Echos of Brahms, Dutch folk and Scandinavia’s heritage

Balance. © Charles Thibo

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.

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Alone at the terminal with Julius Röntgen

About to leave. © Charles Thibo

The year is drawing to its end and I remember a singular scene in connection with classical music. It must have been over a year ago that I sat in an airport terminal waiting for my gate to open – and I was alone. I was like half an hour before boarding time at the gate – it was the right one – and the whole terminal was empty. A bizarre atmosphere. It gave my departure a solemn touch; I felt like being the last one ever to leave this place. Very strange. And since I had nothing to do, I put on my earphones and listened to a charming piece of chamber music: Julius Röntgen’s String Trio No. 5, performed by the Lendvai Trio.

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Struggling with fleeting music, words and pictures

Dolomite rock with lichen. © Charles Thibo

Warm or cold? Hard or soft? Dolomite rock from the sedimentary basin I am living in. Basically it is a white-grey stone, but it often has light brown, orange or even red patches and strata. It quickly heats up in the sun and stores the energy. If you touch it, it feels hard, but you can chip of pieces easily with a shovel. Over time this specific rock has been covered by lichen and moss. There’s life on its surface and there’s life beneath it – insects and lizards.

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Morning fantasies of a would-be conductor

A motivating moment. © Charles Thibo

Nothing compares to the sound of cello. From the mouth of an apprentice pianist, this is a compliment, make no mistake. Such a variety of distinctive timbres: warm, welcoming, excitable, gaudy, at the same time rough, sad, melancholic, tragic. Here is a piece that illustrates this rich sound palette very nicely: Cello Concerto No. 2 in G minor, written in 1909 by the Dutch-German composer Julius Röntgen, whom we have already met already in a post on his Cello Concerto No. 3 in F sharp minor. Both have been recorded by the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra and the German cellist Gregor Horsch.

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