Symphony in F major/Rott
October 24, 2013
Tragedy is an understatement when it comes to the life of Hans Rott (1858-1884), an aspiring composer who suffered from hallucinations and died in a mental asylum of tuberculosis at the age of 25. He left us a small number of compositions, one of which was this symphony that I’m reviewing. It survived partly because of Gustav Mahler and the efforts of conductor Gehrad Samuel who premiered the work in 1989. While his performance was far from stellar (rumor has, it was a student orchestra) it was the first and the controversy began as to how much of the work contributed to Mahler’s 1st as the two of them were roommates in school. Bruckner also had an influence on his work and knew him well enough to attend his funeral. Brahms listened to the work and told Rott to give up music and find another occupation. This could have had something to do with his affiliation to the Wagner Society. 24 years later we now have several recordings to choose from, with the latest being this fine live recording from Acousence #ACO-CD 20104, performed by the Philharmonisches des Staatstheaters Mainz conducted by Catherine Ruckwardt.
The opening movement gives us the main melody from the trumpets a proud and majestic one which is taken up by the string section and finally comes to an uplifting conclusion. The second section of the first movement is tranquil with the main melody still making its presence felt as different sections of the orchestra participate in developing the theme. It concludes with a grand forte. The very slow “Sehr langsam” is quite the opposite of what we just heard. It is a yearning movement that has no definite melody but seems to keep the listeners interest with the brass chords which hint at the main melody but don’t quite play it.
The third movement is one that definitely influenced Mahler. “Frisch und lebhaft” begins with brass fanfare which offers a new melody which is taken up by the strings in a brisk tempo. As the music slows to a halt we hear the low growl from the contrabassoon a new melody emerges from a gypsy violin consequently taken up by the brass with proud chords. As suddenly as it appeared it is taken over by taut warlike chords once again from the brass. We hear yet another reference to the main melody. The final movement “Sehr langsam-belebt” slowly emerges with sounds like footsteps to a return to light from the darkness. There are disturbing noises from the contrabassoon. The development is slow but positive as we begin to hear an offering from the oboe and then from the flutes with brass harmony. There is a section in the movement that was definitely influenced by Beethoven’s 9th symphony. My only comment is what a work to model yours after. The finale of the 4th movement is a return to the proud majestic theme that we heard at the beginning.
It wasn’t until Acousence released this recording that my interest peaked to a point where I can tell you this should be part of your collection. There has been much discussion which has no relevance to the work at all. Almost every composer has been influenced by someone before him. While I admit there is somewhat of a patchwork feeling to the symphony it has little influence on the overall listening experience. The conductor Catherine Ruckwardt has taken a work to new levels of excitement and it should be one that will be given repeated listens. The orchestra flows under her baton from the grumbly contrabassoon to the harmonic fanfares of the brass section. They sounded well rehearsed. The recording, which was from a live performance, captured the sound of the orchestra nicely as well as the ambience of the hall making this a winner. Highly recommended
1… Alla breve (9:19)
2… Sehr langsam (10:56)
3… Frisch und lebhaft (12:48)
4… Sehr langsam-belebt
Total Time 56:14