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“So absolute was his control that he held the whole auditorium in suspended silence”
National Symphony Orchestra, Washington
New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne
Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León
Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife
Royal Danish Orchestra
Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Three-time Grammy-nominated conductor Hugh Wolff is a musical firebrand, with “an effortlessly polished sound, shaping his interpretations with impeccable taste” (The New York Times). His delivery of compelling interpretations and energetic performances has gained great critical acclaim from critics across the world, including: “Hugh Wolff stays always at the heart of the music – by the end he held the whole auditorium in suspended silence” (The Washington Post).
The 2022/2023 season saw Wolff debut with the Royal Danish Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as returns to the hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Upcoming highlights in his calendar include returns to the Belgian National Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Dortmunder Philharmoniker, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, and the Tonkünstler Orchester.Read More
Wolff currently serves as Conductor Emeritus of the Belgian National Orchestra (2022-present), following his highly successful years as Chief Conductor of the orchestra (2017-2022). Other positions held during the course of his illustrious career have included Principal Conductor of the hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt (1997-2006), Principal Conductor & Music Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (1998-2000), Music Director of Grant Park Music Festival Chicago (1994-1997), and Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (1986-1993). He maintains a close working relationship with these institutions – touring Europe and the Far East, and appearing at the Salzburg Festival with HR-Sinfonieorchester, and recording more than 20 discs, as well as touring extensively, with the SPCO.
Born in Paris to American parents, Wolff spent his early years in London and Washington DC, studying piano with Leon Fleisher, and composition with George Crumb. After graduating from Harvard, Wolff won a fellowship to study in Paris – undertaking studies in conducting with Charles Bruck, and in composition with Olivier Messiaen. He then returned to the United States to continue piano studies with Fleisher at the Peabody Institute, before beginning his professional conducting career in 1979 – as Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich.
Since then, as a guest conductor Wolff has gone on to appear with all the major American orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. He is also works frequently at such summer festivals as Aspen, Ravinia, and Tanglewood. Wolff is also in high demand throughout Europe, working regularly with such leading orchestras as the Czech Philarmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National de Lyon, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
Wolff’s discography is vast, and includes a complete set of Beethoven symphonies (with the HR-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt), music from the Baroque to the present days (with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra). A champion of contemporary works, Wolff has recorded the music of such leading composers as John Corigliano, Brett Dean, John Harbison, Aaron Jay Kernis and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Artists with whom he has recorded include such luminaries as Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Larmore, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, as well as Jazz guitarist John Scofeld.
In addition to his performance career, Hugh Wolff is passionate about passing knowledge on to the leading lights of the next generation. As such, he holds the ‘Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras’ Chair at the New England Conservatory, Boston, where he is in charge of the four orchestras and teaches graduate students the art of orchestral conducting.
On 23 June 2023, Hugh Wolff makes his debut in Tenerife, conducting a programme of Shostakovich...
On 10 March 2023, Hugh Wolff makes his debut with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, conducting...
Hugh Wolff returns to the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, conducting two concerts of Brett Dean,...
“The conductor made an impressive first visit, and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra played first-class Brahms under Hugh Wolff…”
“The experienced Hugh Wolff built an inspiring relationship with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra during his first visit… Brahms’ symphony in C minor was in control of the conductor the whole time, the tempos were natural and the balance of the timbre was very well controlled. Wolff opened the layers of the music by adjusting the timbre to almost classically bright. The accuracy of the first movement’s timbre, the translucence, the crispness of the design and the rhythmic energy spoke of Brahms’ deep knowledge of Beethoven…”
“The hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt sounded like a different person throughout the evening. Rarely has the orchestra been so committed and so characteristic of the sound as under the direction of its former Chief Conductor, Hugh Wolff. A feast.”
“Under Wolff, the hr-Sinfonieorchester was at the height of its potential. In short: everything was right. No weaknesses. His wonderfully applied precision and playful creativity gave the enthusiastic listeners a top-class concert, which has not existed with this orchestra for a long time. Thank you Hugh Wolff! Come back soon!”
“The New Jersey Symphony orchestra dazzled as its former Music Director returned to the podium. Under Wolff’s direction the orchestra was both grand and severe; filling the New Jersey PAC with a big, expansive sound. He led the work into its more gentile, nimble sections, always keeping the tempi firm, and brought things to a close with a true bold, Beethovian bloom.”
“The charismatic Hugh Wolff exudes an aura of experience that comes along with a wink – a combination of enthusiasm and modesty with which he easily wins the orchestra over to his side.”
“Mr. Wolff and his young charges closed the concert with a bang-up performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6. The Presto finale, with the young players reveling in the thrill of collective virtuosity, was sheer joy.”
“From the beginning of Beethoven’s overture to his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, the vital spirit and basis of Wolff’s interpretation could be keenly felt through sharp sonic contrasts. And in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony – as Wolff interpreted it – strongly nuanced expressions and tempi, between the idyllic and the stormiest of passages, helped paint the programmatic pulse of the music.”
“In The Creatures of Prometheus Overture and the Pastoral 6th Symphony, Wolff confirms his individual approach to Beethoven.”
“From the first performance of the complete work in 1935… [Walton Symphony No.1] gained a reputation for being devilishly difficult due to its complex rhythms, intricate textures and taut, constantly evolving themes. Hugh Wolff and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra triumphantly surmounted its challenges with a gripping and inspirational interpretation…. Wolff’s textural clarity unravelled the densely interwoven lines to reveal a wealth of detail… shrewdly combined with expressive freedom and spontaneity… Every time he visits Sydney, Wolff gives performances that stimulate and excite in equal measure. I hope we’ll see him again.”
“Wolff stays always at the heart of the music; it was a pleasure to hear music so ably shaped… Wolff kept a brisk but unobtrusive pace, barely pausing between movements yet never leaving any question where in the piece one was; the longest rest came in the moments before the final coda, and so absolute was his control by then that he held the whole auditorium in suspended silence.”
“Wolff’s Shostakovich 10 was powerful, three-dimensional and devastating, and the Atlanta Symphony blossomed by his approach. Much of the opening movement builds to an unbearable tension. Wolff paced it tautly and meaningfully, with understated authority. When the music finally crossed that emotional threshold and plummeted into some dark netherworld of a broken psyche, Wolff did not, would not, relent… Credit Wolff with delivering the crucial essence of a harrowing masterpiece of the 20th century.”
“[The] gifted and important American conductor…led a splendid program with playing to match by the CSO…Conducting without a score (as he did the Haydn), Wolff found all the complexity in Shostakovich’s score, from the fife-and-drum-like Allegro – a caricature of the victorious Stalin (kudos to piccoloist Joan Voorhees) – to the sorrowful slow movement.”
In The Shadow Of War
Released February 2013 on BIS Records
Conductor: Hugh Wolff, Gábor Takács-Nagy
Composer: Ernest Bloch, Frank Bridge, Stephen Hough
Prokofiev/Haydn/Bizet : Symphonies
Released October 2011 on Apex
Beethoven: The Symphonies
Released July 2008 on Hr Musik
Dean, B.: Viola Concerto / 12 Angry Men / Intimate Decisions / Komarov's Fall
Released July 2008 on BIS
Respighi : Pini Di Roma, Fontane Di Roma, Fest Romane, Trittico, Gli Uccelli, Antiche Danze
Released July 2008 on BIS