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Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

We would like to invite you to a discussion with conductor François-Xavier Roth and violist Tabea Zimmermann from 6.30 pm in the Rieger Lounge of the Municipal House. Admission is free with a ticket for this concert.


  • Leoš Janáček: The Fiddler's Child
  • Paul Hindemith: Der Schwanendreher (concerto for viola and orchestra)
  • Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben Op. 40


  • Gürzenich-Orchester Köln
  • François-Xavier Roth - conductor
  • Tabea Zimmermann - viola


1200 - 2400 CZK
1 6 2022
Wednesday 20.00
Expected end of the event 22.00

François-Xavier Roth & Gürzenich-Orchester Köln – Prague Spring Festival 2022

Leoš Janáček on the programme in honour of our host

The Gürzenich Orchestra from Cologne has a remarkable and celebrated history. “They premiered the Double Concerto by Johannes Brahms, two symphonies by Gustav Mahler and the symphonic poems of Richard Strauss,” says Prague Spring Programme Director Josef Třeštík. It is still one of the finest and most intriguing orchestras on the scene today. “Under the guidance of its Chief Conductor François-Xavier Roth it has built up a fascinating repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present day and it works with some of the world’s top soloists, such as violist Tabea Zimmermann,” Třeštík adds.

The knowledge that Paul Hindemith himself stood on the podium in Prague is a great inspiration for me for my performance of the piece with my musical companion Tabea Zimmermann,” Roth states. “The Gürzenich Orchestra has Richard Strauss in its DNA, and we included music by the wonderful Czech composer Leoš Janáček on the programme in honour of our host,” concludes the French conductor, who will make his Czech debut at the festival with two concerts. A day before this concert with the German orchestra he will conduct Les Siècles, a French orchestra performing on period instruments which he founded almost twenty years ago; the programme in this instance will combine works by César Franck and Claude Debussy.

François-Xavier Roth © Julien Mignot 2

“Special FX”

The French conductor François-Xavier Roth (* 1971) is one of the most prominent artists of his generation. According to Neil Fisher, critic for The Times, “If he hasn’t already got the nickname Special FX, then Roth should adopt it”, praising his “empathetic musicality and flair for colour, sometimes conjuring up such startling touches that the players look stunned.”

The son of the acclaimed organist Daniel Roth, he is sought after for his exciting charisma, inventive programming, and profundity of interpretation. At the 77th annual Prague Spring Festival, he is making his very first appearance in the Czech Republic, and he will perform on two concert programmes. First he will be at the helm of the period instrument orchestra Les Siècles at the Rudolifinum’s Dvořák Hall (31 May), then he will lead the Gürzenich-Orchester from Cologne in Smetana Hall at the Municipal House (1 June).

Premieres of works by Brahms, Strauss and Mahler

With its pioneering performances and innovative programming the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, comprising approximately 130 members, is one of Germany’s leading ensembles. It performs symphonic music and operas and, since the opening of the Kölner Philharmonie in 1986, it has been one of the two orchestras resident at this venue. Each year it offers around fifty concerts, attended by more than 100,000 people.

The orchestra’s roots go back to the town bands of medieval times (known as Ratsmusik) and to the first permanent ensembles active at Cologne cathedral. In 1857 the orchestra began giving concerts in the Gürzenich concert hall, from which it derived its current name. It has been the orchestra of the City of Cologne since 1888. Throughout its long history it has always attracted the leading composers and conductors of its time. It performed the premieres of important works by the likes of Johannes Brahms (Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra), Richard Strauss (Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche) and Gustav Mahler (Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5), a tradition that endures to this day: each season the orchestra presents several world premieres of pieces by renowned contemporary composers.

The whole body seems to absorb the music

Tabea Zimmermann is one of the world’s most respected contemporary artists. “The sound of her viola is so intense and sensual that you, as a listener, are almost saturated with it. Unconsciously, the whole body seems to absorb the music,” wrote Stefan Arndt from the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. “When Zimmermann plays, one also hears with the stomach, the toes, and the hair.” Holder of the Ernst von Siemens prize (2020), soloist-in-residence with the Concertgebouw orchestra (2019/2020) and the Berlin Philharmonic (2020/2021), she is in demand as a first-rate performer both as a soloist and a chamber musician. She regularly works with leading orchestras such as Orchestre de Paris, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic.

She has premiered a number of works by contemporary composers, often written expressly for her. In 1994 she gave the first performance of Sonata for Solo Viola by György Ligeti. More recent premieres include Recitanto for viola and orchestra by Heinz Holliger, the viola concerto Über die Linie IV by Wolfgang Rihm, Georges Lentz’s Monh, Frank Michael Beyer’s Notte di pasqua, Concerto for Two Violas and Orchestra by Bruno Mantovani (with Antoine Tamestit), the viola concertos of Michael Jarrell and York Höller, or Rihm’s Stabat Mater for baritone and viola (with Christian Gerhaher), premiered in 2020 at Berlin’s Musikfest.

A recording of Hindemith’s complete viola works

In 2013 Tabea Zimmermann made a critically acclaimed recording of Hindemith’s complete viola works for the myrios classics label (to mark the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death). She released successful recordings of solo pieces by Max Reger and Johann Sebastian Bach, for which she received the Echo Klassik award, followed by three albums made with Kirill Gerstein and Thomas Hopp. She has recorded more than 50 CDs for various labels, including harmonia mundi, EMI, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon. She has received a number of awards and distinctions during the course of her career, among them the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Frankfurter Musikpreis, Hessian Cultural Prize, Rheingau Music Prize, the International Accademia Musicale Chigiana Prize in Siena, the Paul Hindemith Prize in Hanau, and in 2017 she was named Artist of the Year at the ICMA – International Classical Music Awards. She has been a member of the Hindemith Foundation Council since 2013. In the years 2013–2020 she was Chairman of the Board of Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, whose endeavours culminated in 2020 with a three-week festival which showcased virtually the entire scope of Beethoven’s chamber oeuvre. Tabea Zimmermann studied in Freiburg and Salzburg. As the winner of the Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris (1983) she was the recipient of a viola crafted by Étienne Vatelot. She has been playing since 2019 on an instrument made for her by Patrick Robin. From 1987 she regularly performed with her husband, conductor David Shallon, until his death in 2000. In 2002 she was appointed professor of the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin.


Programme Notes

The progamme for their Prague Spring concert consists of Leoš Janáček’s ballad The Fiddler’s Child, the symphonic poem Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss and the viola concerto Der Schwanendreher by Paul Hindemith, who stood on the conductor’s rostrum for the first and, as yet, the last performance of the piece at the Prague Spring in 1961.