Liza Ferschtman / David Porcelijn / Deutsche Staatsphilharmonic Rheinland-Pfalz JULIUS RÖNTGEN The Violin Cpncertos
Leipzig-born Julius Röntgen (1855-1932) was nothing if not prolific, his output of well over 500 works incorporating no fewer than 21 symphonies composed when he was a septuagenarian. All three concertante pieces on this disc were written after Röntgen had settled for good in the Netherlands (and where, in 1913, he was appointed director of the Amsterdam Conservatory).
In the A minor Concerto (1902) Röntgen’s writing for the solo violin is consistently idiomatic and there are some felicitous touches of orchestration. Stylistically, there are echoes of numerous figures, among them Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Elgar, Grieg, Sibelius and Nielsen. More worrying, though, is the comparative dearth (to my ears, at any rate) of truly distinctive melody. Indeed, the most striking idea is a piquant harmonic sequence that initially appears at 5'12" in the first movement and crops up again periodically throughout the rest of the work. A likeable find, none the less, as is the 1918 Ballade, a 15‑minute essay of (again) no mean fluency and imagination. The F sharp minor Concerto was written very swiftly in the last full year of Röntgen’s life and bears a dedication to the charismatic Hungarian virtuoso Jelly d’Arányi (the lucky recipient of Ravel’s Tzigane and Vaughan Williams’s Violin Concerto). Its Andante tranquillo centrepiece contains much that is genuinely haunting but the concerto as a whole is let down by a disappointingly humdrum opening movement and fluffy, inconsequential finale.
The performances under David Porcelijn’s watchful direction are wholly admirable; soloist Liza Ferschtman responds with both keen poetry and pinpoint accuracy. Sound and balance are also first-rate, and CPO supplies copious booklet-notes. However, as I’ve already intimated, the music itself is not really out of the top drawer. (Andrew Achenbach / Gramophone)