François-Xavier Roth has been Gürzenich-Kapellmeister and Music Director of the City of Cologne since 2015 and is one of the most interesting and sought-after conductors of our times. An advocate of music from every corner of the classical field, his charisma and the depth of his inner convictions are qualities that make him an invigorating asset to the international music scene. His programmes are imaginative and courageous – he takes great delight in experimenting and is passionate about discovering the unknown. Fostering the grand tradition of the Gürzenich Orchestra is a high priority for François-Xavier Roth, yet he never ceases to build bridges to contemporary music, displaying an infallible sense of quality: Numerous works by distinguished present-day composers such as Georg Friedrich Haas, Philippe Manoury and Martin Matalon have been premiered under Roth’s baton. The Gürzenich Orchestra’s project Fanfares for a new Beginning was one of François-Xavier Roth’s many initiatives: during the COVID-19 pandemic, ten distinguished composers were commissioned to each write a short piece for wind instruments, thus sending a resounding gesture of confidence in times when culture had come to a halt.
His concise and straightforward approach to music and his striving for authenticity have earned François-Xavier Roth great appreciation across the world. The renowned orchestras he works with on a regular basis include the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich. In 2017/18, he was also appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra as well as Associate Artist of the Philharmonie de Paris.
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
In 2003, Roth founded the orchestra Les Siècles. Together, they work on innovative and diverse programmes which, depending on the repertoire, are performed on modern or period instruments. They play concerts all across Europe as well as in China and Japan.
Promoting the next generation of musicians is of heartfelt importance to François-Xavier Roth. He is the director of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik Young Composers Scheme which offers a platform to aspiring composers. Together with the Gürzenich Orchestra, he supports talented young musicians, both as part of the international project Momentum and by means of the Gürzenich Orchestra’s Orchestra Academy which was established on his initiative.
To achieve the goal of captivating and inspiring young audiences, François-Xavier Roth has made interactive children's concerts a fixed part of his work. He supports the Gürzenich Orchestra’s education programme Ohrenauf! which was awarded the Junge Ohren Preis in 2017. As the initiator of the Cologne Citizen's Orchestra, he gives amateurs the chance to work alongside professional musicians.
Reviews of François-Xavier Roth’s regularly praised recordings in our pages all hint at one thing: there’s never anything routine about his approach, the sound or the vision.Mark Cullingford, The Gramophone
François-Xavier Roth has produced an extensive discography documenting his creativity. His recordings have won distinguished awards and he recently received the Honorary Award of the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. His interpretation of Beethoven has been described as »dark, stirring, gripping« (Süddeutsche Zeitung), and his approach to Gustav Mahler has been said to be »intellectual yet never boring, and of exceptional clarity« (Concerti Magazine). François-Xavier Roth’s CD recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5 and Robert Schumann’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 with the Gürzenich Orchestra was critically acclaimed: »Schumann at his best!« was the verdict of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. One of the most recent releases is a CD featuring symphonic poems by Richard Strauss which was recorded together with the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, the current Artist in Residence at the Gürzenich Orchestra.
In honour of his is achievements as a musician, conductor and teacher, François-Xavier Roth received the title Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, bestowed upon him by the president of France.
Nicholas CollonPrincipal 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, 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.
Nicholas Collon's concerts in 2021/22
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. Most recently, he recorded Alexander Scriabin's 2nd Symphony and Le Poème de l'extase with the Gürzenich Orchestra.
CDs with Dmitrij Kitajenko
Dmitrij Kitajenko's concerts in 2021/22
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.
Harry OggMusikalischer Assistent
Harry Ogg is Musical Assistant to Gürzenich-Kapellmeister François-Xavier Roth, and assists on numerous orchestral weeks as well as conducting his own projects during the season. Harry also leads rehearsals with the newly founded Kölner Bürgerorchester.
Harry is also Welsh National Opera Associate Conductor in collaboration with the Donatella Flick-LSO Conducting Competition, following his performance in the final with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in the 2018 competition. Highlights include conducting performances of Carmen in Spring 2020 and assisting Tomáš Hanus on Prokofiev’s War and Peace for the WNO at the Royal Opera House. Harry also conducted the WNO orchestra in concert at Saffron Hall and throughout Wales during 2019.
Recent engagements include Humperdinck's Königskinder at Theater am Revier, Gelsenkirchen, and conducting the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in preparation rehearsals for Edward Gardner. Other notable projects include performances of Don Giovanni and The Turn of the Screw at Opera Holland Park with the City of London Sinfonia, recordings of Britten’s World War Two Radio Plays with the Hallé Orchestra, plus concerts with the London Mozart Players and the Jena, Hradec Králové and North Czech Philharmonic Orchestras.
Harry studied conducting with Nicolás Pasquet and Ekhart Wycik at the Franz Liszt Hochschule für Musik in Weimar, and previously read music at Clare College, Cambridge. Selected for the Deutsche Dirigentenforum in March 2018, Harry also won 2nd Prize in the MDR Symphony Orchestra Conducting Competition in Leipzig in Autumn 2018.