Spring is in the air. I can see it. I can hear it. I can smell it. I can feel it. Every day. Licht – German for “light”. Leichtigkeit – German for “lightness”. Julius Röntgen knew about Licht and Leichtigkeit. The composer, born in 1855 in Germany, spent most of his life in the Netherlands. He was a prolific composer of symphonies, piano and cello concertos, pieces for winds, songs and most of them are known only to a small circle of Röntgen enthusiast. As I had announced earlier, this year I will put this composer a little into the limelight. He has composed so much wonderful music and today’s post will be about his Piano Concerto No. 2 in D major, Op. 18.
Galgenlieder – gallows songs. A German invention. The legacy of German romanticism. The poet, journalist and critic Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) wrote dozens of such witty, polemic, sarcastic poems, first published in 1905. The language sounds childish, but wordplays, ambiguities, religious or philosophical allusions are hidden in these seemingly inoccuous words. Their generic title “Galgenlieder” stems from the name of a circle of friends, the “Galgenbrüder” (brethren of the gallows), who regularly met at a pub on the “Galgenberg” (hill of the gallows) close to Potsdam. Morgenstern and his friends would drink, sing and recite Morgenstern’s poems.
This is why I love to blog about music! This is how I like this blog to work. On Monday I started into the week with Julius Röntgen’s wonderful Violin Concerto in A minor and mentioned it in tweets and Facebook post. Seconds later a follower from Japan, the pianist Maya Asano, shared her enthusiasm for Röntgen, a not-so-well-known composer of the late 19th century. Here is what she wrote: “Nowadays it seems nobody knows him or his compositions eventhough his music has rich harmony and expressive description. I’m happy to see his name again in your blog. Thank you so much!”
Here is the truth: I can’t remember how I came across this guy. Röntgen. Conrad Röntgen? The guy who discovered the X rays? What has he got to do with music? Nothing. I mean Julius Röntgen. The composer. Oh. Continue reading!