Conductors

François-Xavier Roth

Gürzenich-Kapellmeister

A restlessly intelligent maverick

The Guardian

François-Xavier Roth has been the Principal Conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra and General Music Director of the City of Cologne since the beginning of the 2015-16 season. He is one of the most charismatic and boldest conductors of his generation. His repertoire ranges from 17th-century music to contemporary works, encompassing all genres. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Associate Artist of the Paris Philharmonie, which created this position especially for him to honour the range of his artistic activity. In 2003 Roth founded his own orchestra, Les Siècles, which plays on both modern and period instruments depending on the pieces, often switching within the same concert. Roth has a reputation for unusual programming, and his incisive approach and power of persuasion are valued around the world. He works with leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Other touring guest appearances with the Gürzenich Orchestra will lead him with a Beethoven programme to Hamburg, Munich, Lyon and London in the 2019-20 season. In addition, Roth will continue his Bruckner cycle with the Gürzenich Orchestra.

 

 

Under Roth’s needle-sharp direction these interpretations dazzle … with rhythmic verve, insouciant accentuation, energy, humour and elan. Virtuosity and verve shine from every bar.

Richard Morrison, The Times

Roth attaches great importance to promoting young talent and music education. Children’s concerts and concerts where the audience can join in, as well as cross-genre projects, such as in recent seasons with young dancers, the orchestra of the Rheinische Musikschule, Cologne’s electro label Kompakt and the Iranian singer Shahin Najafi, are integral components of his work. In 2017, the “Junge Ohren” prize was awarded to the music education programme of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne, thus also acknowledging François-Xavier Roth’s active support and promotion.

Die regelmäßigen Kritiken zu François-Xavier Roths gefeierten Aufnahmen in unserem Magazin deuten vor allem auf eines hin: Weder sein Ansatz noch der Klang oder die Vision dahinter haben jemals auch nur den Anschein von Routine.

Mark Cullingford, The Gramophone

Roth was created a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in President Macron's first Bastille Day Honours List 2017.

Nicholas Collon

Principal guest conductor

The British conductor Nicholas Collon is founder and principal conductor of the dynamic Aurora Orchestra, chief conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, designated Chief Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony and, since 2017-18, first guest conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne.

His elegant conducting style and spirit of musical discovery, combined with his boundless creativity and exciting programme ideas, have attracted invitations from renowned orchestras, including the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Les Siècles and the Bamberg Symphony, as well as many leading British orchestras such as the Philharmonia Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra Manchester and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In the 2018-19 concert season, Nicolas Collon gave his North American debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as well as his Japan debut with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he took the stage for the first time with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France and the Orchestre National de Lyon. After conducting performances of Britten’s Peter Grimes, he will also return to the Cologne Opera. The Aurora Orchestra, founded in London in 2004 and under Collon’s artistic direction, has gained an excellent reputation, both in Great Britain and abroad; they are regular guests at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Cologne’s Philharmonic Hall. Collon has conducted more than 200 new compositions, including UK and world premieres of works by Unsuk Chin, Phillip Glass, Colin Matthews, Nico Muhly, Olivier Messiaen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Judith Weir. In addition, Collon has already toured with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and could be experienced as guest conductor at the English National Opera and the Welsh National Opera.

 

This season, Nicholas Collon can be experienced with the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne again twice: in January 2020 with music by Karol Szymanowski and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and on Good Friday 2020 with Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorary conductors

Dmitrij Kitajenko

Dimitri Kitaenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne have been associated for decades of artistic exchange based on mutual appreciation and respect. Since the Russian conductor first conducted the Gürzenich Orchestra in 1987, their joint concerts and multi-award-winning CD productions have enabled a wealth of experience that makes each performance a special experience. The focus of the collaboration is on the Russian romantic repertoire that Kitaenko, who was born in Leningrad in 1940, can authentically interpret like no other conductor – highly differentiated, unsentimental and deeply moving. In addition to his work with the Gürzenich’s principal conductors, the orchestra’s relationship with Kitaenko was so formative that they appointed the Russian maestro honorary conductor in 2009.

 

 

Many of the CD recordings the orchestra made with him are considered reference recordings – notably, the cycle of Dmitri Shostakovich’s fifteen symphonies, which received an ECHO Klassik in 2005 and the MIDEM Classical Award in 2006, among others. This was followed by complete recordings of Sergei Prokofiev’s, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s and Peter Tchaikovsky’s symphonic works, which won many awards, complemented by numerous other works by the composers and, in Tchaikovsky’s case, the one-act opera Iolantha. In recent years, Kitaenko has presented virtually unknown works from Russia at his Cologne concerts, such as Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky cantata and Modest Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death for bass and orchestra, Aram Khachaturian’s Spartacus ballet suite and Sergei Taneyev’s John of Damascus cantata. In 2015 Kitaenko conducted the Gürzenich Orchestra for the first time with music by Jean Sibelius; the CD production of the 2nd Symphony, made in parallel, received the ICMA Prize 2019 and the Supersonic Award from Pizzicato magazine. A release of Alexander Scriabin’s Le Poème de l’extase and 2nd Symphony is planned for 2020.

Günter Wand (1912-2002)

The Gürzenich Orchestra has had more than a few world-class artists among its chief conductors. One of the most eminent is Günter Wand, who was appointed First Kapellmeister at the Cologne Opera in 1939 and was General Music Director and Gürzenich-Kapellmeister from 1946 to 1974. Under his baton, the Gürzenich Orchestra developed into an outstanding ensemble, demonstrated not only by excellent performances of the classical and romantic repertoire, but also in the field of contemporary music. A great number of world premieres and German premieres stands testimony to this fact, for example Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Concerto for Orchestra (1946), Wolfgang Fortner’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1951) and works by Olivier Messiaen, to name just a few. Wand’s strict concept of authenticity was legendary: when asked as a young conductor how he would interpret Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, more like Arturo Toscanini or more like Wilhelm Furtwängler, his answer was: »Like Beethoven.« During later years, he concentrated almost exclusively on works of the classical and romantic era; his recordings of Bruckner and Schubert symphonies from the 1980s are still considered benchmarks today.

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