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Conductor François-Xavier Roth Faces Sexual Harassment Allegations

Roth has been accused of sending inappropriate messages to his colleagues and a law firm is now investigating the allegations

 

In an article published on May 22, 2024, by the French investigative magazine Le Canard enchaîné, sexual harassment allegations have been raised against the 52-year-old conductor François-Xavier Roth, who allegedly sent crude text messages to musicians he worked with.

Alongside his role as Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Roth has been Music Director of Cologne’s Gürzenich Orchestra and Opera since 2015. In 2025, Roth will succeed Teodor Currentzis as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the SWR Symphonieorchester

Among his awards include France’s Chevalier degree of the Order of the Légion d’honneur in 2017. Additionally, he is the founder of the period instrument orchestra Les Siècles

As reported by VAN Magazine, two journalists of Le Canard enchaîné spoke with seven musicians who had allegedly received “undesirable messages” from Roth while working with him. 

Further, between 2005 and 2010, some young players in Les Siècles were allegedly warned not to respond to Roth’s messages, which often and quickly contained inappropriate content. According to Le Canard enchaîné, other players saw the messages as a rite of passage that had to be accepted.

The Le Canard enchaîné journalists obtained the text messages and photos corroborating the musicians’ accounts. They also cited a letter (viewed by VAN) from an orchestral musician to Stefan Englert, the head of the Gürzenich Orchestra, complaining of the workplace’s sexualized atmosphere. 

On May 8, Englert told VAN in a statement that no formal complaint of discrimination under the General Equal Treatment Law (which includes sexual harassment) had been filed during his time as director of the orchestra.

“It’s a cyclone that is coming before us,” Les Siècles’ managing director Enrique Thérain told France Musique. “Les Siècles is not just François-Xavier Roth, it is 70 musicians and 7 administrative employees. Our priority is to maintain employment and preserve the structure,” Thérain added.

“There have never been any complaints, reports or denunciations of abuse of power. Neither with the administration, nor with the musicians’ office of Les Siècles.”

VAN reports that Roth said that he engaged in “intimate telephone exchanges. In a statement to Le Canard enchaîné, he said: “If I went too far, I present my apologies to those I may have offended.”

A representative of Roth told The Violin Channel that there will be no comment made to the press.

France Musique added that Roth was replaced at short notice by Adrien Perruchon for an evening performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on May 22.

According to the ASB Zeitung, a report in Le Canard enchainé disclosed that a separate law firm was appointed to look into the allegations against Roth and take legal action if required. 

As news of the allegations has circulated, Roth has temporarily suspended his work duties, ASB Zeitung reported.

Englert made the announcement, stating that “Roth has chosen to suspend his work with immediate effect in order to allow the Gürzenich Orchestra and Cologne Opera the chance to clarify and address the situation.”

Additionally, Alexander Vogel — spokesperson for Cologne’s nonpartisan mayor Henriette Reke verified Roth’s choice to step down from his positions in the German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, saying that Roth had read a statement during a recent rehearsal.

“Due to the release of a news article pointing out that I have sent inappropriate text messages to musicians in the past, the orchestras I lead will be extensively investigating the behavior cited and collecting information on the allegations,” Roth read out. “I have decided to stop conducting the Gürzenich Orchestra temporarily in order to permit a peaceful investigation of these matters. I apologize to anyone I may have offended.”

 

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