Hans Rott Orchestral Works Vol 1. © 2020 Capriccio

CD Spotlight

Enormous Potential

Orchestral music by Hans Rott impresses GEOFF PEARCE

'... fine performances and warmth of sound ...'


This is a very interesting disc. I had only previously heard Rott's Symphony and that impressed me very much. Hans Rott (1858-1884) lived a short and tragic life, marred at the end by a mental meltdown, tuberculosis and a very early death. Who knows what he might have achieved if he had lived to an old age, as he was a young man with enormous potential. He was taught by Anton Bruckner and that is quite evident from the works on this disc, but it is also evident that this is not Bruckner, as with his fellow students and friends, Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf.

The first piece, Hamlet Overture, was written when the composer was just eighteen. He did not complete the orchestral score, having only finished the first half, and a piano excerpt that showed the rest. This full-blown Romantic music is firmly entrenched in the tradition of Wagner and Bruckner. It is a fine student work which makes very pleasant listening and is masterfully played by the Gürzenich Orchester Köln, under the directorship of Christopher Ward. Amazingly, this is a world premiere recording.

Listen — Hans Rott: Hamlet Overture
(track 1, 7:43-8:32) © 2020 Capriccio :

The next two tracks are movements from a Suite in E major from 1878. The rest of the suite was either not completed or is lost to us. Both movements are at a leisurely pace, and the music is somewhat inward looking and intimate, but with grand climaxes. Rott shows he has a fine grasp of orchestration, and the music is warm and personable. Of all the works on this disc, this is the one that reminds me the most of Bruckner.

Listen — Hans Rott: Langsam (Suite in E)
(track 3, 0:00-0:52) © 2020 Capriccio :

The Prelude to Julius Caesar from 1877 is quite grand and Wagnerian in style, perhaps, as the notes suggested, because the previous summer, Rott had attended the first Beyreuth Festival. Like the Hamlet Overture, it is unclear as whether this was incidental music for plays or was intended for an eventual opera.

Listen — Hans Rott: Prelude to Julius Cäsar
(track 4, 4:08-5:01) © 2020 Capriccio :

The Orchestral Prelude in E major is a brief work written by the eighteen-year-old, probably as an exercise. It is believed that this is inspired by Wagner's Lohengrin, which Rott had heard earlier the same year.

This is followed by two very short movements of another incomplete suite, the Suite in B flat major, from 1877. The first movement, a Scherzo, reminds me again of Bruckner, but as an exercise, with considerable more brevity.

Listen — Hans Rott: Scherzo (Suite in B flat)
(track 6, 0:01-0:46) © 2020 Capriccio :

The second track, the Finale, is marked 'Sehr Schnell' and is in the form of a brief fugue. It is masterfully conceived. Although both movements are brief, they are self-contained and satisfying music.

The gem for me is the longest and last work on the disc, the Pastoral Prelude in F major. Right from the outset I could only admire the composer's mastery. He wrote this work over a three year period, completing it in 1880. One can hear striking individuality in the harmonic progressions, gifted orchestration and the imitation of birdsong. In the final third of the movement, Rott displays remarkable ability in composing a fugue. This is the work for me, on this disc, which gives a glimpse of what might have been.

Listen — Hans Rott: Pastoral Prelude in F
(track 8, 9:05-10:01) © 2020 Capriccio :

This is a disc well worth acquiring, not least for its fine performances and warmth of sound, but also to showcase a few emerging pieces of what could have been a remarkable composer.

Copyright © 2 November 2020 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia







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