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Julius RÖNTGEN (1855-1932)
Chamber Music - Volume One
Romanze in G minor (1920) [6:59]
Sonata in E major, Op.40 (1900) [21:08]
Phantasie for solo violin (1921) [11:08]
Aus Jotunheim (1892) [22:16]
Sonata Trilogica (1925) [18:38]
Atsuko Sahara (violin)
John Lenehan (piano)
rec. March 2008, The Music Room, Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex
TOCCATA TOCC0024 [80:13]

Röntgen’s star has never shone more brightly on disc than now. In particular his chamber and instrumental music is taking on a life of its own – a complete recording of the string trio cycle is in hand, for example, from Champs Hill – and the music for violin and piano is here unveiled by Toccata in the first volume of its Chamber Music series.
 
Apparently all first recordings, there are five works tracing the years 1892 to 1925. The Romanze in G minor dates from 1920 and this lied shows the quality of his sweetly lyric invention. It prefaces the much earlier Sonata in E major, Op.40 which has its fair quotient of Brahms-and-Elgar about it – the Elgar of the early salon miniatures – but it remains dominated by Brahms’ Op.78 Violin Sonata. Still, for all that, certain individual elements do emerge, most prominently the clod-hopping peasant dance enshrined in the Scherzo. As admirers of his string trios will know he had a real affinity for the gently folkloric and he imbeds it here in his violin works from time to time. The slow movement and finale are both particularly redolent of Brahms but the skill lies in the assimilation. The Phantasie for solo violin dates from 1921 and is interesting for not evoking either of the two expected lodestars – Bach and Reger. Instead it is lighter, indeed at points capricious – not least in the delightful scherzo movement – and makes some demands on the performer especially in the Allegro energico section. Rounding off the work with the same kind of quasi-improvised figures with which it began was a clever stroke.
 
Aus Jotunheim is by some way the earliest of the violin works here, and is dedicated to Grieg and his wife. These five very characterful pieces have plenty of dance imperatives and a little light contrastive solemnity for balance. This is a vibrant set, warmly textured, affectionately laid out for the two instruments, and mining the folkloric in the finale where the motifs evoke cow-calls. A hymnal paragraph here is very beautiful – but then so is the whole piece. Finally there is the Sonata Trilogica of 1925, the most free and modern-sounding of the five works. Röntgen sounds quite close to the almost-contemporaneous Delius Second Violin Sonata in the first movement in its fluidity and harmony. Interestingly he goes in for a trio-less scherzo and ends the sonata with a passacaglia but one bedecked with sweet lyricism and ending in lovely calm.
 
Malcolm MacDonald wrote the fine booklet notes. The well-recorded performances from Atsuko Sahara and John Lenehan are good, though maybe greater variegation of tone colour from the violinist could have enlivened the music still more. Nevertheless these are most attractive pieces, sensitively played.
 
Jonathan Woolf