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Currently dedicating her time to studying both the history and interpretation of Rott Lieder is the young German lyric soprano and music researcher Constance von Kotzebue. Aside from Rott, she is currently researching a book about the literary aspects in Mahler's Lieder. Many musicologists have already remarked on the similarities in the music of Rott and Mahler in respect to Rott's Symphony in E. Kotzebue believes that in the Lied genre also, elements of one can be found in the other.

'I definitely find parallels between the two,' says von Kotzebue who has sung and studied all of the Rott Lieder. 'Both composers' Lieder are full of symbolism. And both composers delight in providing a dark little twist in what initially seems to be a nice, light song. My favorite Rott Lied, das Veilchen (the violet), for instance, is very representative of that. When you first sing it you think it is romantic and tells the story of a harmonious day out in the fields with the flowers. But no, that is not what it is about at all. In fact, this Lied is very much like Rott himself: a bit religious, a bit romantic, but highly dramatic. The central character of this song asks the violet three times whether pain and suffering will cease one day. And the basic message of this song is: I will die, you will die, but pain and suffering will continue even beyond death. It's all about: life may look delightful on the surface, but there is a sting in it. These are elements that we find in the Mahler lieder also. Rott loved nature and he felt an affinity with it. Yet, like many Viennese composers who had a drive toward melancholy, he is the type who walks in the sunshine through a meadow full of flowers and grieves, in advance, for their destruction that he is certain will arrive in the evening with a dreadful thunderstorm. So there is plenty of dark symbolism in Rott's Lieder. There is an absence of prominent and complex ornaments, like the difficult trill passages that can be found in Mahler, but one must not forget that Rott was very young when he wrote these songs and also very young when he died. So he never got to develop his full potential. The fact that, despite his young age, he was able to produce works of this magnitude is remarkable. This is an aspect that I find particularly intriguing about Rott because it gives an indication of just what kind of genius was there: to paraphrase Mahler, his Lieder give the impression of someone reaching for the highest possible mark and, on account of his tragic and short life, not quite hitting it.'

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Copyright © 1 August 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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