Season Preview / Art Fix

Meet Artis-Naples’ New Artistic and Music Director

Alexander Shelley, Artis—Naples’ artistic and music director designate, talks to us about the future of classical music.

BY November 1, 2023
Alexander Shelley
Alexander Shelley (Courtesy Artis—Naples)

“A composer’s purpose in any era and from any culture is to reflect, through sound, the experience of life in all of its variety and beauty. One of the great privileges and joys of my job is helping people find an exciting entry to symphonic music—if you haven’t found your way in, it may be because the right piece hasn’t presented itself yet.

During concerts, I like to say a few words from the stage about the music we’ll be performing. If I choose my words well, I can help listeners access and appreciate the music better. This season, we do a piece called ‘Death and Transfiguration’ by the late German composer Richard Strauss. It describes the visions of an elderly person on their deathbed, taking their last breaths. Over the course of 25 minutes, the music represents the halting breath of the sick protagonist, flashbacks of their life and ultimate ascension to heaven. At the very opening, you hear these stilted and stopping rhythms in the strings—that’s a breath being lost. The story allows us to appreciate the ephemeral and evocative sounds of the music.

Art can tell stories, but it also needs to exist in response to the times—cathartic, reflective, provocative and questioning. That means commissioning music, working with living composers, and looking at the great composers of the past and asking how their music remains current now. I’m eager to contribute to the continued growth of the Naples Philharmonic and connect it with other disciplines at Artis—Naples. Everything we do at Artis—Naples should be anchored in great storytelling, narrative and a sense of exploration that challenges our perspectives.

The funny thing about being a conductor is even though I feel the audience in everything I do on stage, I spend most of my time on stage with my back to them. That’s why I find it enormously rewarding to meet and talk to guests. Symphonic music is something for the entire community, not just a select few.”

This month, catch Alexander Shelley’s first performance with the Naples Philharmonic since assuming his role in ‘An Overture to Alexander: A Toast to the Future’ on November 16 in Hayes Hall. Later this season, see the artistic director lead the orchestra in the ‘Death and Transfiguration’ performance of the Naples Philharmonic’s Masterworks series on January 25.


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