Author Topic: Julius Röntgen  (Read 10244 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Julius Röntgen
« on: November 22, 2008, 04:14:11 PM »
WARNING: this is not a "this is a great undiscovered genius and I want to tell you all about him" sort of thread ;D

It seems to me that if a composer writes a very large number of symphonies, many of them in quick succession towards the end of his life and does not live to hear them performed and is-to an extent-outside the zeitgeist of his times there is the real possibility of a posthumous cult-status.

Composers like Havergal Brian in Britain and Alan Hovhaness in the USA have their devoted adherents who, over time, have had growing success in persuading others of the intrinsic worth of the music composed. Sometimes-as, I would argue, with Brian, there is a substantial body of great music to be uncovered.

The Dutch/German composer, Julius Rontgen, wrote 21 symphonies(according to the list on the Julius Rontgen Foundation website-
http://www.juliusrontgen.nl/composities/symfonischeMuziek.html
There were two further early symphonies which are lost. Of the extant symphonies, 20 were written between 1926 and 1932, 8 in 1930 and 7 in 1931.

There is the afore-mentioned Rontgen Foundation in the Netherlands and the German record company CPO intends, apparently, a complete set of the symphonies(Nos. 3 and 10 have been released and No.18 is soon to join them; the numbering of the symphonies is a major headache!).

Now I just can't quite get my head round this ;D The Rontgen that I have heard is undoubtedly pleasant in an ultra-conservative style-a Dutch Max Bruch? (Rontgen was born in Leipzig but settled in the Netherlands in his twenties and ended up as Director of the Amsterdam Conservatory.) But..there do seem to me to be a large number of Dutch composers of more interest than Rontgen and who are more deserving of exposure(Andriessen, Pijper, Vermeulen, Badings, Orthel to name a few). Most of these are beginning to receive attention but Rontgen seems to be getting rather more than his fair share! On the evidence so far he was no musical genius.

I know that I will upset Harry(and probably others) who really appreciate Rontgen's music. Apologies in advance! I just find this new found interest in Rontgen slightly puzzling ;D
« Last Edit: June 03, 2018, 12:36:54 PM by Que »

Offline Christo

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2008, 06:04:53 AM »
I won't question your general verdict. But I do confess a genuine liking for some of the `later Röntgen', when he was retired, living in a quiet villa (`Gaudeamus') nearby my hometown and composing for his own pleasure and in a much freeer way than before. So far (as I only know a handful of them) my personal favourite is the Symphony [No. 4?] in C sharp minor (`Symphonie in cis kl.t. Herrn Generalmusikdirektor Carl Schuricht zugeeignet') from 1930.

I'm not quite sure about the number attached to it, nowadays (No. 4?). I first heard it live in an amateur performance (an Utrecht Conservatory orchestra) that was also released on CD. But there's a professional reading available: Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra under Jac van Steen, with soprano Roberta Alexander singing the beautiful vocalise part, at NM-Classics CD 92096:

                     

In a similar vein are two other `late' symphonies - the Bitonal Symphony of 1930 and the Symphony in A minor of 1931, again without a clear indication of their actual numbers, done by the Noord-Nederlands Orkest under Hans Leenders, Cobra Records 0017:
                     

I still have to investigate the more recent releases of CPO, especially the one with the large `Aus Goethes Faust', but also symphonies 10 and 18. Harry, or anyone, on these?


« Last Edit: November 28, 2008, 06:11:25 AM by Christo »
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2008, 08:07:04 AM »
That is very interesting, Johan :) (I was wondering whether anyone else would post on this thread :))

The later Rontgen does begin to sound more interesting. I must confess that I did find bits of "Aus Goethes Faust" quite impressive-and a lot better than the rather weak Symphony No.3! Symphony No.10 left no great impression on me either but I shall order Symphony No.18(which is scheduled for release by CPO early in December). The three Cello Concertos are pleasantly attractive works too.

I must go back and play the disc I burned of three more Rontgen symphonies-the Bitonal, the Symphony in C sharp minor and the Symphony in A minor(numbers?).

It just seemed to me that when CPO is finished there will be 20 Rontgen symphonies on disc. That is a huge investment of time, energy and money. There are other composers who deserve just as much ;D
« Last Edit: November 28, 2008, 08:33:49 AM by Dundonnell »

Offline Christo

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2008, 08:20:24 AM »
There are other composers who deserve just as much ;D

A typical (British) type of understatement, no doubt?  ;) Goo that you like Aus Goethes Faust and yes, Symphony No. 18 is only to be released next month.

From Jurriaan Vis, his biographer I learnt that in his own life-time, Röntgen was mostly popular for his `folk-style' pieces, e.g. the ancient Dutch dances that will be included in this coming release, and also other pieces as those combined with the Tenth Symphony. You seem to own that CD - is there anything positive to be said about these accompanying pieces in his `old-Dutch' style??

     
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Opus106

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2008, 08:30:30 AM »
Off-topic: Chirsto, do you know whose painting is on the cover of Sym. 10 album?

And for some thing on topic, the only work I've heard by this composer is the piano trio No. 4 which I liked. :)
Regards,
Navneeth

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2008, 08:33:04 AM »
Ah, you recognize the attempt to be polite ;D

Actually, I do think that the lighter pieces work as well-if not better-than the symphonies I have heard. The Old Netherlands Suite of 1907 on the disc you mention is a jolly piece. There is absolutely nothing profound about it but it does not aspire to profoundity. Taken on its own merits it is an eminently satisfying work reflecting the composer's interest in Dutch folk music and folk songs-which don't seem to have any appeal for any other prominent Dutch composers with whom I am acquainted. It is richly scored, melodious, tasteful and certainly worth hearing! A Dutch Dvorak with a lot of Brahms thrown in ;D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2008, 08:36:40 AM »
Off-topic: Chirsto, do you know whose painting is on the cover of Sym. 10 album?

And for some thing on topic, the only work I've heard by this composer is the piano trio No. 4 which I liked. :)

If I can answer your question-

  the painting is actually van Gogh's 'Die Ebene bei Auvers'(1890)

Offline Opus106

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2008, 08:47:47 AM »
If I can answer your question-

  the painting is actually van Gogh's 'Die Ebene bei Auvers'(1890)

Thank you.
Regards,
Navneeth

Offline Christo

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2008, 08:52:18 AM »
If I can answer your question-  the painting is actually van Gogh's 'Die Ebene bei Auvers' (1890)

I'm not that sure about Van Gogh's command of German - my guess would be that this `Plain near Auvers' is often given this German title because it's in the collection of the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.

Taken on its own merits it is an eminently satisfying work reflecting the composer's interest in Dutch folk music and folk songs-which don't seem to have any appeal for any other prominent Dutch composers with whom I am acquainted. It is richly scored, melodious, tasteful and certainly worth hearing! A Dutch Dvorak with a lot of Brahms thrown in ;D

Very interesting, many thanks! I know of a few other folk music-inspired Dutch composers, though. My favourite example would be Bernard Zweers' Third Symphony (1890) `To My Fatherland', my favourite Dutch 19th C. symphony overall. Another example in a similar vein, but by a lesser composer: Cornelis Dopper, especially his Seventh Symphony (1917) 'Zuiderzee'.

But you are right: I cannot think of a Dutch equivalent to e.g. Falla, Kodály, or Vaughan Williams.
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2008, 08:57:10 AM »
I had forgotten Zweers and Dopper :( Thank you for reminding me!

I am attempting to make sense of the numbering of Rontgen's symphonies using the Julius Rontgen Foundation website.

http://www.juliusrontgen.nl/composities/symfonischeMuziek.html

I may need psychiatric help very soon ;D ;D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2008, 09:14:38 AM »
If the 'Walzersymphonie' in D is No.10 and if it was the fourth composed in 1930(as Jurgen Vis sais in his CPO notes) then the Symphony in C sharp minor for soprano and orchestra is not No.4 :) It could be any number between 7 and 14(except 10) depending on when it was composed in relations to its fellow from 1930. Similarly with the Bitonal Symphony. The Symphony in A minor from 1931 must be numbered between 15 and 21.

I do not know exactly which symphony is No.18 since CPO do not give it a key signature on their pre-release publicity!

Now I need to lie down ;D

Bulldog

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2008, 09:24:57 AM »
I know that I will upset Harry(and probably others) who really appreciate Rontgen's music. Apologies in advance! I just find this new found interest in Rontgen slightly puzzling ;D

Nothing puzzling about the attention Rontgen is getting.  His music is well constructed with highly memorable themes.  Personally, I find the Cello Concerto No. 2 a masterpiece, and many of his other works are close behind.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2008, 09:49:24 AM »
Nothing puzzling about the attention Rontgen is getting.  His music is well constructed with highly memorable themes.  Personally, I find the Cello Concerto No. 2 a masterpiece, and many of his other works are close behind.

If I have underestimated Rontgen nothing would give me greater pleasure ;D I love discovering good music which has been neglected previously ;D ;D

It will be a voyage of discovery :)

Offline jimmosk

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2009, 11:31:44 PM »
Arriving a little late to the discussion, nevertheless I will be Roentgen's champion.  I think he's an uncommonly inventive tunesmith, and prolific without always sounding the same. There's a great anecdote to the effect that his friend (and admittedly his compositional better) Johannes Brahms had to apologize to Roentgen, once it was pointed out that the main theme in the first movement of Brahms' Second had been inadvertently plagiarized from Roentgen's Serenade for winds -- Brahms had heard it at some point and unconsciously filed the melody away as a Good Idea!

It also happens that one of my absolute favorite moments in Romantic-era triumphant orchestral music comes during Roentgen's 1930 Symphonie.  Here it is; this is something that I'd put alongside Rachmaninov's Second or Glazunov's Fifth:
[mp3=200,20,0]http://jimmosk1.home.comcast.net/RoentgenSym1930_excerpt.mp3[/mp3]

Anyone who can write like that deserves some attention. I encourage everyone to check out that Symphony, the String Quartet in A minor, or this disc http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=5223 of works for piano four-hands. No, Roentgen shouldn't be as famous as Brahms... but he should certainly be more than a hundredth as famous, which seems to be the current situation.

-J
« Last Edit: August 14, 2009, 08:17:11 PM by jimmosk »
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Offline Christo

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Re: Julius Rontgen?
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2009, 12:43:56 AM »
It also happens that one of my absolute favorite moments in Romantic-era triumphant orchestral music comes during Roentgen's 1930 Symphonie.  Here it is; this is something that I'd put alongside Rachmaninov's Second or Glazunov's Fifth:
[mp3=200,20,0]http://jimmosk1.home.comcast.net/RoentgenSym1930_excerpt.mp3[/mp3]

Yes, that is the Symphony in C sharp minor (`Symphonie in cis kl.t. Herrn Generalmusikdirektor Carl Schuricht zugeeignet') from 1930 I have been referring to a few times as my personal favourite.

It was the piece that brought Röntgen to my attention. I heard it play live by the Conservatory's orchestra here in Utrecht, somewhere in the mid-1990s and was as surprised as you are about the total neglect of it. It is still not included in the ongoing CPO series, but can be found on a NM Classics CD showed before in this thread - and that's the version you offer us here too. Many thanks for sharing!  :)
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Julius Röntgen?
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2009, 08:45:26 AM »
WARNING: this is not a "this is a great undiscovered genius and I want to tell you all about him" sort of thread ;D


What's the fun in that?  ;D ;D
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Julius Röntgen?
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2009, 09:03:19 AM »
What's the fun in that?  ;D ;D

I don't know whether you build up a mental picture of other members here, Jeffrey, based on the content of their posts ;D I know that I do :)

Like you, I sometimes get accused of trumpeting the claims of forgotten composers who really rather deserve the obscurity into which their music has shrunk. I can live with that :) In many(though not all) cases the music does not deserve such a fate.

I am not asserting for one nanosecond that Rontgen deserves musical obscurity. I just wanted to make clear that in starting the thread I didn't want anybody to think that this was a composer about whom I was about to wax lyrical. I am yet to be convinced that Rontgen deserves the massive amount of attention he is receiving and will be receiving at the expense of other greater composers ;D

Now that CPO has committed itself to recording the music of composers like Badings, Pijper and van Gilse I don't feel so 'irked' by the attention given to Rontgen. And.....IF I change my mind about him after hearing more of the music-as I very well might-then I shall be very happy indeed :)

Sorry...this probably sounds an extremely pompous and self-righteous response to your jest but I just wanted to clarify my attitude to dear Julius ;D ;D

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Julius Röntgen?
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2009, 02:24:16 PM »
Of course I understand that Colin. As I have probably mentioned before my brother said that my wife was 'doomed to years of listening to music by deservedly neglected composers' (at a speech at my wedding). However, this thread on Rontgen that you have started and the interesting discussion which has followed really makes me want to explore his music.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Julius Röntgen?
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2009, 11:17:23 AM »
Just obtained & am now listening to my first Röntgen discs - amazingly from the liner notes, he had approximately 650 compositions, much of which is chamber music (had a bunch of sons who played various instruments by two wives) - a great friend of Grieg w/ an interest in both Dutch & Norwegian folk music/legends - would really be interested in hearing his chamber works; plus, the duo piano disc mentioned above sounds outstanding -  :D

 

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Re: Julius Röntgen?
« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2010, 11:53:57 AM »
Interesting news for Röntgen fans: a previously-lost symphony.