Exclusive: Cologne picks seasoned fighter as new music director

Exclusive: Cologne picks seasoned fighter as new music director


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2014

We hear that Cologne is about to announce a new general music director of opera and the Gürzenich orchestra.  The new broom is Francois-Xavier Roth, the Frenchman who has been fighting for the past two years to block the merger of his SWR Freiburg orchestra with Stuttgart’s.

Francois will take over in Cologne in September 2015 but (we hear) is sticking with Freiburg for one year beyond that in a bid to ensure its survival. The long campaign – involving such luminaries as Pierre Boulez and Michael Gielen – is starting to pay off and the SWR bosses are showing stress fractures.

Congratulations to Cologne’s progressive management for picking such a combative conductor and to Francois for sticking with the SWR fight.

francois-xavier roth


  • Rosana Martins says:

    Wonderful news! All orchestras need musical fighters nowadays.

  • Simon Morgan says:


    François-Xavier is a really exciting conductor with a broad repertoire, ranging from his fantastic work with period instrument band Les Siecles to the contemporary repertoire of the SWR orchestra.

    Following the shameful way in which Uwe Eric Laufenberg was ousted from Cologne in 2012, this appointment will help put the city’s opera back on the map.

    Especially because it will coincide with the re-opening of the refurbished opera house, which has been closed for extensive renovation since 2012.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      The opera in Cologne is already on the map. I don’t think it has been as much on the map in recent memory as during Markus Stenz’ highly successful tenure.

      Good news about Roth going there though. I have enjoyed some of his recordings with the SWR as well as Les Siècles – although I am not always convinced how “period” that really is. They do play on historical instruments but they often sound more like a modern orchestra than what one can hear on old recordings, e.g. of French orchestras. Their Sacre du printemps sounds much more modern than, e.g. what the Conservatoire orchestra sounds like on their recording with Monteux from the 50s, and even that is 40 years from the time of the premiere.