R E V I E W S

‘Mr Roger... has written with immense understanding of the instrument involved’

Rochester Times, 1952

On Roger’s Concerto Grosso No.1 for Solo Trumpet, Timpani and String Orchestra

 

‘The composition was ingeniously put together, and expertly tailored’

The Evening Star, Washington, 1957

On Roger’s Variations on an Irish Air

 

‘Even better is the Kurt Roger Viola Sonata, not at all the kind of work that one might have anticipated from a pupil of Schoenberg writing in 1948. Indeed the opening movement, with its swinging chordal writing for the piano, could well have been written fifty years earlier. The booklet note informs us that the work is sometimes known as the Irish Sonata, and indeed from this sonata-form movement one could well imagine that one is hearing an undiscovered work by Stanford. There are indeed some Irish folk elements apparent, and in the later movements - with their strict counterpoint - one can also detect echoes of Moeran and Alan Bush. This is not simple imitation; there is an original voice at work here… the composer’s output could well bear further investigation. So buy this CD especially for the Roger Sonata…’

Music Web International (Paul Corfield Godfrey), September 2013

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s Viola Sonata

 

'there is an original voice at work here'

‘Completing the disc, the highly rated Kurt Roger left his native Austria in 1938 to seek refuge in America. He met his Irish wife, a viola player, on his sea journey from the UK to the States, and wrote this big-boned Viola Sonata for her. By any standards it is a superb work, and we owe a massive debt to British violist, Philip Dukes and Lane for this first recording.’

David's Review Corner (David Denton), July 2013

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s Viola Sonata

 

'The earliest work is the Piano Sonata, made up of three movements headed Toccata-Interlude-Phantasmagoria. The whole is attractive—the Interlude is particularly intriguing, in the use it makes of rocking chords in conversation with some dark figures in the bass—and would surely appeal to those who like, say, Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, written later in the same decade. Variations on an Irish Air is very astutely and delicately scored—of Roger’s high competence there is never any doubt. It contains some passages of real beauty as in the opening for unaccompanied flute. The air in question is ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ and though this may not be the most ambitious of Roger’s works, its range of mood and manner makes it constantly engaging… In the Piano Trio Roger certainly remembers, and skilfully deploys, the classical forms of the Viennese greats… In the Clarinet Quintet, Roger’s last completed composition, classical clarity is replaced by a late-romantic manner that owes something to both Mahler and Schoenberg…and perhaps to the instruction of Weigl back in the composer’s youth. This is full of dense textures, textures which express a mood both melancholy and nostalgic…’

MusicWeb International (Glyn Pursglove), June 2011

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s chamber music

 

Perhaps the most enduring quality of his music is the amazingly wide variety of styles Roger uses. Easiest on the ears is the Piano Trio of 1953, packed with simple, foot-tapping tunes, but my personal favorite is the Piano Sonata (1953), a tough, no-nonsense work in the manner of the Barber, Griffes, and Ginastera sonatas. The opening movement, despite its title of “Toccata,” is richly laced with lyricism while the finale, titled “Phantasmagoria,” is also written in the style of a toccata, a taut, powerfully driven movement that thunders to a thrilling conclusion. Pianists looking for an alternative to the Prokofiev Seventh or the Barber Sonata for their recitals can do no better than investigate this fine work. The Variations on an Irish Air for flute, cello, and piano (1948) consist of 12 variations on Down by the Salley Gardens, a well-crafted, tightly argued and focused work that explores the air with means both direct and sophisticated.’

Fanfare (Robert Markow), July 2010

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s chamber music

'well-crafted, tightly argued and focused'

‘Sheffield-born pianist Benjamin Frith breathes new life into Kurt Roger's attractive Piano Sonata, a composer who has slipped from the repertoire. Born in Vienna in 1895, but wedded to the melodic music of a previous era, he moved to the States in 1939 where he was a very much in demand. Frith joins his colleagues in the Gould Piano Trio for the short and highly contrasted Piano Trio, the disc also containing the Clarinet Quintet, infused with nostalgia, and the Variations on an Irish Air. Well-filled and admirably recorded release.’  

Yorkshire Post

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s chamber music

 

‘Though individual in style, his modest output looked back for its inspiration to the late Romantic era. Written in the year before his death, the Clarinet Quintet was to be his last work and contains a feel of nostalgia in the slow movement before a sense of superimposed happiness appears in an animated finale. The Piano Sonata comes from his New York period in 1943, the central movement having traces of Debussy, the piquant harmonies the only sign of its mid 20th century origin… you will find Roger a much undervalued composer and a worthy discovery.

David's Review Corner (David Denton), December 2009

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s chamber music

 

'you will find Roger a much undervalued composer and a worthy discovery’

‘The piano sonata from 1943… Borrowing from past musical eras, the opening is a thrilling throwback to baroque times in the form of a virtuosic toccata. While a bit reminiscent of the opening from Maurice Ravel's (1875-1937) Le Tombeau de Couperin (1913-17), it's decidedly a unique Roger utterance guaranteed to please. The impressionism of Claude Debussy (1862-1918) seems present in the middle movement, while the concluding "Phantasmagoria" is just that, and the most modern sounding track here. There's an originality and flamboyance that may remind some of Leo Ornstein's (1893-2002) music. Distinctively different moods characterize the three movements of the 1953 piano trio. There's a sense of detachment about the neoclassical, contrapuntal first. It's the exact opposite of the lyrically amorous second, where the two stringed instruments seem to be having an affair until the piano enters, making it a ménage-à-trois. The entomologically pesky finale is humorously irreverent, providing the piece with a tongue-in-cheek ending. The Hibernian folk tune commonly known as "Down by the Salley Gardens" after the poem by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) is the subject for the concluding selection, "Variations on an Irish Air" (1948). For flute, cello and piano, it's the longest work here, and some may find it the most engaging.’

Classical Lost and Found (Bob McQuiston)

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s chamber music

 

‘I have to confess to never having heard Kurt Roger’s music before this disc arrived on my doorstep… His musical style is a curious combination of traditional and forward-looking; the opening movement of the Clarinet Quintet is a moderately-paced Allegro, which is stylistically reminiscent of a combination of Tchaikovsky and Mahler. The central movement is deeply romantic in essence and brings to mind early Schoenberg. The music is lyrical, expressive and slightly nostalgic. This work was written shortly before the composer’s death in 1966 and shows a maturity of style, with its elements fully integrated to create a convincing whole. The final movement has a distinctive flair, with fugal entries and dense polyphony. Written some twenty years earlier, while Roger was living in New York, the Piano Sonata is in a lighter style but is no less expressive…This is a highly agreeable work which is delivered here with panache…This CD presents Roger’s music in the best possible way, with committed performers who reach high standards throughout. This is an excellent introduction to his music, demonstrating the breadth of his talents as a composer and effectively conveying the emotional content of his works.'

Musicweb International (Carla Rees), March 2010

On the Naxos recording of Roger’s chamber music

 

‘The Concerto Grosso No.1 by the Austrian Kurt Roger (1895-1966) dates from 1936.  This neoclassical and tonal work allows Philippe Schartz the opportunity to prove his virtuosity as well as his lyricism.  The Adagio, played also by the orchestra in a most sensitive and vivid manner, is one of the highlights of the CD.’

Pizzicato (Remy Franck) 

On Roger’s Concerto Grosso No.1 for Solo Trumpet, Timpani and String Orchestra

‘Kurt Roger’s First Concerto Grosso comes as something of a stylistic jolt, yet not an unpleasant one. Austrian Roger (1895-1966) pays clear homage to Haydn and, perhaps more obviously, the solo part of Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, and his distinctive motifs and counterpoint lend this piece an instantaneous charm. The features of this premiere recording are a bright first movement, giving way a more solemn Adagio, the emotional centre of the piece, with plangent strings taking a more prominent role. The fugal finale has plenty of energy, generated by its counterpoint.’

Classical Source (Ben Hogwood)

On Roger’s Concerto Grosso No.1 for Solo Trumpet, Timpani and String Orchestra

 

‘Particular curiosity will surely be aroused by Roger’s [Violin] Sonata – a fluent and memorable work composed in exile in the United States in 1944. Despite the gently sardonic overtones of the second movement Waltz, its warmly late-Romantic idiom appears to recall an earlier, less troubled era… Shaham's gorgeously opulent tone sounding especially persuasive in the Roger.’

BBC Music Magazine, January 2012

On Roger's Sonata for Violin and PIano

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