The Dutch composer Julius Röntgen grew to maturity
under Brahms’s influence. He was feted by Donald Tovey
in Edinburgh and was on intimately friendly terms with Grieg.
music left its mark on the style and feel of his music as much
as Brahms. He continued to write music until his death - for
him there was no silence from Järvenpää.
As we know from earlier reviews he was impressively productive
of symphonies both light and profound. He also produced more
than few sets of variations and at least five piano concertos.
As this disc shows he had a predilection for works of a more
modest compass than the typical Brahms symphony. Many of his
substantial works are between 20 and 30 minutes length. One of
the exceptions amongst those recorded so far is the lyrical-dramatic
cantata From Goethe’s Faust
(see links below).
His single movement Eighth Symphony
combines the Grieg
and Brahms influences. Brahms provides the gravamen and some
of the surface treatment. Grieg adds a transparency and endearingly
folksy influence. The result is not an impenetrable fug but a
buoyancy and lightness of expression that lifts the writing -
it has a sense of floating that bears it aloft and keeps it there.
It is a remarkable work that also features a wordless vocalisation
alongside writing that recalls Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto
(15:10). The former is magnificently carried with complete security
by Carmen Fuggiss; not a tremor despite cruel demands. The solo
voice is backwardly placed and adds to the morning mists fjord
atmosphere. This is quite magical and is recorded with truly
exemplary results by Björn Brigsne. I should mention that
the symphony includes a discreet role for orchestral piano.
is Brahmsian certainly but here the influence is
the Fourth Symphony. There is more storminess and drama in this
work which in its outer movements has its share of rugged determination.
This contrasts with the airily dancing flute and solo violin-led
delights of the second movement. The melancholy soulfulness of
the cello-priest third leads to the roundedly solid, poetic
and ultimately imperious finale. This brings the work to an end
with a blitz of grimly confrontational brass and timps barks
- tragedy in the ascendant. The extensive Variations on
a Norwegian Folksong
is lovingly and smoothly rounded
with more than a touch of Delius, Grieg and perhaps Berlioz about
it. The writing and the ideas are quite beautiful. There are
none of Siegfried Wagner’s clodhopping folkdances and none
of Reger’s fugal infatuations. Allowing for an isolated
hint of Henry Wood’s Sea Song Variations
is most delicately put across (16:15).
Burkhard Schmilgun will have been pleased with the results and
I fully expect that the composer’s shade would have been
Three deeply romantic yet not extravagant works of the 1930s
without a scintilla of dissonance; all enlivened and made transparent
by Nordic folk voices.
This is the place to begin your exploration of Röntgen.
If you appreciate the symphonies of Stanford but perhaps hanker
for a lighter even impressionistic hand then Röntgen is
certainly for you.
Other reviews of Rontgen recordings
Symphony 3, Jotunheim suite - CPO
Symphony 10 & other orchestral works - CPO 7773082
Aus Goethes Faust - CPO
Chamber music - RCA 88697 158372
Quartettino - Challenge Classics CC72137
Cello concertos - Etcetera KTC1329