String Trio on Ashkenazic Themes
Engelbert Röntgen (1829-1897) was born in the Dutch city of Deventer into a German merchant family. He attended the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied violin with Ferdinand David, Mendelssohn's personal choice for the position of concertmaster of of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and composition with Moritz Hauptmann. He married Friedericke Pauline Klengel of the famous family, seven of whom were also in the orchestra including the famous cellist Julius and the violinist Paul. His son Julius became a prominent composer active Amsterdam. Engelbert, himself, eventually became concertmaster of the famed orchestra and also a professor of violin at the Conservatory. In addition to this, he served as leader of the Gewandhaus Quartet for many years.
It is not known when or why exactly Röntgen composed a trio on Jewish themes. He himself was not Jewish, but many of his colleagues, such as David, Joseph Joachim and others were. So he may well have had a Jewish colleague in mind, perhaps a cellist as the cello is given a particularly prominent role. The String Trio on Ashkenazic Themes is in five movements: A sad and plaintive Adagio, a gay Gavotta, a playful Scherzino with somber trio, a masterly Improvvisata or Improvisation in which the cello or alternatively the violin play very evocative passages and then finally a bright Allegro spirituoso.
Röntgen's execution and compositional technique are beyond reproach. This work certainly makes an outstanding choice for inclusion on a recital program.