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François-Xavier Roth (born Paris, 1971) is one of today’s most charismatic and enterprising conductors. He has been General Music Director of the City of Cologne since 2015, leading both the Gürzenich Orchestra and the Opera. He is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the first-ever Associate Artist of the Philharmonie de Paris.
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 Staatskapelle Berlin, Royal Concertgebouw, Boston Symphony, Munich Philharmonic and Zurich Tonhalle. In 2018-19, he makes a return to the Berlin Philharmonic and appears with the San Francisco Symphony, Cleveland, Montreal Symphony and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestras.
In 2003, he founded Les Siècles, an innovative orchestra performing contrasting and colourful programmes on modern and period instruments, often within the same concert. With Les Siècles, he has given concerts throughout Europe and toured to China and Japan. They recreated the original sound of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in its centenary year and, subsequently, with the Pina Bausch and Dominique Brun dance companies in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai and Tokyo. Les Siècles was nominated for Gramophone Magazine’s first Orchestra of the Year Award.
After the success of their explorations of Post-Romanticism and Debussy in his centenary year, concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra in November and March feature a typically wide-range of works, from Haydn through Strauss, Bartók and Scriabin and, in the latest of his LSO Futures series, to the current sound world of Philippe Manoury, with the UK premiere of Ring.
In his fourth Cologne opera season, he leads new productions of Strauss’ Salome and Offenbach’s La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, which marks the bicentenary of the composer’s birth in Cologne. With the Gürzenich Orchestra, he will feature Rhenish composer, Schumann, and explore works which disrupt traditional orchestral forms and think them anew. He continues a focus on the composer Philippe Manoury, with the premiere of Lab.Oratorium, the third of the trilogy of works commissioned by the orchestra, which will also be played in Hamburg and Paris. He will take the orchestra on tour to Turin, Zürich and Vienna, performing Mahler’s fifth symphony.
He recorded the complete tone poems of Richard Strauss while Principal Conductor of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden & Freiburg (2011-2016). His recordings of the Stravinsky ballets, The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring with Les Siècles have also been widely acclaimed; the latter being awarded a German Record Critics’ Prize. They are currently recording a complete Ravel cycle for Harmonia Mundi. The first release, Daphnis and Chloé, won the Gramophone Awards Orchestral Album of the Year and was a Gramophone magazine Editor’s Choice and CD of the month in Rondo Magazine. The second album, including Ma mère l’Oye, won a Diapason d’Or on its release in March 2018. Mirages, a vocal recital with Sabine Devieilhe for Erato, won a Diapason d’Or and was Victoires de la Musique Classique Recording of the Year, a Gramophone Editor’s Choice and Sunday Times Album of the Week. His first recording with the Gürzenich Orchestra, Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, premiered in Cologne by the orchestra under Mahler in 1904, was released in December 2017 to enthusiastic reviews. Engagement with new audiences is an essential part of François-Xavier Roth’s work. With the Festival Berlioz and Les Siècles, he founded the Jeune Orchestre Européen Hector Berlioz, a unique orchestra-academy with its own collection of period instruments. Roth and Les Siècles devised Presto!, a television series for France 2, attracting weekly audiences of over three million. The Gürzenich Orchestra’s Ohrenauf! youth programme was recipient of a Junge Ohren Produktion Award. A tireless champion of contemporary music, he has been conductor of the ground-breaking LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme since its outset in 2005. Roth has premiered works by Yann Robin, Georg-Friedrich Haas, Hèctor Parra and Simon Steen-Anderson and collaborated with composers like Pierre Boulez, Wolfgang Rihm, Jörg Widmann and Helmut Lachenmann.
For his achievements as musician, conductor, music director and teacher, François-Xavier Roth was last year created a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.
François-Xavier Roth, conductor
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Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, collaborating with communities and institutions to explore culture’s role in society, or engaging unexpected musical forms, Yo-Yo strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity.
In August 2018, Yo-Yo began a new journey, setting out to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello in one sitting in 36 locations around the world, iconic venues that encompass our cultural heritage, our current creativity, and the challenges of peace and understanding that will shape our future. Each concert is an example of culture’s power to create moments of shared understanding, as well as an invitation to a larger conversation about culture, society, and the themes that connect us all.
The Bach Project continues Yo-Yo’s lifelong commitment to stretching the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore music as a means not only to share and express meaning, but also as his contribution to a conversation about how culture can help us to imagine and build a stronger society and a better future.
It was this belief that inspired Yo-Yo to establish Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the world who create music that engages their many traditions. In addition to presenting performances in venues from Suntory Hall to the Hollywood Bowl, Silkroad collaborates with museums and universities to develop training programs for teachers, musicians, and learners of all ages.
Through his work with Silkroad, as well as throughout his career, Yo-Yo Ma has sought to expand the classical cello repertoire, frequently performing lesser-known music of the 20th century and commissions of new concertos and recital pieces. He has premiered works by a diverse group of composers, among them Osvaldo Golijov, Leon Kirchner, Zhao Lin, Christopher Rouse, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Giovanni Sollima, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun, and John Williams.
In addition to his work as a performing artist, Yo-Yo partners with communities and institutions from Chicago to Guangzhou to develop programs that champion culture’s power to transform lives and forge a more connected world. Among his many roles, he is the artistic director of the annual Youth Music Culture Guangdong festival and a UN Messenger of Peace, and is the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees.
Yo-Yo’s discography of over 100 albums (including 19 Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests. In addition to his many iconic renditions of the Western classical canon, he has made several recordings that defy categorization, among them “Appalachia Waltz” and “Appalachian Journey” with Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer, and two Grammy-winning tributes to the music of Brazil, “Obrigado Brazil” and “Obrigado Brazil – Live in Concert.” Yo-Yo’s recent recordings include: “Songs from the Arc of Life,” with pianist Kathryn Stott; “Sing Me Home,” with the Silkroad Ensemble, which won the 2016 Grammy for Best World Music Album; “Bach Trios,” with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile; “Brahms: The Piano Trios,” with Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos; and “Six Evolutions - Bach: Cello Suites.”
Yo-Yo was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and three years later moved with his family to New York City, where he continued his cello studies with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School. After his conservatory training, he sought out a liberal arts education, graduating from Harvard University with a degree in anthropology in 1976. He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), Kennedy Center Honors (2011), the Polar Music Prize (2012), and the J. Paul Getty Medal Award (2016). He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.
Yo-Yo Ma, cello