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François-Xavier Roth & Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne

François-Xavier Roth

Born in 1971 in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, François-Xavier Roth is one of the most charismatic and enterprising conductors of his generation. Appointed Principal Conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra and General Music Director of the City of Cologne in 2015, his repertoire ranges from the 17th-century to contemporary works, encompassing all genres. Roth is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra as well as Associate Artist of the Paris Philharmonie, a position created specifically to honour the range of his artistic activity. In 2003, he founded his own orchestra, Les Siècles, which alternatively performs on modern and period instruments, often within the same concert. Roth has a reputation for unusual programming; his incisive approach and his power of persuasion are valued around the world. He collaborates with leading international orchestras including the Berliner and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouw Orkest Amsterdam, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Roth’s creativity is reflected in his vast discography. In 2020 he was awarded the Honorary German Record Critics’ Prize. For the harmonia mundi label he has recorded Mahler’s Third and Fifth Symphonies with the Gürzenich Orchestra, as well as Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote. A Bruckner symphony cycle was launched on the myrios classics label in 2021. Previously, an SACD album with Robert Schumann’s First and Fourth Symphonies was released, widely hailed by the international press. “Schumann at his best!” wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. And Wolfram Goertz confessed in the Rheinische Post: "No Cologne orchestra director, not even Günter Wand or Marek Janowski, has shaped the Gürzenich Orchestra for studio recording as consequently as Roth has done. The Schumann Symphonies: Departures into wild youthfulness. And now the Bruckner symphonies: world-masterly in conception, sense of style, and degree of maturity."

For his achievements as musician, conductor, music director, and teacher, François-Xavier Roth was created a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2017.

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The Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne

The Gürzenich Orchestra has been one of Germany’s leading orchestras ever since it was founded in 1827 by well-to-do citizens of the city of Cologne, from where it frequently branches out to perform in international venues.

With its membership of 130 musicians, the Gürzenich Orchestra welcomes more than 100,000 enthusiastic concertgoers in approximately 50 concerts per season, as well as giving about 160 annual performances as the orchestra of Cologne Opera. Its name harks back to the city’s festive medieval Gürzenich Hall, in which the orchestra performed its concerts from 1857 on. Ever since the Cologne Philharmonie was opened in 1986, the Gürzenich has been one of the two resident orchestras associated with that hall of international renown. The current recording was also made in the acoustically ideal setting of the Cologne Philharmonie.

More than almost any other German orchestra, the Gürzenich has played an active part in music history, and now looks back on an impressive heritage. It stands for groundbreaking interpretations and innovative programming, and has always attracted the leading composers and interpreters of its time. Outstanding works of the Romantic repertoire by Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler were first performed by the Gürzenich Orchestra, and composers of the likes of Hector Berlioz and Giuseppe Verdi presented their most recent works to the audience. Today, contemporary composers and an international elite of soloists and conductors contribute to this orchestra’s excellent reputation and widespread appeal.

The Gürzenich Orchestra has been closely associated with the works of Anton Bruckner for over a century. In 1897, the orchestra’s Kapellmeister Franz Wüllner conducted the Cologne premiere of Bruckner’s “Romantic” Symphony, the Fourth. Fritz Steinbach brought Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony in 1905 to the city on the Rhine, and in 1910 Hermann Abendroth launched a series of recurring Bruckner performances with the Cologne premieres of the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 8th and 9th Symphonies.

Among all chief conductors after the Second World War, Günter Wand is remembered for having featured Bruckner’s symphonies most prominently: he made them the mainstay of the orchestra’s repertoire during the entire course of his long tenure as General Music Director until 1974. Wand conducted each of them several times, achieving a unique, new aesthetic that has continued to hold sway until today. Günter Wand’s recordings of Bruckner’s 2nd, 4th and 8th Symphonies with the Gürzenich Orchestra are still internationally regarded as benchmark versions. Under Wand’s successors Yuri Ahronovitch and Markus Stenz, the symphonies of Anton Bruckner continued to play a key role in Gürzenich Orchestra concert programmes.

In 2015, François-Xavier Roth was appointed Gürzenich Principal Conductor as well as General Music Director of the City of Cologne. With Bruckner’s 4th, he already thrilled the audience in his inaugural concert, opening the curtain upon a new Bruckner era in Cologne in which he would build upon the orchestra’s time-honored legacy while daring to tread new paths. François-Xavier Roth places the spotlight on Bruckner’s original versions, emphasizing their prophetic, future-oriented aspects. As Roth says himself: “In his symphonies, Bruckner creates a veritable magma of timbre by forming the sonorities from the inside. For the listener, the aural experience is perhaps a harbinger of spectral music.”

Leading up to the 200th anniversary of Bruckner’s birth in 2024, François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich orchestra will present the Austrian composer’s complete symphonies in new recordings.

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