“A maestro in eight variations: the conductor François-Xavier Roth”, an uneven and frustrating portrait on Arte

Trained flautist, son of the great organist Daniel Roth, François-Xavier Roth (born in 1971) followed the classic path of assistantship in large orchestras, won a decisive competition (in 2000), before slowly but surely, a respected conductor, with a successful international career

“A maestro in eight variations: the conductor François-Xavier Roth”, an uneven and frustrating portrait on Arte

Trained flautist, son of the great organist Daniel Roth, François-Xavier Roth (born in 1971) followed the classic path of assistantship in large orchestras, won a decisive competition (in 2000), before slowly but surely, a respected conductor, with a successful international career.

Its singularity is to have created, twenty years ago, Les Siècles, an ensemble which plays alternately – sometimes within the same program – modern and historical instruments, depending on the chosen repertoire. Salim Butt-Lutz's documentary tells all of this in a pleasant and lively portrait.

The film does not always avoid hagiography and willingly veers into the anecdotal. The chef goes jogging every morning, which isn't very interesting, except when he says, "I discovered I had a body. » Without wanting to impose a psychoanalytic reading of this statement, we would have liked to know what he means by this. Because the conductor’s instrument is certainly the orchestra, but also his body.

Barbecue skewers

Another sequence films him with his arm caught in a splint, without the subject of “bobos” of the profession being broached. We would have preferred that he was, rather than seeing, a little too long, the chef on vacation, receiving friends at the family home in Nîmes, during a lunch of barbecue skewers...

Fortunately, the documentary sometimes focuses on the music itself and the conductor's historically informed view of it. Thus, on the piano, François-Xavier Roth explains key elements of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 3, and reminds us that this music takes its source from the ancient repertoire, Germanic in particular. . His remarks are then illustrated by extracts from a concert recording at the head of one of the orchestras for which he is responsible.

We also see him rehearsing The Rite of Spring, by Igor Stravinsky, with Les Siècles, who he asks to successively play passages from the two versions of the work, the original from 1913, published in 1922, and the revision of 1947: it's fascinating, educational, but, alas, as with Bruckner, too short and too vague!

Finally, the documentary shows François-Xavier Roth rehearsing new (rather ugly, but whatever) works by young composers. He makes a practical notation recommendation to a composer, who unnecessarily complicated her score. But, once again, we remain at the door of a subject which we would expect to be developed. If Arte doesn’t do it, who will?