Rott: Symphony No 1 in E major

Reviewed on Wed 14 Dec, 2016

Rott’s orchestration simultaneously echoes Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Brahms’s First Symphony, whilst anticipating Mahler in form and theme: compare the scherzo third movement with those from Gustav’s First and Fifth Symphonies.

A fellow student with Gustav Mahler in Anton Bruckner’s composition class, Hans Rott (1858-1884) left his mark on the symphonic form. Rott’s orchestration of the piece (1880) simultaneously echoes Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Brahms’s First Symphony whilst anticipating Mahler in form and theme: compare the scherzo third movement with those from Gustav’s First and Fifth Symphonies. Rott’s orchestral demands upon the enlarged Mozarteum forces has them feeling the strain, as the more than respectable November 2015 live recording from Salzburg’s Großes Festspielhaus cannot hide. Constantin Trinks’s tempo choices also contribute to lending Rott’s music an over-deliberated feel; the first movement coalesces unconvincingly and the second movement adagio quickly loses the thread of its argument. Here, Trinks is preferable to Leif Segerstam’s (BIS) even more slovenly approach, but is bettered by both Paavo Järvi (RCA) and Sebastian Weigle’s budget Munich offering (Arte Nova). Trinks is at his best in the scherzo, whilst the finale eventually gathers steam. Dennis Russell Davies (CPO) is tighter still than most alternatives, tackling the finale full on to revel in the near-Wagnerian brass scoring that crowns it. Overall, however, it’s the playing of Järvi’s Frankfurt Radio forces that secures my final recommendation.
–Evan Dickerson