I would recommend cpo's series of the music of Julius Röntgen to anyone with a passing interest in romantic music, but I would also direct anyone yet unfamiliar with the composer to his symphonies. Röntgen was enormously prolific - the catalogue is virtually endless, even apart from some 22 symphonies, 16 solo concertos, 12 piano trios, some 20 string quartets and 15 string trios - and although he was a first-rate craftsman and had a substantial melodic gift, it is rather inevitable that not all his works will be of the highest quality. Aus Goethes Faust for soloists, chorus, organ and orchestra is a case in point. Now, I hasten to add that I am grateful for cpo's effort, and there are plenty of redeeming qualities in the work itself, but it is, at least, not the ideal place to start.
This hour-long cantata dates from 1930, and is as such a late work. Given the date of composition, it is also staunchly conservative in character, inhabiting the sound world of Brahms, Grieg, and Schumann, though admittedly adding some splashes of color and honeyed opulence that belongs, perhaps, to a slightly later generation. Interestingly, it also gives the listener some idea of how Röntgen could maintain such a staggering level of productivity. The style is essentially formally simple and linear, with relatively straightforward thematic material (and fine, if predictable orchestration) that is rarely developed with any sort of complexity, but instead used to generate some expectable but effective climaxes. The formal unity of the work is achieved more or less by the return, with some transformation, of the opening material in track 8 and at the end of the work.
Nevertheless, there is some fine music here and some touching tunes. The opening Prolog im Himmel is a little too predictable, but many of the quieter parts are very appealing, and Vor dem Tor is excellent. The Walpurgisnacht scene is also well done. Yet the work as a whole cannot be deemed an unqualified success; for that it is simply to disunified and lacking in sweep and narrative continuity, and while some ideas are good the thematic material is too often undistinguished. The performances are overall more than acceptable; at least the chorus and orchestral performances are - none of the soloists stand out, however. The sound is generally fine and the notes are good. Overall, then, a worthwhile encounter, but not exactly a strong link in the series and certainly not the place to start for anyone new to the composer.