This is the inaugural installment in another seminal series from CPO. They have already released several discs, which reveal a composer of unusual skill and fluency as well as a strong melodic gift - and there is plenty left to cover. Röntgen was a staggeringly prolific composer; the output comprises more than 20 symphonies, several of them choral, though some of them are rather short (there is an apparently bitonal symphony among them as well), seven piano concertos, at least three violin and three cello concertos, a double concerto (violin and viola), concertos for string trio and string quartet and orchestra, several other concertante works and many orchestral works (some ten suites, for instance), operas, an almost endless list of choral and vocal works, some nine violin sonatas, three viola sonatas, fourteen cello sonatas, two oboe sonatas, a bassoon sonata (and plenty of other works for solo instrument and piano), at least twelve piano trios, a clarinet trio, two piano quartets, three piano quintets, one quintet for piano and winds, sonatas and suites for solo string instruments and duos, 15 string trios, 18 string quartets, several other chamber works, as well as a huge amount of piano and organ music.
Perhaps the sheer amount of music may have scared off some performers, but it is at least in serious need of reappraisal. It is eminently well-crafted, often memorable, and it has a personal touch to it even if Röntgen doesn't exactly count as a great original. He seems to have aligned himself with the tradition from Mendelssohn and Schumann, but was a friend Grieg, and much (well, at least some) of the music sounds a little like Brahms with a certain folksy harmonic twist to it. The third symphony is a case in point; it is certainly formally traditional, but it is full of great, memorable themes and does indeed sound both fresh and personal. The structures are clear (as is the scoring), and it is a concentrated work that never threatens to meander. Yes, you have heard music resembling it before, but if you have an interest in romantic symphonic music this is certainly a compelling if not life-altering discovery.
Aus Jotunheim is an imaginatively scored suite based on Norwegian folk themes, resembling Grieg in certain respects though admittedly without Grieg's harmonic inventiveness. It is catchy and enjoyable, though for Norwegians the experience may actually be a little hampered by the fact that the tunes are so familiar, and what Röntgen is up to is to a large extent to present them as clearly as possible to an audience that was presumably unfamiliar with them. The performances are colorful and vivid, and the occasional imprecision of ensemble is easily forgiven. The sound quality is good, and this is overall a very compelling first installment in what has and will become a truly important series.