Han Rott Orchestral Works Vol. 1 – Potential realized

When Hans Rott died at age 25, the musical world, in general, didn’t notice. But his colleagues were devastated. They included Anton Bruckner (Rott’s organ teacher), and fellow classmates Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf. Mahler wrote, ” What music has lost in him cannot be estimated. Such is the height to which his genius soars in.”

Capriccio’s new series of Rott orchestral works should give us an idea of those heights. This first volume features mainly student works. In the Brahms vs. Wagner arguments, Rott was firmly in the Wagnerian camp. The influence is clear in his Hamlet Overture, written at age 18.

Another Wagnerian example is the Prelude to “Julius Casar,” composed after Rott attended the first Bayreuth Festival. To be clear, these works show Wagner’s influence, but their not imitations. Rott develops his material in a manner similar to Mahler.

Also included are fragments of two orchestral suites. These were composition exams. The scores weren’t treated carefully, and so we only have two movements of each. And that’s too bad. Because these aren’t just perfunctory compositions to show achievement. Rather, they actually work as concert music. Interesting, engaging, and belying the youthfulness of their composer.

The Pastorales Vorspiel is a mature work. Rott finished it when he was 22. Here Rott has internalized his influences. The themes and their treatments don’t remind me as strongly of Wagner. Rather, I hear some anticipation of Mahler and even Richard Strauss in this work.

Christopher Ward leads the Gurzneich Orchester Köln in some fine performances. The ensemble has a rich, warm sound that’s so well-suited to Rott’s late Romantic music. Rott never fully realized his potential. But the quality of the music in this recording show just how great that potential was.

Hans Rott: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
Hamlet Overture, Pastoral Prelude; Prelude to “Julius Casar” Orchestral Suites
Gurzenich Orchester Köln; Christopher Ward, conductor
Capriccio C5408

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