The English pianist and conductor, Howard Gordon Shelley, was educated at Highgate School and the Royal College of Music.
After winning the premier prize at the Royal College of Music at the end of his first year, Howard Shelley's career began with a successful London recital and a televised Promenade concert with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas in the same season. Since then he has performed regularly throughout the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, North America, Russia, Australia, and the Far East. He has also made over seventy-five commercial recordings.
As pianist Howard Shelley has performed, broadcast and recorded around the world with leading orchestras and such distinguished conductors as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pierre Boulez, Sir Adrian Boult, Colin Davis, Edward Downes, Gibson, Groves, Herbig, Mariss Jansons, Neville Marriner, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Kurt Sanderling, Thomson, and Walter Weller. has given performances of important contemporary works with Pierre Boulez. Several composers have written concertos especially for him, all of which he has performed and broadcast. During the 40th anniversary of Sergei Rachmaninov's death he became the first pianist ever to perform the composer's complete solo piano works in concert. The five London recitals, in London's Wigmore Hall, were broadcast in their entirety by the BBC. To mark the 50th anniversary of S. Rachmaninov's death Shelley gave many concerts including a recital in the Leipzig Gewandhaus on the death-day itself and a recital at S. Rachmaninov's villa in Lucerne at the invitation of the composer's grandson. He has given complete cycles of S. Rachmaninov concertos with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, L.v. Beethoven’s concertos with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Mozart concerto series with the London Mozart Players, Camerata Salzburg and the Münchner Symphoniker. Shelley also featured in a documentary of S. Rachmaninov shown on BBC television.
His many recordings as a pianist for Chandos, Hyperion, and EMI include S. Rachmaninov's complete piano music and concertos, series of Mozart, Hummel, Felix Mendelssohn, Moscheles and Cramer concertos as well as all Gershwin's works for piano & orchestra and a series of British concertos including Alwyn, Frank Bridge, Herbert Howells, Rubbra, Scott, Tippett and Ralph Vaughan Williams. A recording of Robert Schumann, Grieg and Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concertos, the first time all three have been available together, has been released by Chandos.
In 1985 Howard Shelley made his professional debut as a conductor. As conductor he has performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico, Münchner Symphoniker, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and West Australian Symphony Orchestra, amongst many others. He has held positions of Associate and Principal Guest Conductor with the London Mozart Players in a close relationship of over twenty years. He has toured with them to Japan, Korea, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Holland, Ireland and to the Prague Autumn Festival, and has made many recordings with them. Shelley has also been Principal Conductor of Sweden's Uppsala Chamber Orchestra and works closely with the Camerata Salzburg, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto in Italy and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Australia with whom he has recorded several discs. Other chamber orchestras with whom he has worked include the English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Zürcher Kammerorchester, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Northern Sinfonia, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Leipzig Kammerphilharmonie and Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano.
Howard Shelley has appeared regularly on television since the age of ten when he gave a recital of J.S. Bach and Chopin. He was soloist at the 100th anniversary of the Promenade Concerts, a concert that was televised worldwide. A documentary on Ravel made in 1998 by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, featuring Shelley as conductor, pianist and presenter won the Gold Medal for the best arts biography of the year at the New York Festivals Awards. Shelley has appeared on the soundtrack of several films including Un coeur en hiver (1992), Anna Karenina (1997) and Testimony (1988). In the latter film, directed by Tony Palmer, Ben Kingsley played the part of Dmitri Shostakovich, miming to Howard Shelley's piano.
In 1994, an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Music was conferred on Howard Shelley by HRH The Prince of Wales. Shelley was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
Howard Shelley is married to fellow pianist Hilary Macnamara, with whom he has performed and recorded in a two-piano partnership, and they have two sons; one of them is the of conductor Alexander Shelley.