Julius Röntgen, a prolific composer, was born on May 9, 1855 in Leipzig (Germany). He was the son of the violin player Engelbert Röntgen and the pianist Pauline Klengel. He grew up with the strong musical tradition of this city, where his father played in the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Julius died on September 13, 1932 in Utrecht (The Netherlands).
From 1869 to 1873, Röntgen studied piano with Louis Plaidy and Carl Reinecke in Düsseldorf. He ended his studies with the Munich composer Franz Lachner and with the cantor and theory teacher Ernst Friedrich Richter in Leipzig.
After spending his childhood in Leipzig, he accepted a position as a head teacher at the Muziekschool of the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst Amsterdam (Music school of the Society for the Promotion of Music, Amsterdam) in 1878. He has left a mark on Dutch musical life as a composer, pianist, conductor, organiser of concerts and teacher ever since. During the next 28 years, Röntgen organized “Soirees voor Kamermuziek” (Soirees for Chamber music) in the building Felix Meritis.
In 1884, he co-founded the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music and first worked for this institute as a teacher and later on as managing director (1912).
As pianist, Röntgen played all piano concerts of Ludwig van Beethoven with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Willem Kes, in the season 1893/1894. Also, he organised a Grieg Festival in 1897 and a Brahms festival in 1898.
Furthermore, he worked together with the bass John Messchaert, the cellist Pablo Casals and the violinist Carl Flesch. With his two oldest sons, he constituted the Röntgen Trio in 1912. His years of friendship with Edvard Grieg is documented in the correspondence, which was published by Röntgen in 1930.
In 1924, he retired from Amsterdam musical life and moved to Bilthoven in order to commit himself entirely to composing.
Julius’ extensive body of work, containing more than 600 compositions, consists of symphonies, concertos, chamber music in various settings, songs, works for choir and operas.
His first compositions were published in 1871. From 1892, Röntgen spent most of his summers in Denmark. The Norwegian folklore can be heard in his works, such as the suite ‘Aus Jotunheim’ (1892, originally for violin and piano, and also for orchestra).
During the last period of his life, from 1924 until 1932, he wrote in excess of two hundred works, including 18 symphonies.
On the occasion of his 75th birthday, Julius Röntgen was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh. At an homage in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, he played his sixth and seventh piano concerto.
In 2007, Jurjen Vis graduated at the University of Utrecht with the Dutch biography “Gaudeamus: het leven van Julius Röntgen (1855-1932), componist en musicus” (“Gaudeamus: the life of Julius Röntgen (1855-1932), composer and musician”). The book was published by Waanders in Zwolle.