pour une partition si souvent galvaudée et un 3e qui sait allier une grandeur presque religieuse et une élégance virtuose sans jamais sombrer dans la lourdeur’. Diapason (awarded a Diapason d’Or)
(All in all, this complete set is one of the finest available today, with, as its crown, a 2nd Concerto of rare nobility for a score so often dishonoured and a 3rd which combines an almost religious grandeur and a virtuosic elegance.)

‘These masterly performances can, I think, lay claim to being the finest, certainly the most individual, that we have yet heard on disc. (Yes, including the Ashkenazy set)’.
Hi-Fi News (Edward Seckerson)

‘Mr Shelley is an accomplished and perceptive Rachmaninov specialist, thoroughly in command of the powerful and virile as ell as the tenderly romantic, the melancholy and introspective facets of his musical nature’. Daily Telegraph
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