Stephen Threlfall recently retired as Director of Music at Chetham’s School of Music, the UK’s leading music school.
An alumnus of the Royal Northern College of Music, Stephen’s career took him first to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, where he was sub-principal cellist, before becoming Director of Music at Benenden School. At the same time, his reputation as a conductor and educator was growing rapidly.
As a conductor, Stephen has earned much acclaim for his performances, recordings and broadcasts. He has conducted at many major venues and festivals in the UK and with many international solo artists. Engagements have taken him to the USA, Europe and Scandinavia, with regular visits to the Urals Philharmonic and Bach Orchestras in Yekaterinburg, the Royal Oman Symphony and Amman Symphony Orchestras. Other ensembles include St Georges Singers, Leeds Festival, Chester Bach and Manchester Chamber Choirs; the Northern Ballet and Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Camerata and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He has conducted a number of concert broadcasts for the BBC, Classic FM and Russian national radio and TV, and his repertoire includes many world premieres, notably High on the Slopes of Terror by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Stephen made his Royal Festival Hall debut in February 2012 in an all Rachmaninov programme.
Stephen combines a natural sense for performance with his creative vision to inspire the artistic direction and programming of concerts, festivals and educational events. He has a passion for working with young people and has enjoyed successful collaborations with many student and youth orchestras both at home and abroad, including the symphony and chamber orchestras at Trinity and the Royal Northern Colleges of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, Vannersborg Orchestra Sweden, the Texas Music Festival in Houston and the National Children’s Orchestra.
He has created and directed a number of arts and community projects involving an impressive number of guest musicians, artists and specialists. These have included the award-nominated Antarctica (2001) and Brundibár (2002/3) projects; A Child of Our Time (2005) and The Spirit of Norway Festival (2007) which consisted of over 50 events including many educational workshops and performances. In Autumn 2008, the Leonard Bernstein Celebration included chamber and symphonic concerts, and a special concert with the composer’s daughter Nina Bernstein-Simmons. He has designed a further project for spring 2018 for young musicians from across Greater Manchester to mark the Bernstein Centenary and which also includes a return visit by Nina.
In Autumn 2012, he directed a 4-day celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of Frederick Delius, which included concerts with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra and cellist Raphael Wallfisch, broadcast by Classic FM.
In 2013 Stephen devised a major project marking the centenary of Benjamin Britten. This included performances across all areas of Britten’s output with symphony concerts in Manchester, Chester, London, Lichfield and Cheltenham Festivals, and a national tour of Noye’s Fludde with performances at Manchester Cathedral, and Ryedale and Shaldon Festivals.
Stephen has collaborated with an array of outstanding classical artists, and also with a number of actors and entertainers and producers including Timothy West and Prunella Scales, Robbie Coltrane, Vanessa Redgrave, Bridget Forsyth, Samuel West, brother David Threlfall, Hinge and Bracket, Ted Robbins, Emily Watson, Celia Imrie, Russel Grant, Beverley Craven, Keiran Hodgson and Newton Faulkner.
In July 2015 Stephen conducted two performances of Mahler’s Third Symphony with Mezzo Soprano Sarah Connolly and the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra in Manchester and Cheltenham both of which receiving outstanding reviews.
He devised three days of concerts and events for the opening of The Stoller Hall at Chetham’s. This included a live broadcast of In Tune on BBC Radio 3, Debussy sonatas performs with dancers from Melbourne and Chester , jazz, comedy and specially commissioned Outreach Project two chamber concerts to demonstrate both the versatility of the new hall and the width of programming. Th culmination of was a Royal Opening Concert which included guests such as Sir Mark Elder, Paul Lewis and Kitty Whateley in a concert for which received a five star review from Richard Morrison of The Times