Julius Rontgen Piano Concertos – originality in traditional forms

In the Netherlands, Julius Röntgen is a cultural hero. But for the rest of the world, not so much. If you’re not familiar with Röntgen, this release is a good starting point.

Röntgen was a piano virtuoso, whose playing at age 14 impressed Franz Liszt. Röntgen was friends with Brahms. Although he lived until 1932, Röntgen’s musical language retained some of Brahms’ aesthetic.

That aesthetic is strong in Röntgen’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor from 1887. Stylistically, it sounded to me as somewhere between Grieg and Tchaikovsky. The piano soloist jumps in right at the beginning and keeps the music churning with big, sweeping gestures and complex fingerwork.

The 6th and 7th Piano Concertos, written in 1929, have a different character. These concertos are both solidly tonal. And yet the harmonies seem simpler, and chord motion a little more angular.

The 6th Concerto in E minor is somewhat introspective and somber. The 7th Concerto isn’t. Röntgen delivers a new-Baroque/folk-inspired confection that’s pure entertainment.

Pianist Oliver Triendl plays with enthusiasm. Röntgen loved to perform, and Triendl conveys that feeling effectively. Plus he has the chops to handle all of Röntgen’s technical challenges.

Röntgen wrote in a style that used the language of the late-Romantic without being hampered by it. Original music cast in familiar forms.

Julius Röntgen: Piano Concertos 3, 6, and 7
Oliver Triendl, piano
Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra; Hermann Baumer, conductor
CPO

 

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