Wölfl (Woelfl, Wölffl), Joseph

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Wölfl (Woelfl, Wölffl), Joseph

Wölfl (Woelfl, Wölffl), Joseph, Austrian pianist and composer; b. Salzburg, Dec. 24, 1773; d. London, May 21, 1812. He was a pupil of Leopold Mozart and Michael Haydn while serving as a chorister at the Salzburg Cathedral (1783-86). He was then in Vienna (1790-92) and Warsaw (1793), and again in Vienna from 1795; he was considered Beethoven’s rival as a pianist. In 1798 he married the actress Thérèse Klemm. Traveling through Germany, he gave numerous concerts as a pianist, reaching Paris in 1801, where he produced 2 French operas and was acclaimed as a piano virtuoso. In 1805 he went to London, and almost immediately established himself in the public’s favor as a pianist and teacher. He was, however, of an eccentric disposition, and became involved in all sorts of trouble. He died in obscurity at the age of 38. In his professional life, he emphasized the sensational element and gave fanciful titles to his works; he named one of his piano sonatas Ne plus ultra and claimed that it was the most difficult piece ever written. Some of his piano pieces were publ. in monthly issues, under the title The Harmonic Budget (London, 1810).


dramatic: Opera: Der Höllenberg (Vienna, Nov. 21,1795); Das schöne Milchmädchen, oder der Guckkasten (Vienna, Jan. 5, 1797); Der Kopf ohne Mann (Vienna, Dec. 3, 1798); Das trojanische Pferd (Vienna, 1797); L’Amour romanesque (Paris, 1804); Fernando, ou Les Maures (Paris, 1805). Ballet: La Surprise de Diane (London, Sept. 21, 1805); Alzire (London, Jan. 27, 1807). ORCH.: 7 piano concertos, including Le Calme and Grand concerto; 2 syms. CHAMBER: 12 string quartets; 6 piano trios; 2 trios for 2 Clarinets and Bassoon. Piano: Numerous sonatas; many sets of variations; a Méthode (with 100 studies); sonatas for Piano, 4-Hands; waltzes, polonaises, rondos, fantasias, etc. VOCAL: Songs.


R. Baum, J. Wölfl: Leben, Klavierwerke, Klavierkammermusik und Klavierkonzerte (Kassel, 1928).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire