Composer Hans Rott was highly regarded by his teacher Anton Bruckner and a major inspiration to his fellow student Gustav Mahler. Born in the suburbs of Vienna in 1858, Rott studied at the Vienna Conservatory from 1874 to 1878. He completed his Symphony in E major in 1880 and showed it to Johannes Brahms in the hope that his influence might get it performed. But Brahms viciously mocked Rott and his music, which had an unfortunate consequence. Rott had already begun to show some mental instability and on a train ride to start a new position as choir director, he broke down. When another passenger tried to light a cigar, Rott pointed a gun at him with a request not to strike a match because Johannes Brahms had, Rott believed, loaded the train with dynamite. He was institutionalized about four months later and died in 1884, days before his 26th birthday. Bruckner and Mahler were among the many who attended his funeral, Mahler later saying, “It is impossible to estimate the loss which music has suffered. Consider the heights of genius to which his First Symphony rises, a work which he wrote at the age of twenty and which makes him, without exaggeration , the founder of the new symphony as I understand him… Indeed, he is so linked to my inner being, that he and I appear to me as two fruits of the same tree, created from the same earth, nourished by same look.” In his own later symphonies, Mahler quoted Rott directly and borrowed his use of woodwinds, chorales, and Ländlers, among other techniques. So much so that conductor Paavo Jarvi declared that if Mahler lived today, he would be prosecuted for plagiarism.
Hans Rott’s Symphony in E Major, nearly an hour long, is today’s midday masterpiece at 2:00 p.m.
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