Hans Rott was born in August 1
. His mother died in 1860 and his father Karl Rott, a famous comic actor in Wien, was crippled in 1874 by a stage accident, and died two years later. So Hans Rott was left wanting to continue his studies at the Conservatory. Fortunately, Rott's skill, and his financial need, were recognized and he was excused from paying tuition. While studying, he was for a time roommate with Gustav Mahler
and Rudolf Krzyzanowsky. Rott studied piano with L. Landskron, harmony with H. Graedener, counterpoint and composition with F. Krenn, and organ with Anton Bruckner
starting in 1874 and graduated from Bruckner's organ class in 1877, with honors. Bruckner said that Rott played Bach very well, and even improvised wonderfully (that was a high compliment since it came from a great improviser). During that time Rott was also organist at a Piarist church in Vienna. For the final year of his studies, Rott submitted the first movement of his Symphony in E major to a composition contest. The jury was very derisive of the work. After completing the Symphony, Rott showed the work to both Johannes Brahms
and Hans Richter
, in order to get it played. His efforts failed. Brahms didn't like it 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 didn't have Mahler's strength, and whereas Mahler was able to overcome many of the obstacles in his life, Rott was brought down by mental illness. Rott spent the last years of his life in a mental hospital, before finally dying of tuberculosis, on June 25
. Brahms was aware of the tragedy, and may have even felt guilty. Brahms and Bruckner both attended Rott's funeral. Mahler called Rott "a musician of genius, … who died unrecognized and in want on the very threshold of his carreer. … What music has lost in him can not be estimated. Such is the height to which his genius soars in … [his] Symphony [in E major], which he wrote as 20-year-old youth and makes him … the Founder of the New Symphony as I see it. To be sure, what he wanted is not quite what he achieved. … But I know where he aims. Indeed, he is so near to my inmost self that he and I seem to me like two fruits from the same tree which the same soil has produced and the same air nourished. He could have meant infinitely much to me and perhaps the two of us would have well-nigh exhausted the content of new time which was breaking out for music."
Thanks to Rott's friends, his music manuscripts have survived in the music collection of Vienna's national library. This includes Rott's Symphony in E major, and sketches for a second Symphony that was never realized. The E major Symphony is remarkable in the way it anticipates some of Mahler's musical characteristics. Mahler knew Rott's score and even went so far as to call Rott "the Founder of the New Symphony". Mahler also spoke well of Rott's Lieder, but unfortunately, none of them survive. We also know of a Sextet, which Mahler never heard and the score of which hasn't survived either. Some of Mahler's late works include references to Rott's Symphony, which itself, in its Finale, includes references to Brahms's Symphony No. 1 in C minor. In his last years, Rott wrote a lot of music, only to destroy what he wrote soon after writing it, saying it was worthless.