Memories of two of Julius Röntgen’s granddaughters:
1. Nicht singen!
by Anne Marie de Boer-Röntgen (1923), eldest daughter of Johannes Röntgen
2. Memories of Gaudeamus
by Margaret (Agnes) Thiadens-Röntgen (1911-2002), eldest daughter of Julius Röntgen jr.
by Anne Marie de Boer-Röntgen (1923), eldest daughter of Johannes Röntgen
As the eldest living granddaughter of Julius Röntgen I shall recount some memories here:
Because my parents and I did not move to Amsterdam until 1928, they are mere flashes which I remember from the time I stayed in Bilthoven. My grandfather had a welcoming, warm personality, was always there, full of music, always humming. He did however always do what he wanted. If we took a stroll across the heath, opposite the house, he would walk alone, in front of us, or behind us, and me holding hands with my grandmother. I was always “dropped” there, at Gaudeamus, in Bilthoven, whenever my parents were off on a concert trip. During holidays too we would stay there, all of us together. Whenever I was playing on the lawn at the back of the garden I would see my grandparents, or other family members, sitting on the terrace. Apparently I would then run over there and climb onto my grandfather’s lap. At dinner, together with the whole family, including Uncle Frants and Uncle Edvard, the two as yet unmarried brothers of my father, often someone would be humming. Upon which my grandfather would say: “Nicht singen!” He did not want to be disturbed during his own humming as that was composing! And when he had finished eating, and we had not, he was always allowed to leave the table to go to his study to take place at the piano immediately and write down the music in his head. In that room there was also a high wooden pillar, filled entirely with pipe tobacco. This way he could quickly fill his pipe and then, smoking his pipe as he did so, start work at the piano again. When I, as a small 5-year old girl, had to go to bed in the evening I would kiss my grandfather on top of his bald head. That was a strange feeling: I can still feel it even now (after 80 years!): distant and yet so close! I would also often hear my grandparents play on two pianos, like that wonderful Scherzo in B minor opus 33, composed by my grandfather. My grandmother was also an excellent pianist. She would give me piano lessons every morning whenever I stayed there. And she would play me the entire Zauberflöte by Mozart from a piano transcription, so that I would get to know it! My grandfather would be working then too. Another fact is that my grandfather would look closely at his children’s hands when they were still babies to see if they were suitable for a particular instrument: piano, violin or cello. His children were to have music lessons from the start. To him that was self-evident. And so I myself, a grandchild, was found to be suitable for the piano and whenever I stayed there I was expected to take place at the piano every morning! Only in the afternoon was I allowed outside to play! There was a lot of playing of chamber music, in the music room, when there were musician friends, but also with his own sons. In the garden I would hear it in the distance. That was wonderful and very special! For my grandfather it was very special experiencing the birth of my sister Marie Louise in February 1931. We were all so happy with and thankful for her arrival within our family, my grandparents especially! A photograph of us all in the garden at Gaudeamus survives, with my grandfather holding my little sister and obviously enjoying it! In the last years preceding his death (in 1932) his health failed. He had to have an operation, which was a disaster for my grandmother. I remember going to see him with my grandmother and my parents, in the hospital in Utrecht, after the operation. But I was shocked by the way he looked. A very thin, pale little man was in the hospital bed. It touched me enormously. But how happy he was that I had come to see him! And that contrast, that body, thin and old and that joy, as he used to be, I will never forget! It makes me realise that the true nature of my grandfather, that cheerful optimism, that warmth, which he managed to transfer to his fellow men will always remain in our hearts even through death!
by Margaret (Agnes) Thiadens-Röntgen (1911-2002)
A big change in our existence in Bilthoven occurred when it was decided that my grandparents, following my grandfather´s retirement from the conservatory, would move to Bilthoven and that Uncle Frants, who had completed his training at the Quellinus school in Amsterdam, was to build the house for them. The spot chosen was at the end of the Gerard Doulaan, on a corner, a vast heath and coniferous and deciduous woods surrounding it. A wonderful place. There was some consternation when a brother of Bestemama, a Rosicrucian, one day came to view the premises and discovered there were E-rays underneath the spot that was to be built upon. Even so, I saw the photograph not long ago, the first stone was laid in September 1924: Bestemama wearing a huge velvet hat, squatting with us children in front (it was her house), a canopy of pine branches, above it the architect lined up modestly and the building contractor and his men and the rest of the family beyond him. Grandson Frithjof laid the first stone of the wonderful house that, typical of my life-loving grandfather was christened ‘Gaudeamus’ and is still known as such. In musical circles it is well known that, after my grandparents died, mr. Maas founded a music centre for modern musicans there and that even today, and in that same room too, many activities still take place. When the time had finally come and all the beautiful furniture had been given a place, it had become a lovely and attractive house. When ringing the bell it would be answered by manservant Arie dressed in a pink and white striped jacket, and through the hallway one would enter an angular hall with bookcases all around and at the end a small round staircase leading to the music room. This has been built circularly and because the roof next to it rises up steeply, everyone thought the house represented an open grand piano, though this had never been the intention. In the corner facing the street were two grand pianos so my grandparents were able to reproduce the big symphonies and operas four handedly during the music analysis lessons which were soon given for enthusiasts. Those were wonderful evenings, by the way, I was a faithful guest and learnt a lot as well as enjoying myself. My grandfather in his element: taking all the details out of a work and clarifying them by singing and playing.
I would like to recount some more about the house: from the music room there was a small hidden staircase leading down to the cosy dining room with next to it a cubicle where Bestemama would wash up the tea things. From this room you would enter a terrace where during the summer tea parties would be held. Upstairs the rooms, one for each son and a large guest room, also my grandparents’ bedroom with behind it (which impressed me) a dressing room. Above that the apartments for Arie and his wife Coba who took care of the housekeeping (in due course they had a little girl). A large forest garden surrounding the house and in the back the cabin of uncle Frants, who remained living at home for a long time and from there continued his career as an architect as well as he could. He was after all only nineteen years old when he built Gaudeamus. The house brought him some renown, because it was “different”. The guest room was always in use, guests came from all over the world making the transition from Amsterdam slightly less apparent. In the years to come Bestepapa had a lot of time for composing, which he did in his own room, on the left directly when entering the hall. Remarkable was the extremely deep built-in tobacco cabinet, he was an ardent pipe smoker, one would hardly ever see him without. There was the grand piano Grieg had given him after staying over in Amsterdam, where they played as soloists with, or conductors of, the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
This text was taken from the autobiography ‘Het Boek van Vroeger, herinneringen van Agnes Thiadens-Röntgen’ (‘The Book of Yesteryear, memories of Agnes Thiadens-Röntgen’), edited and published by her son Reinier Thiadens in Saint Marcellin on the occasion of her 95th birthday, April 2006.