It is summer and it is hot. 32 degrees in the shadow and I feel lazy, so lazy. The cello feels a little lazy too. Too hot! The violin, energetic as ever, is of a different opinion: “Come on, you lazy idiot! Get up let’s have some fun.” As for the viola, it hardly has an opinion ever and goes along with the majority. It is too hot! Too hot to have an opinion, too hot even to write this post. It is not too hot however to listen to the Lendvai String Trio performing Julius Röntgen’s String Trio No. 10 in F Minor. It’s such a delightful piece.
If the first movement is irritating enough to make you curious, the andante is peaceful, dreamy, a little nostalgic, just as it should be for a Romantic work of chamber music. The last movement is a wonderfully intimate dialogue, slowly flowing, the violin recounting a story from old times with the other instruments nodding in approval, taking up the violin’s phrases and adding some of their own. What is noteworthy is the fact that Röntgen timidly introduces atonal elements in this late work. The composer was deeply rooted in the late Romantic tradition of Johannes Brahms, but he took notice of the evolution of music at the beginning of the 20th century.
Röntgen composed this trio in 1923, late in his career. In 1924 he retired from his post at the Amsterdam Conservatory, that he had founded in 1883 with two other composers. He would devote even more time to composition and receive friends and distinguished visitors, like the Spanish cellist Pau Casals. He would continue to transmit his knowledge about music analysis to younger musicians and composers, focussing on the music of Paul Hindemith, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schönberg and Willem Pijper.
The composer wrote the trios exclusively to be performed by the family ensemble. Röntgen would play the viola, while his two sons would perform the parts for the violin and the cello. What would Röntgen think of the fact that his chamber music is now, almost a century after it was written, applauded by music magazines like the “Gramophone”?
Recent years have seen a literally concerted effort to record the majority of Röntgen’s symphonic works and concertos; however much of Röntgen’s chamber music is still lying in obscurity. The Lendvai Trio is changing this. Here is what the “Gramophone” wrote in 2016 about the trios 9 to 12: “The performances are delivered with impeccable musicianship by the wonderful Lendvai Trio, who seem to be going from strength to strength and clearly relish and enjoy these minor masterpieces.”
© Charles Thibo