Well, Hans Rott seems to be in the zeitgeist this week.
My old school mate, Tom Consolo, has written a brilliant piece for Music in Cincinnati describing the events leading up to the first performances of the Rott Symphony in E in Cincinnati and Paris in 1989.
The big mystery was what we were to play.
The answer: “Totenfeier,” first draft of the first movement of the Resurrection(second) symphony and the world premieres of six early Mahler songs orchestrated by Luciano Berio and of the Symphony in E Major of Hans Rott. Reaction from the orchestra was unanimous. Hans who?
Rott was a colleague of Mahler’s at the conservatory in Vienna. He died at age 26 of tuberculosis and left but one work of substance, the E Major symphony. Mahler admired it very much, calling it “the beginning of the New Symphony as I know it.” The score of the Rott had been discovered, not wrapping a cheese in St. Petersburg or in the musty trunk of a distant relative, but in the library of the Vienna Philharmonic. It was lost through lack of use.
November, 1988; A-9 rehearsal room at CCM: We attempt to read the Rott. The parts are officially declared “a mess” by the conducting students who have to mark them. There are so many mistakes in the wind parts that only a string sectional is possible. Most of that is spent fixing more misprints. The word “litigation” is occasionally overheard.
The rehearsal has one other message: The Rott has a lot of notes. Many of them nasty. Our work is definitely cut out for us.
“Totenfeier” got its North American premiere as part of a Philharmonia concert in the fall; it will get an encore in March before hitting the road. Besides that, little is done on tour repertoire until mid-winter quarter.
There were moments of humor-
The concert Friday night was sold out. “Totenfeier” and the early songs made up the first half, the Rott — a hearty hour long — the second. Cheers and enthusiastic applause greeted us and our soloist, a baritone whose cologne smelled like Raid, after each song.
The entire brass section lines up against a backstage wall for a group picture. They have just played “Totenfeier” to death, and we and they know it.
And sudden, random, pointless tragedy-
At about 11:30 p.m., Teri Murai and orchestra librarian Mack Richardson pulled aside Russell’s closest friends to tell them Russell was dead. The allergy had triggered an athsmatic attack, and the combination had overcome his heart. Those who were awake didn’t sleep — or speak or feel well — much that night, pondering something so absurd it would be ridiculous if it hadn’t proven deadly.
Well worth reading. And well worth remembering when you listen to Riccardo Chailly or Paavo Jarvi’s recordings of Totenfeier or see Alan Gilbert conduct Rott, that it all started with a student orchestra in Cincinnati.
You can here Paavo discuss Rott and the piece here-
Review of the concert here- I like the fact that Paavo paired Rott with Brahms. V
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