Hans Rott - Symphony in E major. "...a musician of genius ... who died...on the very threshold of his career." Mahler

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 | 5:54:00 pm

"...a musician of genius ... who died unrecognized and in want on the very threshold of his career. ... What music has lost in him cannot be estimated. Such is the height to which his genius soars in ... [his] Symphony [in E major], which he wrote as 20-year-old youth and makes him ... the Founder of the New Symphony as I see it. To be sure, what he wanted is not quite what he achieved. … But I know where he aims. Indeed, he is so near to my inmost self that he and I seem to me like two fruits from the same tree which the same soil has produced and the same air nourished. He could have meant infinitely much to me and perhaps the two of us would have well-nigh exhausted the content of new time which was breaking out for music". Gustav Mahler


 I. Alla breve [0:00]
II. Sehr langsam [10:46]
III. Scherzo: Frisch und lebhaft [24:57]
IV. Sehr langsam - Belebt [39:07]

A monumental orchestral work by Austrian composer Hans Rott (1858-1884). Rott studied piano and harmony at the Conservatory in Vienna with Josef Dachs and Franz Krenn, and he attended organ classes taught by Anton Bruckner; he briefly roomed at the Conservatory with Gustav Mahler. His music was greatly influenced by Bruckner and Wagner - indeed, in 1876, Rott attended the first Bayreuth Festival. Two years later, in the final year of his studies, Rott submitted the first movement of this symphony to a composition competition, only to be met with derision from all the judges with the exception of Bruckner, who recognized its merits. Nevertheless, after Rott persevered and completed the symphony in 1880, he showed the work to Johannes Brahms and Hans Richter, hoping to gain the praise of these prominent musicians. Once again, the results were disastrous. Brahms, who resented the progressive influence Bruckner exerted in the Conservatory, called Rott talentless and told him that he should give up music. This proved to be too harsh a blow for the young composer to withstand, and later the same year, he experienced a mental breakdown. While traveling on a train from Vienna to Mühlhausen in order to take up a post as choirmaster, he suddenly pulled out a revolver and threatened another passenger who was trying to light a cigar, shouting that Brahms had filled the train with explosives. In 1881, he was committed to a mental hospital, receiving a diagnosis of "hallucinatory insanity, persecution mania - recovery no longer expected". There, he destroyed a number of his compositions, reportedly using the score of his String Sextet as lavatory paper, saying, "That's all the works of men are worth." Rott died of tuberculosis in 1884.

Nonetheless, Rott's music did not entirely lack admirers. His close friends rescued several of his scores, including that of the Symphony in E major and sketches for a second symphony. His surviving manuscript scores are kept at the national library in Vienna. His influence is perhaps most evident in the music of Gustav Mahler, who spoke very highly of Rott: "It is completely impossible to estimate what music has lost in him: His genius soars to such heights even in this first symphony, written at the age of twenty. It makes him - without exaggeration - the founder of the new symphony as I understand it."