Conductor François-Xavier Roth is among the most versatile and prolific conductors in 21st century France, active in both modern-instrument and historically oriented performances. Roth is the director of the period-instrument orchestra Les Siècles, which offers historically authentic performances of music from the 17th to the 20th century.
Roth was born in Paris on November 6, 1971. His father was the well-known organist Daniel Roth. François-Xavier took up the flute and entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique for studies on that instrument with Alain Marion before switching to conducting, working with János Fürst. Roth won the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in 2000, leading to a two-year appointment as assistant conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. His turn toward early music came during the same period as an assistant to John Eliot Gardiner. In 2003, Roth founded Les Siècles, which, unlike other historically oriented ensembles, has applied historical principles to music as far forward as the 20th century. The ensemble has toured continental Europe, Britain, and Japan, and in 2013, to mark the work's 100th anniversary, it performed Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring on period instruments at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt and the BBC Proms. The group has amassed a large collection of historical instruments from various periods.
Meanwhile, Roth was making inroads into the world of conventional symphony orchestras. He led the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, and then, in 2010, became the final conductor of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg before its merger into the SWR Symphonieorchester. In 2014, he was named Generalmusikdirektor of the city of Cologne, which entailed conductorships of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and the Cologne Opera. Remaining in that position through at least 2022, Roth also became the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017.
Roth's recording catalog is large and covers the various ensembles with which he has been associated. He made his debut in 2005 on the Timpani label, conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg in an album of works by contemporary composer Jean-Louis Agobet. He has since recorded for various labels, including Hänssler, Actes Sud, and since 2017, Harmonia Mundi, where, in 2020, he released an album with Les Siècles of Ravel's La Valse and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, using period instruments in both works.