Hans Rott - CD Review


Steve Vasta

Updated on
August 23, 2017
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A violin arpeggio, quietly supported by flutes, like the soft rustle of leaves in the forest, opens Hans Rott's early - and, until the CD era, unexplored - symphony. A solo trumpet softly calls across this inchoate landscape, its broad, lyrical theme incorporating fanfarelike elements; a consoling horn answers. Above the firm, organlike support of descending basses, the orchestral sonority builds inexorably in layers to a tutti climax, subsiding smoothly for the second subject, a liquid, undulating woodwind chorale.
     A trombone, mysteriously intoning the opening motif, launches the development; clarinets and bassoons take up the motif as a "toy march," in which guise it launches an orchestral fugato. The second subject unexpectedly reappears as a quiet brass chorale, with the horn leading into a sparse, enigmatic passage. The crisp string pizzicatos that take up the motif serve ingeniously in turn as accompaniment for a trumpet, restating the first theme. Faster triplet motion screws up the tension as the climax builds in earnest, culminating in the main theme's return as a proud tutti anthem. Rott neatly rounds things off by incorporating the apparently forgotten second subject into the coda.
     A gentle A major chord, for full orchestra without percussion, introduces the Sehr langsam. The principal theme, a string chorale in time, begins quietly and reverently, growing more yearning and ardent as the winds gradually reinforce the sonority in an organlike manner, until, almost without our realizing it, the chorale appears in tutti. In what sounds like a simple codetta to this theme, about five minutes into the movement, unexpectedly unstable harmonies lead to another, more turbulent tutti. A series of brief episodes - a searching horn chorale; unsettled, pulsing clarinets; a syncopated string motif elaborated in fugato - leads to a powerful, hammering climax. High string tremolos and sustained winds tentatively maintain a diminished seventh chord over the tympani and pizzicato basses' repeated F sharp-B - where are we going? To a surprise: a soft "new" chorale in 4/4 time - for full winds, although the casual ear only hears brass - concludes the movement with a measure of peace and acceptance.
     The ensuing Scherzo takes us into unexpected domains. A peremptory fanfare hurtles into the hearty, rustic principal theme, answered by smoother waltzlike phrases in the strings. A misty, evocative violin waltz, with clarinets pulsing quietly beneath, leads to the rather brief "official" Trio, introduced by solo violin. The trumpets reintroduce the Scherzo theme as if for a standard recap, but in D flat instead of the expected C major; it undergoes some quick chromatic morphs and culminates in a strongly marked passage for full orchestra (Mit aller Kraft). After another brief reminiscence, a ghostly waltz ensues, with pizzicato strings providing the barest supporting texture for the solo violin. Subsequent passages imaginatively juxtapose various bits of the main theme in counterpoint; the basses launch a fugue ("Wild"), building by rising pitch levels to a not-quite-tutti sonority. At last, a surprisingly chipper theme played by low horns over firm-footed basses leads to a rousing, almost breakneck conclusion.
     Mysterious pizzicato basses introduce the structurally elusive Finale. After a reminiscence of motifs from earlier movements la Beethoven's Ninth, the oboe intones a plaintive theme, elaborated in fugato by the other woodwinds, building to a grandiose climax as fanfares peal on bronzen horns. Shortly, the strings sing a broad, surging melody over a pulsing accompaniment; the heavy brass in turn intone a chorale, pianopianissimo, over string tremolos. This entire series of episodes in fact constitutes an extended introduction for the movement's principal business, an affirmative string theme over sturdy, striding basses, repeated proudly in tutti. In the following Etwas belebter passage, odd brass punctuations interrupt the strings' vigorous figurations, soon taking over ominously, ushering in a blazing tutti chorale, with strings and horns in rapid fanfare-like counterpoint. After a heavily underlined "half-cadence" in B, the low horns, propelled by chugging basses, launch a fugue on the striding theme, which, interrupted by brief martial outbursts, carries most of the rest of the movement. Liquid, undulating horn chords offer a respite before the final series of perorations; the coda, incorporating the first movement's cadential motif, brings us full circle.

Part 2

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