Frank Litterscheid
A Prelude to "Julius Caesar"


Updated on
January 8, 2012
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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 works.

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.

Frank Litterscheid


Title page of Frank Litterscheid's edition, published by Doblinger.

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