Légion d’honneur for French maestro who only works abroad

Légion d’honneur for French maestro who only works abroad


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2018

The French honour was awarded today to François-Xavier Roth, 46, Generalmusikdirektor in Cologne and last music director of the disbanded SWR symphony orchestra, both in Germany.

Roth is also principal guest conductor at the London Symphony Orchestra and former associate conductor in Wales. He has also been music director at Liège in Belgium. He works everywhere except in France.

Ignored by state institutions, he founded his own group there, Les Siècles.

Maybe he should have been awarded the Foreign Legion of honour.



  • JohannesB says:

    On what about his Paris-based orchestra “Les Siècles” which he’s conducting very regularly? Doesn’t that count for you?

    • jean-christophe says:

      Even if he does not play ten times a month in Paris (as may be Philippe Jordan), I am used to see him conducting in Paris regularly at the philarmonie and also outside Paris with his orchestra.

  • Martin Furber says:

    A great honour for a very fine conductor. FXR, as the members of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (where he was Principal Guest Conductor) called him, is always guaranteed to bring new insights, spontineity, theatricality and Gallic charm to everything he does, whether with the LSO or with his wonderful period ensemble Les Siecles. He is entertainingly quirky and loves speaking to his audience from the stage. At the end of one Cardiff concert he famously turned and said, “Laydees and jontlemen, we would like to play for you a leetle encorrre (applause) – unfortunatelee, we do not ‘ave one”. He then walked off. Wonderful!

    • SVM says:

      And a person who cares genuinely about the players he conducts and making great music by composers old and new (and, of course, that lynchpin of the French avant-garde, Boulez). His speech after the SWR symphony orchestra’s first (and last) Proms appearence was inspirational, exhorting us to strive for a “utopie” in artistic endeavour.

  • Jonathon says:

    How about his own period instrument ensemble Les Siecles? Based in….France!

  • David Nice says:

    I was just going to say the same – maliciously wrong as so often, Mr Lebrecht. To gauge the extent of Les Siecles’ work, ponder this from the orchestra’s website and feel a bit ashamed:

    ‘The musicians of Les Siècles propose regularly several educational actions in schools, hospitals, retirement homes and prisons. The orchestra is partner of Jeune Symphonie de l’Aisne, Jeune Orchestre Européen Hector Berlioz and Demos (musical and social educational project) in Hauts-de-France and Île-de-France. The orchestra is one of the initiator of “Music in the hospital” project proposed in the pediatric haematology-oncology Trousseau Hospital’s service in Paris. He also created an educational residency in La Petite Bibliothèque Ronde de Clamart.’

  • Peter says:

    “He works everywhere except in France.”

    All except the eight concerts in France in the next two months alone. See his website.

  • Robert King says:

    To add first-hand experience to the confirmation of fantastic work FXR does in France, I was lucky enough to be a guest last summer (in between TKC’s own concerts at the Berlioz Festival) at an amazing concert FXR conducted with the Berlioz Festival’s “academy” orchestra [mentioned above], which produced a stunningly good, and very large, period instrument orchestra, in which many of the finest French players of the next generation were joined by principal players of Les Siècles (who were interspersed amongst the students, ie not just sitting in principal seats but right through the orchestra). They performed a huge all-Berlioz programme, brilliantly conceived and performed, and broadcast live on French radio too. I was left in some awe of the standard of French period instrument playing of the next generation: FXR’s control (and good humour) was astonishing.

    • Robert King says:

      Interesting additional fact: Mrs K has just looked up briefly from a text on Bach to inform me (I’d not previously put this particular two and two together) that FXR’s father is the very distinguished French organist Daniel Roth, titular organist at Sacré-Coeur in Paris 1973-85, subsequently titular organist at Saint-Sulpice (predecessors including Widor and Marcel Dupré). FXR’s brother is a violist and, like his father, is also a fine teacher. An amazing musical family.

      • David says:

        Yes, father Daniel Roth at the organ of St Sulpice has a number of marvelous videos on you tube. He also has the reputation of being a very nice chap. Heartily recommended.

  • Db says:

    F-X Roth has also just been named associate artist of the Paris Philharmonie.

  • Bruce says:

    “Duly amended” — except that the headline and post still say that he doesn’t work in France.

    But apparently he just had a concert in Paris yesterday: https://www.francoisxavierroth.com/concert/les-siecles-debussy-boulez/

    Very strange.

  • The View from America says:

    Judging from the facts presented in the comments section below this article, I think it’s time for a complete do-over.

    This post and its POV were star-crossed from the beginning.

  • BP says:

    Also of note : Roth has said he has so far deliberately turned down gigs with French orchestras, apart from his own ensemble, but now feels ready and will conduct some next season.

  • jean-christophe says:

    so given all these elements from France, please change the title of this article 🙂 !!!
    and, for the fun, just have a look to the way he celebrated the election of Emmanuel Macron with his Koln orchestra:

    • operacentric says:

      It wasn’t purely to celebrate the election of Macron, it was to celebrate a winning European spirit, a welcoming and coming-together and rejection of rascism, a win by the FC Koln football team and a piece he felt was missing from a programme of pieces inspired by the sea…

  • Sixtus says:

    When the position became available I recommeded here at SD that FXR be appointed music director at the NY Philharmonic. Alas, to no avail.

  • Sylvain says:

    Dear readers, have a look at yesterday’s concert, recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris !

    Les Siècles performing “Rituel” by Boulez, followed by Debussy’s “Nocturnes” & “La Mer” on period instruments :
    or https://live.philharmoniedeparis.fr/concert/1076860/debussy-boulez-par-les-siecles-et-francois-xavier-roth.html

    and check the concert schedule of “Les Siècles”, FXR’s own ensemble, at lessiecles.com (plenty of concerts in France and abroad !)

  • MDillon says:

    Used to do a great series of concerts for children about 10 or 15 years ago here in Paris

    • Sylvain says:

      Absolutely true.
      Indeed, these ‘young people’s concerts’ and family concerts still take place on a regular basis throughout the season, at the Paris Philharmonie but also on tour in many French cities where Les Siècles regularly perform : Soissons, Nîmes, Sénart, every place where the orchestra can make new audiences discover classical music.
      Some concerts are conceived especially as educative programs for children, others are more oriented towards family audiences – sometimes involving audience participation (with preparatory workshops).

      You can watch a family concert which took place around Halloween (from last november), staged especially for children, here : https://live.philharmoniedeparis.fr/concert/1073191/sorciers-et-sorcieres-les-siecles-francois-xavier-roth-berlioz.html

      Les Sècles perform Dukas “L’apprenti sorcier”, John Williams “Harry Potter”, Berlioz Last movement from “Symphonie fantastique”, Saint-Saens “Danse macabre”. on period instruments.

      • While the Boulez/Debussy concert by Les Siècles & François-Xavier Roth mentioned above seems to be offline at the moment, the “Halloween” family concert is still available for everybody to watch.

  • René says:

    As several have noted, he actually conducts regularly in France, and has recently been appointed “artiste associé” à la Philharmonie de Paris.

  • jean-christophe says:

    in today’s Le Figaro : a sentence from Laurent Bayle (head of the Paris Philarmonie) reminding that the close collaboration between FXR and La cité de la Musique (former name of the Paris Philarmonie) began in … 2006 :

    “Le «compagnonnage» avec la Philharmonie de Paris (alors Cité de la musique) a débuté en 2006, a rappelé lundi son directeur général Laurent Bayle. «Nous partageons avec François-Xavier Rote des desseins communs: animer le répertoire, valoriser la création et assurer la transmission de la musique», a-t-il souligné.”

    Since the title of this post has not been modified, I should conclude eventually conclude that Slippedisc considers that Paris is not in France ? 😉