A Little Masterpiece for the Family Trio

Summer. © Charles Thibo

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.

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A Discovery for Musicians and for the Audience

Ad fontes? © Charles Thibo

Vivace e giocoso – vivid and joyful like a spring is the first movement of Julius Röntgen’s String Trio in D Major, op. 76. Bubbling happily away, a hint of melancholia, but mostly this lovely piece of chamber music exudes an air of innocence and jauntiness. One of the hallmarks of this work and other early works of the German-Dutch composer are its references to traditional Dutch tunes and dances. Although Röntgen spent part of his childhood in Leipzig, he settled down in the Netherlands at the age of 22, in the late 1870s.

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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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