Monday, April 28, 2014

Röntgen - Piano Quintet No. 2 In A Minor

Julius Röntgen was born into a musical family in Leipzig, Germany in 1855. His father was first violinist with the Gewendhaus Orchestra in Leipzig and his mother was a pianist. The family was well off enough to allow their children to be home schooled, with Julius being taught music by his parents and grandfather as well as piano by Carl Reineke, the director of the Gewendhaus Orchestra. Röntgen met Franz Liszt in 1870 and played for him and continued his piano studies with Franz Lachner in Munich. He became a professional pianist when he was eighteen.

Röntgen went to Amsterdam in 1877 where he not only taught but helped create classical music institutions in Amsterdam.  Along with other composers, Röntgen helped to found the Amsterdam Conservatory Of Music, as well as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and music hall. After he was refused the directorship of the Concertgebouw he focused his energies on composing chamber works, and became a well known piano accompanist.

He spent many summer vacations in Denmark and became a citizen of the country after World War One. He retired from public life and devoted himself to composition in 1924 and from that time until his death in 1932 composed over 200 works.  He was a prolific composer as he wrote over 600 works, and writing music seems to have come easily for him. As an early biographer of Röntgen noted:
In the time someone else would need to put paper and pencil ready and write down keys and key signatures he will have, in a manner of speaking, completed the exposition of a fugue.
 Röntgen has been accused of writing too much music, and no doubt the quality of his music varies from one piece to another. He is most well known for his chamber music, but wrote works in most of the traditional forms.  His works have also been accused of being conservative, as he stayed with traditional forms and music language for most of his career, although he did follow all the latest developments of his time and experimented with writing atonal music occasionally.

The Piano Quintet No. 2 was written in 1927 during his retirement. It is in 4 movements:

I. Andante - The music begins with the piano, cello and viola playing a rhythmic texture with the violins playing a duet over it. The rhythmic texture returns throughout the movement. The second subject is more lyrical. The development begins directly after the second subject and expands the first theme and accompaniment. The recapitulation is short and the movement ends quietly. This movement is the longest of the quintet, but only runs about five and a half minutes. Röntgen's writing is condensed almost to the point of being terse as all four movements are usually played in about sixteen minutes.

II. Allegro - The music shifts moods slightly in the scherzo section, while the trio utilizes fugal texture. The scherzo returns and leads to a coda that crescendos to an abrupt end.

III. Lento e mesto - A short lamentation for strings and piano accompaniment in ternary form. It ends quietly and segues without pause into the final movement.

IV. Con moto, ma non troppo allegro -  About as long as the first movement, the final movement increases the tension as the music shifts from minor to major many times.  There is a hint of some of the music that has gone before, if not in direct quotes at least in feeling, until the  rhythmic texture of the first movement appears again as a coda to the work.


  1. Where can I find the sheet music for his Piano Quintet? I can't find it at Sheet Music Plus.


    1. You can find the downloadable score and parts at the IMSLP website. Here's the link:,_Op.100_(R%C3%B6ntgen,_Julius)

  2. There's also some libraries that have it (one can find linked here and using interloan requests some works we @ IMSLP for copyright reasons (or just as yet) don't have) - see e.g.