Julius Röntgen

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.3 in C minor
Aus Jotunheim

Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz
David Porcelijn

Recorded 6-9 September 2005 in the Philharmonie, Ludwigshafen

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: January 2007
CD No: CPO 777 119-2
Duration: 58 minutes

The opening of the C minor symphony, the third of Julius Röntgen’s 21 (or more!) symphonies, is confident and outgoing and alternates with more mysterious passages and then bars that develop through fugal techniques. Leipzig-born Dutch composer Röntgen (1855-1932) was a prolific composer (leaving around 650 works, many unperformed, some lost, and others, including symphonies, that got no further than draft form) as well as a busy conductor, pianist and administrator.

The Third Symphony (1910) has some memorable ideas dressed in vivid but not overdone scoring and the invention itself is traditional if individual and with more tendency to ‘look forward’ than to ‘look back’ without being ‘experimental’ or ‘modern’. Initially successful when premiered in Utrecht in 1911, the composer conducting, and then taken up by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, performances fell away a few years later. Maybe CPO is leading a Röntgen revival with this release; the symphony is ear-catching and, in terms of putting notes on the page, masterly; whether the piece can sustain itself to regular exposure is another matter – but the concision of the first movement impressions, as do the shady exposures of the slow movement and the finale’s introduction. The fiery scherzo bounces along with vitality and, once into its stride, the finale contains some of the symphonies deftest invention and a noble peroration.

Röntgen was a friend of Edvard Grieg and wrote Aus Jotunheim for the Griegs’ 25th wedding anniversary in 1892. Originally for violin and piano, Röntgen’s colourful orchestration followed soon afterwards. It’s a charming work based on Norwegian folk-music – evocative, airy, eloquent and vigorous, and displays a cut and thrust, tunefulness and enough ‘local’ colour to be something of an undiscovered gem.

David Porcelijn has secured excellent performances and the recorded sound is first-class. The booklet includes an informative article by John Smit on Röntgen and the music played.

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