From 1995 Stephen Threlfall was Director of Music at Chetham’s School of Music, the UK’s leading music school – a happy culmination of many years’ experience in the professional music world. After 24 years he decided to relinquish this post in order to further his conducting and creative work.
An alumnus of the Royal Northern College of Music, Stephen’s career began as Sub Principal cello with BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and was founding member of the Arensky Piano Trio. He became Director of Music at Benenden School in 1991where he ran both the Hempsted Forest Music Society and Youth Orchestra.He created the Benenden Music Festival in1994.
As a conductor, Stephen has earned much acclaim for his performances, recordings and broadcasts having conducted at many major venues and festivals throughout the UK and alongside many renowned international solo artists. His engagements have taken him to the USA, Europe and Scandinavia, with regular visits to the Urals Philharmonic and Bach Orchestras in Yekaterinburg and the Royal Oman, Transylvanian State and Amman Symphony Orchestras. His work with choirs has included St George’s Singers,Leeds Festival Chorus,Chester BachSingers and Manchester Chamber Choir. He works frequently with a number of student and youth ensembles including the National Children’s & Berkshire Youth Orchestras and also with the Northern Ballet and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras,The Hanover Band and frequently with the Northern Chamber Orchestra and Manchester Camerata, with whom he recently recorded a CD of orchestral works by Marcus Blunt.
As well as performing with an array of outstanding classical artists, Stephen has collaborated with actors, entertainers and directors including Timothy West and Prunella Scales, Robbie Coltrane, Vanessa Redgrave, Bridget Forsyth, Samuel West,Robert Daws, brother David Threlfall, Hinge and Bracket, Ted Robbins, Emily Watson, Celia Imrie, Russell Grant, Beverley Craven,Judie Tzuke, Julia Fordham, Keiran Hodgson, Neil Brand and Newton Faulkner.
He has created a number of arts and community projects involving an impressive number of guest musicians, artists and specialists, among them the award-nominated Antarctica (2001) and Brundibár (2002/3) projects; A Child of Our Time (2005) and The Spirit of Norway Festival (2007) (supported by the Norwegian Embassy) which comprised of 50 events, including many workshops and special 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. Nina returned to Manchester in Spring 2018 to work with Stephen alongside an orchestra of young musicians from across Greater Manchester to commemorate the Leonard Bernstein Centenary.
In 2012 Stephen directed a 4-day celebration to mark the 150th anniversary of Frederick Delius, which included concerts, exhibitions, workshops and concerts with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra and cellist Raphael Wallfisch, broadcast by Classic FM.
Stephen devised a major project in 2013 marking the Benjamin Britten centenary supported by the Britten Pears Foundation, delivering performances across all of Britten’s output with performances in Manchester, Chester, London, and the Lichfield, Cheltenham, Ryedale and Shaldon Festivals.
Having spearheaded the ambitious project to open a new state-of-the-art concert hall at Chetham’s, Stephen then devised and delivered the opening celebrations of The Stoller Hall in April 2017. The royal opening concert received a 5 star review from Richard Morrison of The Times.
October 2017 saw the ‘Russian October’ project, devised to mark the centenary of the 1917 Revolution, with a variety of arts events and the first theatrical performances at the Stoller Hall.
Stephen conducted the complete cycle of the Beethoven Piano Concertos with an array of international soloists including Noriko Ogawa, Dmitri Alexei, Leon MaCawley and Peter Frankl as part of the 2017 Chetham’s International Piano Summer School.
More recently he programmed a number of special performances and projects spanning 2019 to mark Chetham’s 50th anniversary. The centrepiece was the highly acclaimed performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony which he conducted in July 2019 and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
Last October Stephen became Artistic Director of the Lake District Summer Music festival.
Photo: T Bangbala
‘Stephen Threlfall reminded me so much of my father as he moulded their performances, always leading with love, never fear’ Nina Bernstein Simmons