In April 1877, the not yet 19-year-old Hans Rott was
already working on his third theatre-related composition,
A Prelude to Julius Caesar.
A few months before, on November 29, 1876, Rott had
begun the fair copy of his Hamlet Overture the first
drafts of which date back to July of the same year.
But after some pages the score breaks off although the
draft for piano seems to be complete.
In parallel, he is working on an opera from summer
to autumn 1876. With a degree of certainty the title
Herrmannsschlacht [sic] refers to Kleist's drama of
the same title. Presumably Rott's only opera project
seems to have got stuck, however, at an early stage
already, for just a few fragmentary notes have come
down to us.
There is no hint when exactly the work on A Prelude
to Julius Caesar did begin. The first date mentioned
in this context is April 10, 1877. As this date is written
down on the first page of the score, it can be assumed
that Rott had concerned himself with this work earlier,
the more so as already 20 days later the last of the
18 score pages, dated April 30, 1877, is reached. We
do not know when Rott wrote the fair copy of the score
and the single parts. Anyway, A Prelude to Julius Caesar
is his first completely finished work of music for the
theatre we know and after the Prelude for Orchestra
(finished on November 7, 1876), presumably Rott's second
complete work for a symphony orchestra in general. And
it is already here that we discover composition techniques
which he is to use and refine later in his Symphony
No. 1 in E major. Even the beginning of the main theme
of the symphony could have been developed from the "Caesar"
theme as from bar 10 on.
Less than two months later he begins to take notes
for the forth and last work with a direct context to
the theatre. Later Rott deleted this context on purpose.
The original title A Prelude to Elsbeth was altered
into Pastoral Prelude in June 1880. Presumably Rott
wanted to submit this prelude for the state scholarship
along with the symphony and a string sextet.
At a first glance it may be amazing that Rott should
have concerned himself with the music-theatre at such
an early stage but it soon becomes clear that this genre
literally must have pressed itself upon him for Hans
Rott grew up in the world of the theatre. His father,
Carl Mathias Rott, was a famous actor and singing comedian,
his mother, Maria Rosalia Lutz, a likewise recognized
actress and singer. Add to this Rott held Wagner in
great veneration. From 1875 to 1879 Rott had been a
member of the Viennese Academic Wagner Society, and
in August 1876 he attended the first Bayreuth Festival
(together with Anton Bruckner and others). Already on
March 2, 1876 he had attended a performance of Lohengrin
in Vienna with Wagner conducting.
So much for a sketchy outline of Rott's affinity for
the music-theatre. There may be several reasons why
he chose the aforementioned dramas. There had been nine
performances of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar between
September 25 and October 5, 1875 at the Theater an der
Wien and 99 performances at the Burgtheater between
May 27, 1850 and June 2, 1912. The play Herrmannsschlacht
was performed 11 times between October 15 and 27, 1875
at the Theater an der Wien. Evidently, this work belonged
to Rott's library. It is also known that Rott owned
Shakespeare editions so that he may have had also Hamlet
and Julius Caesar. Only Elsbeth could not be definitely
allocated so far.
With regard to Richard Wagner there is one characteristic
in Rott's music for the theatre. They are his only works
for orchestra in that time in which Rott uses a tuba.
He returns to this instrument only later on in a set
of parts of his Symphony No. 1 in E major. Rott may
have known and appreciated the use of the tuba in Wagner's
An autograph score survived, and so did an autograph
score copy (partly with substantial alterations), autograph
single parts as well as copies of the string parts,
partly with autograph entries; all of them are kept
in the music collections of the Austrian National Library.