Pure pleasure flows through my veins when I listen to the opening bars of Julius Röntgen’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in F major. An energetic introduction sets the mood for the first movement: optimistic, decisive, rousing, alternatively gentle, elegant, reflected – the Allegro carries me away each time I listen to it. A midsummer night’s dream! Röntgen wrote this piano concerto in 1906, it was his last. By then he was an established figure of the Dutch music scene and a well known composer in Europe. He had supported the foundation of the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Concertgebouw. He had written hundreds of sonatas for piano and cello, concertos, symphonies, songs, solo piano pieces and compositions for chamber music. He was 51 years old and still eager to take up a challenge.
A hint of drama, a longing for tenderness, a calm discussion about him and her, repressed fear to displease, not to be up to the challenge, a touch of don’t-question-my-authority arrogance… is that what inspired Robert Schumann when he wrote the String Trio No. 1 in A minor, Op. 41? The music triggered those ideas in my mind and perhaps they reflected more my own feelings than Schumann’s. Who knows? Man is a curious beast. Super intelligent, super difficult to live with.
Je suis seul dans la prairie
Assis au bord du ruisseau ;
Déjà la feuille flétrie,
Qu’un flot paresseux charrie,
Jaunit l’écume de l’eau.
In Greek mythology, the Titans were members of the second generation of divine beings. In the field of piano music, Franz Liszt was a titan. An exceptionally gifted pianist, an impressive composer, a revolutionary spirit, a paragon for many of the next generation of musicians. But being a titan comes at the price of loneliness. Towards the end of his life, Liszt complained that the world did not understand his language anymore, that his gifts were no longer appreciated.