“Not the famous one“: this is how Julius Röntgen used to introduce himself, referring to his famous uncle, the inventor of the X-ray.
Born and raised in Leipzig in 1855, his father was Dutch; Julius lived in the Netherlands from 1878 onwards, and is considered one of the most prominent Dutch composers. He was an incredibly prolific composer, with a corpus of more than 670 compositions, most of which are completely unknown today.
His second piano concerto was premiered in Leipzig in 1881 with the composer at the piano and his father Engelbert leading the Gewandhaus Orchestra. It was then performed quite a few times both in Germany and in the Netherlands: Röntgen played the concerto often at his home in Amsterdam. In 1885 the concerto was performed again in the Park Hall in Amsterdam, accompanied by the Amsterdamsche Orkest-Vereeniging under the conductor Willes Kes.
When he died in Utrecht in 1932, his friend Donald Tovey remembered him as follows: “Röntgen’s compositions, published and unpublished, cover the whole range of music in every art form; they all show consummate mastery in every aspect of technique. Even in the most facile there is beauty and wit. Each series of works culminates in something that has the uniqueness of a living masterpiece.“
He was admired by many great composers, such as Brahms and Grieg. And yet, labeled as a Brahms epigone, Röntgen’s music was quickly dismissed and went almost completely forgotten.
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