In between reacquainting myself with vinyl treasures from my youth -- thanks to the newly acquired Magic Turntable -- I've been discovering for the first time a few moderately obscure classical pieces. Just as hearing Gliere's Symphony #3 a few months ago when it featured in one of the first BBC Proms of the 2007 season sent me into a binge of classical-music listening which took a long while to abate, so I think my latest discovery, Rott's Symphony #1 (and only), may cause a fair amount of frowning at comparative prices of different recordings of lotsa good stuff on Amazon and DeepDiscountCD . . .
Hans Rott (1858-1884), as I found out from the excellent website devoted to him at http://www.hans-rott.de/indexe.htm, was a student of Bruckner's alongside such luminaries as Mahler; both of these men thought extremely highly of him, an opinion that was unfortunately not shared by Brahms. After a savage rebuff by the latter, Rott's mental instability came to the fore, and he spent the rest of his pitifully short life in various institutions.
Obviously, since he had only a few working years in which to compose stuff, his oeuvre is not huge; the extant repertoire is even smaller because Rott destroyed quite a lot of it before being incarcerated. I've no idea as yet what his other pieces are like but, if they're half as good as his symphony, it's a musical tragedy that his career was so cruelly truncated and that until relatively recently those few surviving works have languished in obscurity.
The symphony itself is, like much of the output of Rott's mentor Bruckner and friend Mahler (and indeed like Gliere's Symphony #3), one of those pieces which is pretty damn' marvelous to start with but is rendered truly great by its imperfections and excesses. On the Rott website there's a bit of moaning to the effect that "if only he'd lived longer he'd have had the chance to polish it up . . ." but my own feeling is that this is misguided: it's wonderful because it hasn't been titivated by an older and wiser hand.
There are, by the way, some who claim that Mahler semi-plagiarized much of Rott's symphony. Although it's definitely very Mahleresque when it's not being a bit Brucknerian, I think such claims are calumniations: the two men were friends as well as fellow-students of the same composer, so it's hardly surprising their compositions show similarities.