“An exciting composer of the new American generation” (New York Times), and a “vital taste of the future” (Boston Globe), Sean Shepherd has earned wide acclaim and commissions from major ensembles and performers across the US and Europe. After serving as the Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow at the Cleveland Orchestra and composer-in-residence of his hometown Reno Philharmonic, Shepherd was named the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural Kravis Emerging Composer in 2012.
His music has been commissioned and performed by the BBC, Chicago, Minnesota, Montréal, National, New World symphony orchestras, radio orchestras in Austria, France, and Germany, and by leading European ensembles including Ensemble intercontemporain, the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Conductors who champion Shepherd’s work include Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Susanna Mälkki, Donald Runnicles, and Franz Welser-Möst. His works have been performed at festivals in Aldeburgh, Heidelberg, La Jolla, Lucerne, Santa Fe, Aspen, and Tanglewood.
Shepherd last appeared at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music with the West Coast premiere of Melt, a Cabrillo co-commission, led by Cristi Macelaru in 2018. Shepherd’s orchestral work Express Abstractionism, co-commissioned and performed across the continents by the Boston Symphony and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestras, led by Andris Nelsons, was released on a Naxos disk of Boston Symphony commissions in 2019. Other recent highlights include his new saxophone quintet Sonata à 5 for the Music Academy of the West; Echo for oboist Nicholas Daniel at the Aldeburgh Festival; wideOPENwide for violinist Jennifer Koh; and Concerto for Ensemble, which premiered at the Philharmonie de Paris, with Matthias Pintscher conducting Ensemble intercontemporain.
Shepherd’s Magiya, written for Carnegie Hall’s inaugural National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, toured the US and Europe in 2013 with Gergiev and continues to find enormous success with performances by orchestras around the world, and was recorded and released by the Oregon Symphony and Carlos Kalmar in 2018. Magiya was most recently performed by the Juilliard Orchestra in June 2020, led by Elim Chan.
In spring 2021, Kent Nagano leads the Hamburg State Philharmonic, with cellist Jan Vogler and the Audi youth chorus, in a new large-scale cantata about the Big Bang with text from the distinguished German poet Ulla Hahn, in performances at the Elbphilharmonie and the Dresden Musikfestspeile.
Photo by Jamie Kingman