Hans Rott: Gustav Mahler’s Contemporary
Hans Rott (1858–1884) was a contemporary and a friend of Gustav Mahler, his fellow student in the composition class, a brilliantly gifted musician. The year he graduated from the Vienna Conservatory (1878), he began work on his First Symphony in E Major, which suddenly made the author’s name famous more than 100 years after its completion. During Rott’s lifetime, his music was not publicly performed or published. The manuscript of the symphony had been in the archives for a century before it was discovered in the Austrian National Library in the late 1970s by the British musicologist Paul Banks.
The premiere of the work in 1989 became a musical sensation: the opus by a young musician that appeared several years before Gustav Mahler’s first symphony had numerous “Mahler” elements, forerunning the symphonic style of the great Austrian composer. The musicological literature of the 1990s is engaged in the debate about Rott’s priority in the creation of a “new symphony”. The scholars even highlight the need to “write the history of music anew”. Over time, academic judgements lost their sensational relevance and acquired a more objective and balanced character. The article is a reminder about certain aspects of the 1990s debate. It examines the reasons for the dramatic fate of Rott’s symphony. It also discusses the hypothesis proposed by E. van den Hoogen about the hidden meaning of some Mahler’s allusions—fragments of his symphonies containing “quotations” from Rott’s works. They may be viewed as direct references, an emphasis on the similarity, apostrophized by Mahler as a manifestation of the spiritual “kinship” he himself noted with his dearly departed friend. The apostrophe—an appeal to an imaginary, invisibly “present” interlocutor —can turn citation into a special form of creative dialogue.5. Degtjareva article 2021-1