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Hans Rott

Biography

Born: August 1, 1858   Died: June 25, 1884   Country: Austria  
Like Nordraak and Lekeu, Hans Rott is one of the most painful "could-have-been" cases in the music of the nineteen century. Highly talented -- Bruckner had great hopes about him -- his symphony, both in thematic content and compositional techniques, anticipates Mahler, whose First Symphony it predated by eight years. Rott's mother died in his second year of life. His father, an actor, suffered an accident in 1874 and died two years later, leaving Read more the young music student without financial support. He could continue his studies only because the Conservatory, in recognition of his talent, waived the fees for the last three years. Rott graduated, aged 19, from Bruckner's organ class with the highest honors. He continued his composition studies at the Conservatory where he was a classmate of Mahler, who wrote about him: "His innermost nature is so much akin to mine that he and I are like two fruits of the same tree." At the end of the course he submitted, for the final composition contest, a symphonic movement that would become the first of his Symphony in E major. He was not successful with the conservative jury, and his work was not even graded. He persevered and completed the symphony in mid-1880. The work makes clear his admiration for both Wagner and Brahms. Rott wanted to remain in Vienna but he could not find work as a musician there. He tried to persuade Hans Richter, conductor of the Philharmonic Concerts, to perform the symphony. Although Richter's attitude was sympathetic, he declined to play the work. Rott visited Brahms in September 1880 to show him the symphony. Brahms rejected it and hurt him deeply. He had no alternative than accepting a position as organist in Mühlhausen. It is unclear whether the stress or the deprivations he had to endure were the triggering factor, but the fact is that, aged 22, he developed what was diagnosed as "hallucinatory insanity" in 1881. He was committed to an asylum where he rapidly deteriorated physically and died of tuberculosis in 1884. Apart from the symphony, he left several orchestral pieces, songs, a string quartet, and a string quintet. Read less
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