Dates: 1 August 1858 – 25 June 1884
Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic-era
Rott was born in Braunhirschengrund, a suburb of Vienna. His mother Maria Rosalia (1840–1872, maiden name Lutz) was an actress and singer. His father Carl Mathias Rott (real name Roth, born 1807, married 1862) was a famous comic actor in Vienna who was crippled in 1874 by a stage accident which led to his death two years later.
Hans was left alone to continue his studies at the Conservatory. Fortunately, both his skill and financial need were recognized and he was excused from paying tuition. While studying, he briefly roomed with Gustav Mahler and Rudolf Krzyzanowsky. He studied piano with Leopold Landskron and Josef Dachs, harmony with Hermann Graedener, counterpoint and composition—like Mahler—with Franz Krenn.
He studied organ with Bruckner, starting in 1874, and graduating from Bruckner’s organ class in 1877, with honors. Bruckner said that Rott played Bach very well, and even improvised wonderfully (a high compliment since Bruckner himself was a great improviser). Rott was also influenced by the works of Wagner, and even attended the very first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.
During that time Rott was also organist at the Piarist church “Maria Treu” in Vienna. For the final year of his studies in 1878, Rott submitted the first movement of his Symphony in E major to a composition contest. The jury, except Bruckner, was very derisive of the work. After completing the Symphony in 1880, Rott showed the work to both Brahms and Hans Richter, in order to get it played. His efforts failed. Brahms did not like the fact that Bruckner exerted great influence on the Conservatory students, and even told Rott that he had no talent whatsoever and that he should give up music. Unfortunately, Rott lacked Mahler’s inner resolve, and whereas Mahler was able to overcome many of the obstacles in his life, Rott was brought down by mental illness. The symphony has been recorded by the BIS, CPO, Acousence, Hyperion, Ondine, RCA, Arte Nova, & Oehms record labels. Hans Rott also wrote a Symphony for String Orchestra in A♭ major, in three movements, (1874—75), and a String Quartet in C minor, a student work in five movements. They have both been recorded on the Acousence Records label #ACO-CD 20205. (2005)
Rott’s mind snapped in October 1880, whilst on a train journey. He was reported to have threatened another passenger with a revolver, claiming that Brahms had filled the train with dynamite. Rott was committed to a mental hospital in 1881, where despite a brief recovery, he sank into depression. By the end of 1883 a diagnosis recorded “hallucinatory insanity, persecution mania—recovery no longer to be expected.” He died of tuberculosis in 1884, aged only 25. Many well-wishers, including Bruckner and Mahler, attended Rott’s funeral at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna.