The Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne
is one of Germany’s leading orchestras and can look back on a great tradition. Since 1986 the ensemble’s home has been at the Kölner Philharmonie, where it presents about 50 concerts annually, simultaneously giving over 160 performances a year at the Cologne Opera. Since the season 2015/2016 François-Xavier Roth is new Gürzenich-Kapellmeister (Chief Conductor) and General Music Director of the City of Cologne.
The historical roots of the Orchestra reach as far back as the 15th century, to the founding of the Cologne Cathedral’s instrumental ensemble which, until the end of the 18th century, provided Cologne with concerts and theatre music in addition to church music. In 1827, under the patronage of well-to-do citizens dedicated to the arts, the orchestra was brought under the auspices of the Cologne Concert Society. Its members organised performances that, from 1857 on, were held in the concert hall called the “Gürzenich”, hence the orchestra’s name. The Gürzenich-Orchestra has always attracted leading conductors and composers of the time and has premiered important works such as the Brahms Double Concerto, Till Eulenspiegel and Don Quixote by Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler’s 5th Symphony, as well as Max Reger’s Hiller-Variations and Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Concerto for Orchestra. From 2015 until 2019 Philippe Manoury is invited by the Orchestra as “Composer for Cologne”, creating a trilogy of new spatialised orchestra pieces.
From 1945 until 1974 the orchestra was led by Günter Wand. In the last thirty years the orchestra was shaped by their chief conductors Marek Janowski, James Conlon and Markus Stenz. Under the baton of Markus Stenz, Gürzenich-Kapellmeister in the years 2003-2014, the orchestra recorded all of Gustav Mahler's symphonies. Their recording of Arnold Schönberg’s Gurre-Lieder was awarded the the Gramophone Award 2016. Playing under Dmitrij Kitajenko, who was appointed their honorary conductor in 2009 and developed the orchestra’s lively interest in the Russian repertoire, all the symphonies of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov were recorded.
The orchestra gives regular guest performances on international concert podiums, including those in Vienna, Athens, Thessaloniki, at the Edinburgh International Festival, in London at the BBC Proms as well as at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the last Asia-Tour in 2014 led the orchestra to Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Bejing.
Since September 2015, the new chief conductor is François-Xavier Roth. With the tagline "More music for everyone!" he has expanded the offerings of school concerts, and chamber ensembles are visiting elderly residence facilities and daycare centres. The orchestra can increasingly be experienced outside of the Philharmonie, for instance at the "City Life" project together with artists from Cologne's electronic label Kompakt, at the Museum Ludwig as part of the "Fernand Léger: Malerei im Raum" exhibition, and jointly with the youth symphony orchestra of the Rheinische Musikschule and hearing-impaired pupils at the "Planets" project. Another new offering is the streaming of GO Plus: selected concerts are recorded in audio and video and offered for free on the orchestra's homepage.
(born Paris, 1971), is one of the most charismatic and enterprising conductors of his generation. His repertoire ranges from music of the seventeenth century to contemporary work encompassing all genres: symphonic, operatic and chamber.
In 2003, he founded Les Siècles, an innovative orchestra performing contrasting and colourful programmes on modern and period instruments, often within the same concert. From 2011-2016 François-Xavier Roth led the SWR Sinfonieorchester Freiburg & Baden-Baden as Principal Conductor; since September 2015 he is General Music Director of the City of Cologne, leading both the Gürzenich-Orchestra and the Opera. He will take up the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra at the start of the 2017-18 season.
With a reputation for inventive programming, his incisive approach and inspiring leadership are valued around the world. He is working with leading orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic and Staatskapelle, Royal Concertgebouw and Boston Symphony Orchestra. François-Xavier Roth’s second Cologne opera season features a Ravel double bill of L’enfant et les sortilèges / L’heure espagnole, a revival and tour of Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. His opera repertoire includes furthermore Offenbach’s Les Brigands and Delibes’ Lakmé at the Opéra Comique in Paris and Morton Feldman’s Neither at the Berlin Staatsoper.
His numerous recordings amongst other with Les siècles (with whom he was awarded a German Record Critics’ Prize in 2016 for their recording of The Rite of Spring), the London Symphony Orchestra and the SWR Sinfonieorchester Freiburg & Baden-Baden are widely acclaimed. With the Gürzenich Orchestra, he continues a focus on the composer Philippe Manoury, from whom the orchestra has commissioned a trilogy of works, and lead a tour of Asia in February 2017.
Outreach projects, like last season’s project “Planeten” with young dancers and the orchestra of the Rheinische Musikschule or the project “CityLife” with artists of the Cologne electronic label Kompakt, are an important aspect of François-Xavier Roth’s work. He is conductor of the ground-breaking LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme and, with the Festival Berlioz and Les Siècles, he founded the Jeune Orchestre Européen Hector Berlioz, an orchestra-academy with its own collection of period instruments. Roth and Les Siècles devised Presto!, their own television series for France 2, attracting weekly audiences of over three million. The Gürzenich Orchestra’s “ohrenauf!” education programme recently received the Junge Ohren Award.
Roth and Les Siècles devised Presto!, their own television series for France 2, attracting weekly audiences of over three million. The Gürzenich Orchestra’s “ohrenauf!” education programme recently received the Junge Ohren Award.