Julius Röntgen straddled
two centuries and two countries. He was born in Leipzig
but from 1878 made his home in the Netherlands. He was
remarkably prolific in his writing. There are 534 works
in the Röntgen archive at the Netherlands Music Institute
of which only about a fifth were published during his lifetime.
Our knowledge of his music is patchy at best. For a composer
with such a numerous work-list the image of him now can
be roughly approximated to that we had of Martinů or
Bax in the 1960s.
His friendships in the world
of music included Brahms, Grieg, Nielsen, Tovey and Percy
Grainger. He remained a German Brahmsian romantic at heart.
However his palette as represented here in this late but
intensely ripe work evinces other tributaries including
early Mahler (Symphonies 1 and 4), Schumann (Manfred, Paradies
und die Peri
) and Pfitzner
(Eine Deutsche Seele
). We might als be forgiven
for thinking of works which Röntgen presumably had never
heard, including Nielsen's Springtime in Fynen
the choral writing of Kuhlau.
This is an extraordinary and
wondrous work for an eighty year old. Extraordinary because
of its totally beguiling freshness of romantic invention.
One might perhaps have expected a tiredness at this age
but not at all. The last eight years of his life from 1924
were in fact taken up with his avocation - composition
and they bore a hundred works apparently of the highest
In tackling Goethe's 'Faust'
Röntgen declared again his German credentials and his confidence.
His sympathies were evident from many of his works including
the motets Wider den Krieg
(1914) and Wider den
(1920) as well as the Bußcantate
Goethe was a major preoccupation. Apart from the present
work Röntgen wrote his Symphony No. 17 Aus Goethes Wilhelm
and Symphony No. 20 Symphonie mit Schlusschor
uber Goethes Prooemion
both dating from 1931.
The Prolog im Himmel
the first movement - is both smoothly romantic and heroically
commanding. It shares material with the later Fausts
(tr. 8). The Lied der Erdgeistes
the terpsichorean lightness of the Lieder eines fahrenden
coupled with the outdoor innocent lilt of
. Vor dem Tor
is a lovely
inspiration, part way between Brahms' Academic Festival
Mahler 1. One of the most imaginative movements in an extremely
imaginative lyrical work is the Walpurgisnacht
recalls Poul Schierbeck's Hexen
. Auerbach's Keller
dances with strongly shod cheerfulness of
the Academic Festival Overture
and of Siegfried
Wagner's lighter orchestral pieces.
The CPO notes are enviably
thorough and could hardly be more authoritative in the
hands of Röntgen biographer, Jurjen Vis. Can we hope for
an English translation of the Vis book or must we wait
for years as is still the case with Chris Walton's biography
of Othmar Schoeck.
Hearing more of Röntgen must
be a priority as it is also in the case of Hausegger whose
was recently released by
). There are after all a total of 21 symphonies
written between 1926 and 1932. CPO already have eight CDs
worth of Röntgen in the can ready to issue (see
). There's cause for optimism in the case of
Röntgen as this disc is labelled "Julius Röntgen Edition" -
soon I hope.
- CPO 7771192
- Donemus CV64
- Etcetera KTC1329
- BMG/RCA 88697 158372