Notes and Editorial Reviews
Julius Röntgen was a remarkable composer: prolific, joyous, traditional at heart, but eclectic in practice. As with many, similarly productive artists, his output is often adjudged “variable” by those who haven’t heard most of it. Of the roughly two dozen symphonies that he composed, most appeared in the final years of his life (he died in 1932). No. 9 dates from 1930. Subtitled “The Bitonal,” Röntgen called it “ultra-modern,” and indeed the opening bars bear a striking resemblance to those of the Berg Violin Concerto, composed some five years later (sound clips). That said, this single movement piece, lasting only a bit more than a quarter of an hour, quickly reveals its clearly tonal grounding, “bi” or not. What truly stands out
is not just the harmonic audacity, but the often arresting use of instrumental color (the harp at the start) and keen feeling for atmosphere. It’s a fine piece.
Symphony No. 21 is a touch longer–a single movement just shy of twenty minutes. It has a certain Brucknerian nobility both in the writing for the brass as well as the freely contrapuntal style of much of the texture. It dates from only about a year after the Ninth, which tells you something about Röntgen’s rate of production during these late years. The earlier Serenade (1902) does exactly what music of its type ought to: it’s relaxed, tuneful, sunny, lyrical, and vivacious by turns. Röntgen’s love of Grieg and the Scandinavian nationalists is very much in evidence.
As with the other discs in this series, David Porcelijn leads vivid and confident performances of this very unfamiliar music. He secures good playing from the Frankfurt players, and CPO’s sonics, typically, are terrific. This disc admirably displays both Röntgen’s wide range of expression and his development as an artist. It’s music well worth getting to know.
– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz) Read less
Works on This Recording
Serenade in E Major by Julius Röntgen
Brandenburg State Orchestra Frankfurt
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