François-Xavier Roth is one of today’s most imaginative conductors and programmers, whether in his roles as General Music Director of the City of Cologne and founder of Les Siècles, or with leading orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, of which he is Principal Guest Conductor. A born communicator, he is a charismatic and persuasive advocate for classical music of every description. In Cologne, where he has directed both the Gürzenich Orchestra and the Opera since 2015, his programming is notable for its breadth and depth, including new commissions alongside Baroque and Romantic music.
Roth upholds the orchestra’s pioneering heritage, which includes having given the world premieres of Mahler’s Third and Fifth Symphonies, the Brahms Double Concerto, Strauss’s Don Quixote and Till Eulenspiegel, and Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten. For Cologne Opera he has led new productions of Benvenuto Cellini, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Tannhäuser, Hänsel & Gretel, Tristan und Isolde, Salome, Faustand Béatrice et Bénédict. His sense of musical exploration led him in 2003 to found Les Siècles, which performs contrasting programmes on modern and period instruments, often within the same concert. Together, they have toured Europe, China and Japan, appearing at the Berlin Musikfest, BBC Proms and Enescu festivals. Projects have included recreating the original sound of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, in collaboration with the Pina Bausch and Dominique Brun dance companies, and performing the cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies at the Palais de Versailles and around France for the composer’s anniversary year, a project curtailed by the pandemic. In 2019 Les Siècles became resident orchestra of Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing, where Roth is also Artistic Director. In 2022 they embark upon their new residency at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
He is a champion of new music and has premiered works by Georg-Friedrich Haas and Hèctor Parra, and collaborated with composers such as Pierre Boulez, Wolfgang Rihm, Jörg Widmann, Helmut Lachenmann and Philippe Manoury. He has a leading role in the LSO’s Panufnik Composers Scheme, mentoring young emerging composers. Engagement with new audiences is an essential part of Roth’s work, whether speaking from the podium or working with young people and amateurs. With the Festival Berlioz and Les Siècles, he founded the Jeune Orchestre Européen Hector Berlioz, which has its own collection of period instruments and last year performed Les Troyens à Carthage in Berlioz’s birthplace. In Cologne he has initiated a community orchestra and his Ohrenauf! youth programme was recipient of a Junge Ohren Produktion Award. His television series Presto!attracted weekly audiences of over three million in France. His prolific discography includes the complete tone poems of Richard Strauss, Stravinsky ballets, Ravel and Berlioz cycles, Bruckner, Mahler and Schumann symphonies, and albums commemorating Debussy’s centenary. He was awarded the German Record Critics’ Honorary Prize 2020, the youngest conductor ever to receive it. For his achievements as musician, conductor, music director and teacher, François-Xavier Roth was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.