Bert Hagels
On the Origin of the Symphony No. 1 in E major

(Part 2)


Updated on
January 8, 2012
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In June the correspondence with Heinrich Krzyzanowski breaks off. Rott must have worked quickly now, for he notes down in his diary on June 7: "Draft for the symphony. to be finished."8 One day later again: "Symphony." On June 10 the achievement, the crucial word underlined twice: "Symphony finished." 9 The competition took place on July 2, 1878. During the three preceding weeks Rott had his hands full with writing the parts. Besides he seems to have been busy with the work itself (see below).

At the competition "outsiders [sc.: not members of the Conservatoire's teaching staff] had to take a decision on the students' performance after one single listening to."10 Not exactly favourable conditions for the judgement of a work which already beforehand had given raise to the critical voice of an academic teacher because of its too great ambition. And Rott had indeed suffered a fiasco in the examination. An anecdote which has come down to us in the Bruckner biographies11 tells us what happened:

"As Bruckner related, Rott wrote a symphony movement for the graduation. This, however, seemed too "Wagnerian" to the narrow-minded brotherhood sitting at the examiners' table and to whom R. Wagner was still the Marat of music! At the end a scornful laughter was heard from the "Merker" chair - sorry the examiners' table. Thereupon the otherwise so timid Bruckner rose and cried the flaming words to the "Merkers" down there: "Do not laugh, gentlemen, of this man you will hear great things yet!"12

It speaks for the degree of truth of this anecdote that its narrator could not foresee the posthumous fame of Bruckner's charge at the time it was published (1901). Therefore it cannot be one of those anecdotes which in retrospect claim the gift of prophecy for their protagonist. Be it as it may, of seven presented works, only Rott's symphony movement did not gain a prize, despite Bruckner's committed defence.13 Rott's reaction was typical: In his correspondence with Heinrich Krzyzanowski which is taken up again in July, he remains silent about this unpleasant occurrence. Just some cryptic hints in the presumably earliest of these letters suggest how offended he must have been by the rejection of his work:

"At last I have sufficient time to write some lines to you, which I wanted to do for some time already, not because I have something interesting to tell you but just to write a letter to you at all. I will not refer to the reasons why I have not written to you for such a long time, you know them and their simple but alas important nature."14

His failure, however, seems to have left no lasting impression on him, one reason may be the fact that, following some quarrels15 with the "Governor" in charge of the payment he received his "grant" of 500 fl. as he noted down in his diary16. He obviously uses a one month's stay with his friends Rudolf and Heinrich Krzyzanowski in Eger from August 2217 to September 21 or 22, 187818 to begin with the concept for the second movement in the piano score: A draft of the second movement19 which comprises almost the whole movement is dated on the third page: "Vienna, the 30th of September, 1878"20 - in it the bars 65 - 107 are drafted and the form comes very close to the final version. That proves that Rott, not yet two months after his defeat at the "Concurs", had already two thirds of the second movement drafted. Afterwards he seems to have slowed down the tempo of the composition. Another draft page from the same pile is dated "25. 5[?]. 79." or just "1879";21 on it is drafted the choral at the end of the movement (later to become bars 120 - 123, bars 129 - 145, as well as again the monophonic bars 1221 - 124). Although the final part of the drafts for the second movement cannot be exactly dated, the draft pages for the scherzo and the finale, mostly rendering the course of the autograph score already, convey more particulars: The scherzo had been drafted during the summer stay 1879 in Neustift am Walde between July 3 and September 13 (piano score)22. The drafts for the finale were begun on August 21, 1879. The next dated page, paginated by Rott as page 7, shows bar 205 - 223 of the definite finale as well as the deleted early version of the first two bars of the resumption of the choral (bar 224 - 225) and is dated October 25, 1879. Rott had written several dates on the title page of the drafts for the finale: the conclusion of the drafts is marked with "Neustift am Walde 30 [no month] drafted 1879"23. As Rott used to stay in Neustift only during the summer and it can be assumed that he had returned to Vienna in November 1879 and the scherzo had been concluded on September 13 whereas the finale was still being worked on, it may be cautiously presumed that the piano score of the whole symphony had been finished by the end of October 1879. Rott's circle of friends know the work anyway: Heinrich Krzyzanowski relates in his recollections of those days, which he calls "floating between 79 and 80",24 written in 1925 for the planned Rott biography by Maja Loehr:

"Much more important than all that, however, was the fact that R. had composed his great symphony at that time, great because of firstly its scope and secondly its importance, if one listened to his friends, to whom also belonged colleagues, only that the latters' judgement was more of the colleague-side, i.e. somewhat less enthusiastic than that of the others. For them there was no doubt about its unique greatness and their judgement was slowly transferred onto Rott [...]. An atmosphere of devotion floated around the symphony and its creator, his symphony became "the symphony" per se [...]."25

The stay in the country during the summer of 1880 - since June 3 Rott is staying in Ober-Salmannsdorf 26 and from July 24 on with his friend and patron Joseph Seemüller in Glashütte27 - he uses to orchestrate and work on the score. Like in July 1878 he is in a hurry and working with feverish haste as we gather from a letter to his friend Friedrich Löwi/Löhr28 dated July 26, 1880 in which he also informs about the state of his work:

"Upon receipt immediately take the scherzo (as far as I get it finished until the evenings [sic]) to Geier. Is the finale already finished? How about the 1st movement? The copyist must have everything ready until Friday afternoon latest. Saphir shall take the quartet score to you. Let have the Singer and the Pied Piper of Hamelin Ballad copied again, the latter, however, is not that necessary, if only the symphony will be delivered clean and in time. The Adagio score along with the songs and the petition I will bring along. John shall have the diploma of the Conservatoire (composition) ready [...]."29

We learn that the first movement and the finale are at the copyist Geyer at that time and quite obviously for some time yet, otherwise Rott would not enquire about the state of the copying. Add to this there is a note on the title page of the final drafts saying "Instrumented On June 26, 1880. Ober Salmannsdorf"30. Rott plans to take to Vienna himself the "Adagio Score" - as matters stand, this can only refer to the fair copy of the second movement of the symphony. That means that it was not yet finished when the first movement and the finale had been handed over to the copyist and presumably had been finished shortly before this letter was written. Finally, the score of the scherzo is still being worked on and is passed on in instalments to the copyist. The completion, however, is imminent. At the same time a "petition" is mentioned for which the addressee's brother, John Leo Löwi, is asked to have Rott's graduation diploma ready. We know from the work index compiled by Rott himself between June and August 1880, written down on the reverse side of a draft for the finale of the symphony31, that Rott is planning to submit the symphony "in score" for a "state scholarship" and "in score and parts" for the "Beethoven Concurs"32. According to Rott the deadline for the submittal for the annual Beethoven prize of the Viennese Conservatoire is September 3033 which means that this cannot be the reason for Rott's hurry. Thus the application for the "state scholarship" remains, a competition organized by the Austrian Ministry of Education; Maja Loehr reports that Rott had submitted in August 1880 also the score of the First Symphony besides his Pastoral Prelude.34 That Friday on which Rott wanted to have it finished is July 30, 1880. It can be assumed that Rott planned to personally hand in the work at the ministry during the first week of August for in his letter to Friedrich Löwi/Löhr Rott announces his arrival in Vienna for exactly that Friday.35 He believes that up to then the fair copy and copy of the score could be finished. Thus the date for the completion of the whole symphony can be assumed to be the end of July 1880. Later Rott, however, made changes in the instrumentation; on September he writes to Joseph Seemüller:

"Cancelled the great horn passage in the finale; would impede the tempo; the choral emerges more clearly and the strings do the roaring sufficiently. Dropped also some sordini. Pichler pointed it out to me and I admitted that he was right; he came to Vienna yesterday to see me. We have been alone together at my place; upon his request I played to him the Symphony, he simultaneously read the score; he was very pleased and praised above all the form [...]."36

One day later, his friend Friedrich Löwi/Löhr receives almost the same information:

"Well, on Wednesday I went to the Southern Railroad and waited for Pichler, he was very pleased [...] then we went to my place; I had to play the whole symphony to him and he simultaneously read the score; he said so many beautiful things to me about it, that I was pleased, for I know that he is not false and he is good at heart; some hints with regard to the instrumentation turned out to be very useful after some consideration."37

In the autographic score, however, there are no subsequent corrections of the instrumentation. Rott either changed his mind or he had another, now lost, copy of the score into which he entered the corrections.

Part 3


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