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Julius RÖNTGEN (1855-1932)
Piano Music - 1
Suite in Four Movements, Op.7 (1873) [17:43]
Variations and Finale on a Hungarian Czardas, Op.25 (1885) [17:05]
Three Romances, Op.32 (1904) [11:44]
Buiten, Op.65 (1919) [24:18]
Mark Anderson (piano)
rec. 2014, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
NIMBUS NI5918 [70:51]

Röntgen’s delightful music continues to be recorded. What began as a fresh mountain spring has now become something of a waterfall, with complete sets of the String Trios in progress, the violin works being assiduously explored and much more besides. Another of the ‘besides’ is this inaugural release in a Piano Music series from Nimbus. One wonders how wide it will cast its net, given that he composed thirty piano sonatas and sonatinas in the decade between 1922-32 alone, as Jurjen Vis reminds us in his booklet note.

The series opens in light style, charting a compositional arc between 1873 and 1919. The Suite was written when Röntgen was in his teens and clearly he knew his Schumann. These little pieces, sporting proud Baroque nomenclature, offer considerable charm and a correspondingly delicate lyricism – the Andantino being the quintessence of Röntgenian warmth. Elsewhere his youthful extroversion makes itself freely apparent. A dozen years later he penned the Variations and Finale on a Hungarian Czardas, the sole example of ‘Eastern European’ writing though there’s not a great deal here that sounds especially like a sizzling Czardas. Occasionally the writing betrays Brahmsian affiliations rather than anything we might associate with Liszt. The rolled chords are an effective device but this pleasant piece – somewhat overlong at 17 minutes in this performance - isn’t especially idiomatic or evocative.

The 1904 Three Romances return to what he does best: delightful miniatures. The first is richly noble, again touching on the Brahms of Opp.117, 118 and 119 and which could do service as a calming encore. The central one shows some elements of Debussy’s influence, albeit fleetingly – Röntgen’s harmonic palette underwent change from the time of the First World War onwards. The last of the three is stormy and passionate. In 1919 he wrote Buiten, Op.65, or ‘Outside’ in English, a sequence of ten brief studies with rustic titles such as Ratbout’s Castle, or Dune butterflies or the Clog fugue. There is much unpretentious freshness and gusto to be heard in this suite though as only three of the ten lasts longer than three minutes in length, genial compression is the name of the musical game. He inveigled folkloric cadences delightfully into a number of his string trios and he does so again here in places – rooted as they are in the precedent of Grieg: listen to The Farmer’s Wife, for instance. Ratbout’s Castle sounds an imposing edifice from the strong chording, whilst the most melancholy is the ninth, Sea Mood. They are most delightfully played by Mark Anderson in the sympathetic acoustic of Wyastone Leys.

I’m looking forward to this series developing but then I am very partial to Röntgen’s unassuming generosity of spirit. After all, not everything need be Sturm und Drang.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Brian Reinhart