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Julius RÖNTGEN (1855-1932)
String Trio No.5 (1920) [17:01]
String Trio No.6 (1920) [18:05]
String Trio No.7 (1920) [18:51]
String Trio No.8 (1923) [15:08]
Lendvai String Trio
rec. October 2013, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK

This is the second in a series devoted to the complete string trios performed by the ensemble that first brought them to life (see reviews of Volume 1). The trios’ journey from storage in the Netherlands Music Institute in the Hague to first recordings in West Sussex has been an exemplary one and the Lendvai String Trio – as ever attired in elegant, almost flapper outfits in their booklet photograph – prove sagacious guides.

They perform Trios 5 to 8, all composed in 1920, with the exception of the last which had to wait until the first month in 1923. As ever Röntgen proves an amiable, easy-going composer in this kind of repertoire, light, unpretentious with his eye on domestic music-making. That said, in the Fifth he unveils what is without doubt the most overtly expressive slow movement of any thus far in the sequence, unusually powerful in effect although only six minutes in length. In the finale the fragmentary melodies are part of a variations scheme, with an inbuilt brief cadential passage for the violinist. This is all highly effective and beautifully projected by the Lendvai. Though he was to mine Dutch folkloric music, Röntgen sounds quite Dvořákian when he does so, as can be appreciated in the Trio No.6 where the mysterioso slow movement, though effective, doesn’t seek to replicate the sense of concentrated breadth present in the earlier work composed, in fact, just three months before.

What is clear by now about these unpretentious works is their freshness and vigour, their sheer ease of expression. That’s certainly applicable to No.7 where the confident cello drone in the Poco allegro imparts a light admixture of the outdoors and the sweet lyricism of the slow movement prefaces an amiable and genial folk dance finale. No.8 reverts to the three-movement lay-out of No.5 but spins a surprise by omitting a slow movement, substituting instead an Allegretto which shifts metres pretty freely but also employs that cellistic drone as a central operative feature.

There are no huge surprises here, and in any case Röntgen’s muse was fairly equable. This is delightfully pithy music, strong on folk inflexions, taking a delight in naturalness of phrasing, avoiding any hint of the didactic or academic. It’s al fresco music, too, music for friends. It’s been beautifully served once again by the recording team and performers.

Jonathan Woolf