Constantin Trinks conducts Rott’s Symphony No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Hans Rott
LABELS: Profil Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Rott
WORKS: Symphony No. 1
PERFORMER: Mozarteumorchester Salzburg/Constantin Trinks
CATALOGUE NO: PH 15051

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The current availability of as many as seven recordings of a large-scale symphony by a relatively obscure Austrian musician may seem extraordinary. Yet as becomes quickly evident, the First Symphony by Hans Rott (1858-1884), a brilliantly gifted composer who succumbed to madness at the painfully early age of 21, is of more than usual interest. Composed in Vienna between 1878 and 1880, it’s a hugely ambitious work providing a fascinating historical link between the symphonic style of his organ teacher Bruckner and that of fellow student Mahler. The Brucknerian influence is most in evidence in the first movement, which with its shimmering string writing also makes obvious allusions to Wagner’s orchestral style. In contrast, the warm-hearted string melody that appears in the Finale pays homage to Brahms’s First Symphony.

Yet undoubtedly the most striking aspect of the work is its pre-echoes of Mahler, not just in the character of the thematic material as evidenced especially in the Ländler-like Scherzo, but also in the emotional trajectory from warmth to despair that unfolds through the course of Hans Rott’s slow movement. 

To claim that Rott’s Symphony is an unqualified masterpiece would be misleading. The Finale in particular seems long-winded and lacks direction. Nevertheless, despite its flaws, the work compels huge admiration for its dramatic range and bold ideas. Certainly, this live performance from Constantin Trinks and the Mozarteumsorchester has all the necessary drive, intensity and variety of colour to keep the listener fully engaged.

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Erik Levi