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Julius RÖNTGEN (1855-1932)
Piano Music - Volume 4
Impromptu (1910) [4:18]
Ballade No. 1 in D minor, Op. 6 (1873) [7:07]
Ballade No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1883) [7:56]
Ballade No. 3 in E minor “Jotunheim” (1912 pub. 2004) [7:11]
Sonata in C Sharp minor (1928) [8:55]
Sérénade mélancholique (pub. 1910) [4:35]
Variations and Fugue on a Theme of J.P.E. Hartmann, Op. 38 (1895) [17:41]
Mark Anderson (piano)
rec. 2018, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
NIMBUS NI5975 [57:38]

This disc, like the rest of this series, present works composed over a range of fifty-five years, and as such, the listener can build a better picture of the composer and his music. Only one of the discs in this set, Volume 2, has stuck to music composed during a short period, with the other three offering a wide variety of compositional dates and styles of pieces.

The disc opens with the rocking motif of Röntgen’s Impromptu in E flat Major; this was the third of his impromptus, however the other two are now lost. The opening theme soon develops into a more agitated section that is reminiscent of Schumann, before returning to the opening motif, ending, after a brief recap, on the central theme with hushed restatement of the opening.

At the heart of this disc are the three Ballades which were composed over a thirty-nine-year period, with each of the three being deeply romantic in style. The first is dedicated to Professor H. S. Oakeley, who was the first to see the potential of the composer after having seen the thirteen-year-old performing his own music. This Ballade opens with the statement of the main theme in the left hand, before the right joins in with the same theme, this then leads to the right hand playing a rippling effect over the theme in the left. Then the rhythmic second theme enters briefly, before merging with the original theme in a more powerful reassertion of the first theme. The Ballade in G minor was composed at a busy period for Röntgen, as in the same year he had co-founded the Amsterdam Conservatory and had a major role in the foundation of the Concertgebouw the following year. More animated than the first Ballade, the music is more dramatic, with its main theme being almost like an overture for piano, or even a programmatic piece depicting a storm, giving way to a calmer section before the main theme remerges. The third and final Ballade in E minor seems to have been inspired by Röntgen’s visit to the Jotunheim region of Norway in 1891 with his good friend Edvard Grieg. The music is marked by the sweeping melodic lines of the main theme and a chorale-like second theme which battle for supremacy before merging into music born out of the two, before the chorale second theme makes a final statement in the run in to the end of the piece.

The single movement Sonata in C Sharp minor is more of a sonatina, with its three distinct sections lasting less that nine minutes; it was never published and is here performed in an edition prepared by Mark Anderson and is available as a published score. It first section opens quietly and is almost subdued, before this gives way to a more powerful and melodic, yet understated, theme before the themes alternate with each other. The second section has a charming lilting theme which gives way to the more energetic and dramatic music of the third section which, in turn, gives way to music from the opening and ends quietly.

The Sérénade mélancholique is a lovely piece that inhabits the sound world of the slow movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar, with its quasi-middle-eastern dotted rhythm prevailing throughout the work. The result is charming and semi hypnotic, with its rippling thematic material in the left hand forming the basis of the piece.

The longest and most adventurous of the pieces presented on this disc is the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of J.P.E. Hartmann. Whilst the otherwise excellent booklet notes do not state from which of Hartmann’s works it originates, it does provide the subtitle of the work which is taken from the opening words of the Agnus Dei of the Catholic Mass, with the opening theme being suitably solemn. This is followed by no less than fourteen variations of various brilliance and intensity, with the final one setting up well the fugal section. The Fugue restates the theme and then cleverly and interestingly builds upon this material before the final dramatic restatement of the theme brings the work to its conclusion.

This is an interesting and worthy addition to any collection of late romantic piano music and especially to the collection of anyone interested in the music of Julius Röntgen. It is passionately performed by Mark Anderson who seems to be working his way through the complete piano works for Nimbus, and is a wonderful addition to their series. The recorded sound is, like the other recordings, very good, with the natural acoustic of the Wyastone Leys music room helping to bring out the best from this music.

Stuart Sillitoe




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