Wolf, Hugo (Filipp Jakob)
Wolf, Hugo (Filipp Jakob)
Wolf, Hugo (Filipp Jakob), famous Austrian composer, one of the greatest masters of the German lied; b. Windischgraz, Styria, March 13,1860; d. Vienna, Feb. 22, 1903. His father, Philipp Wolf (1828-87), was a gifted musician from whom Hugo received piano and violin lessons at a very early age; he later played 2nd violin in the family orch. While attending the village primary school (1865-69), he studied piano and theory with Sebastian Weixler. In 1870 he was sent to the Graz regional secondary school, but left after a single semester and in 1871 entered the St. Paul Benedictine Abbey in Carinthia, where he played violin, organ, and piano. In 1873 he was transferred to the Marburg secondary school and remained devoted to musical pursuits. In 1875 he went to Vienna, where he became a pupil at the Cons. He studied piano with Wilhelm Schenner and harmony and composition with Robert Fuchs and later with Franz Krenn. When Wagner visited Vienna in 1875, Wolf went to see him, bringing along some of his compositions; the fact that Wagner received him at all, and even said a few words of encouragement, gave Wolf great impetus toward further composition. But he was incapable of submitting himself to academic discipline, and soon difficulties arose between him and the Cons. authorities. He openly expressed his dissatisfaction with the teaching, which led to his expulsion for lack of discipline in 1877. He then returned to his native town, but after a few months at home decided to go to Vienna again, where he managed to support himself by giving music lessons to children in the homes of friends. By that time he was composing diligently, writing songs to texts by his favorite poets—Goethe, Lenau, Heine. It was also about that time that the first signs of a syphilitic infection became manifest. An unhappy encounter with Brahms in 1879, who advised him to study counterpoint before attempting to compose, embittered him, and he became determined to follow his own musical inclinations without seeking further advice. That same year he met Melanie (née Lang) Köchert, whose husband, Heinrich Köchert, was the Vienna court jeweller. By 1884 she had become Wolf’s mistress and a great inspiration in his creative work. After serving a brief and acrimonious tenure as 2nd conductor in Salzburg in 1881, he returned to Vienna in 1882 and in 1883 became music critic of the weekly Wiener Salonblatt. He took this opportunity to indulge his professional frustration by attacking those not sympathetic to new trends in music. He poured invective of extraordinary virulence on Brahms, thus antagonizing the influential Hanslick and other admirers of Brahms. But he also formed a coterie of staunch friends, who had faith in his ability. Yet he was singularly unsuccessful in his repeated attempts to secure performances for his works. He submitted a string quartet to the celebrated Rose Quartet, but it was rejected. Finally, Hans Richter accepted for the Vienna Phil. Wolfs symphonic poem Penthesilea, but the public performance was a fiasco, and Wolf even accused Richter of deliberately sabotaging the work; later he reorchestrated the score, eliminating certain crudities of the early version. In 1887 he resigned as music critic of the Wiener Salonblatt and devoted himself entirely to composition. He became convinced that he was creating the greatest masterpieces of song since Schubert and Schumann, and stated his conviction in plain terms in his letters. In historical perspective, his self-appraisal has proved remarkably accurate, but psychologists may well wonder whether Wolf was not consciously trying to give himself the needed encouragement by what must have seemed to him a wild exaggeration. However, a favorable turn in his fortunes soon came. On March 2, 1888, Rosa Papier became the first artist to sing one of Wolf’s songs in public. On March 23,1888, Wolf himself played and sang several of his songs at a meeting of the Vienna Wagner-Verein; on Dec. 15,1888, he made his public debut as accompanist in his songs to the tenor Ferdinand Jäger, which proved the first of many highly successful recitals by both artists. Soon Wolf’s name became known in Germany, and he presented concerts of his own works in Berlin, Darmstadt, Mannheim, and other musical centers. He completed the first part of his great cycle of 22 songs, Italienisches Liederbuch, in 1891, and composed the 2nd part (24 songs) in 5 weeks, in the spring of 1896. While Wolf could compose songs with a facility and degree of excellence that were truly astounding, he labored painfully on his orch. works. His early sym. was never completed, nor was a violin concerto; the work on Penthesilea took him a disproportionately long time. In 1895 he undertook the composition of his opera, Der Corregidor, to the famous tale by Alarcón, El sombrero de tres picos, and, working feverishly, completed the vocal score with piano accompaniment in a few months. The orchestration took him a much longer time. Der Corregidor had its premiere in Mannheim on June 7, 1896. While initially a success, however, the opera failed to find wide appeal and was soon dropped from the repertoire. Wolf subsequently revised the score, and in its new version Der Corregidor was brought out in Strasbourg on April 29, 1898. He never completed his 2nd opera, Manuel Venegas (also after Alarcón); fragments were presented in concert in Mannheim on March 1,1903. In the meantime, his fame grew. A Hugo Wolf-Verein was organized at Berlin in 1896, and did excellent work in furthering performances of Wolf’s songs in Germany. Even more effective was the Hugo Wolf-Verein in Vienna, founded by Michel Haberlandt on April 22,1897 (disbanded in 1906). As appreciation of Wolf’s remarkable gifts as a master of lied began to find recognition abroad, tragedy struck. By early 1897, he was a very ill man, both mentally and physically. According to Wolf, Mahler promised to use his position as director of the Vienna Court Opera to mount a production of Der Corregidor. When the production failed to materialize, Wolf’s mental condition disintegrated. He declared to friends that Mahler had been relieved of his post, and that he, Wolf, had been appointed in his stead. On Sept. 20, 1897, Wolf was placed in a private mental institution. After a favorable remission, he was discharged (Jan. 24, 1898), and traveled in Italy and Austria. After his return to Vienna, symptoms of mental derangement manifested themselves in even greater degree. In Oct. 1898 he attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Traunsee in Traunkirkchen, but was saved and placed in the Lower Austrian provincial asylum in Vienna. (A parallel with Schumann’s case forcibly suggests itself.) He remained in confinement, gradually lapsing into complete irrationality. He died at the age of 42, and was buried near the graves of Schubert and Beethoven in Vienna’s Central Cemetery; a monument was unveiled on Oct. 20, 1904. His mistress plunged to her death from the 4th -floor window of her home in Vienna on March 21, 1906.
Wolf’s significance in music history rests on his songs, about 300 in number, many of them publ. posthumously. The sobriquet “the Wagner of the lied” may well be justified in regard to involved contrapuntal texture and chromatic harmony, for Wolf accepted the Wagnerian idiom through natural affinity as well as by clear choice. The elaboration of the accompaniment, and the incorporation of the vocal line into the contrapuntal scheme of the whole, are Wagnerian traits. But with these external similarities, Wolf’s dependence on Wagner’s models ceases. In his intimate penetration of the poetic spirit of the text, Wolf appears a legitimate successor to Schubert and Schumann. Wolf’s songs are symphonic poems in miniature, artistically designed and admirably arranged for voice and piano, the combination in which he was a master. A complete ed. of his works, ed. by H. Jancik et al., began publ. in Vienna in 1960.
dramatic: Opera: König Alboin (1876- 77; fragment); Der Corregidor (1895; Mannheim, June 7, 1896); Manuel Venegas (1897; fragments perf. in concert, Mannheim, March 1, 1903). Incidental Music To: Kleist’s Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (1884; unfinished); Ibsen’s Das Fest auf Solhaug (Vienna, Nov. 21, 1891). ORCH.: Violin Concerto (1875; unfinished); Sym. in B-flat major (1876-77; unfinished; Scherzo and Finale completed; scored by H. Schultz and publ. in Leipzig and Vienna, 1940); Sym. in G Minor (1877; unfinished); Sym. in F minor (1879; not extant); The Corsair, overture (1877-78; not extant); Penthesilea, symphonic poem (1883-85); Italienische Serenade for Small Orch. (1892; arrangement of the Serenade for String Quartet); Dritte Italienische Serenade (1897; unfinished); Trantella on Funiculi, finiculà (1897; fragment). CHAMBER: String Quartet in D major (1876; unfinished); Piano Quintet (1876; fragment; not extant); Violin Sonata in G minor (1877; fragment); String Quartet in D minor (1878-84); Intermezzo in E-flat major for String Quartet (1886); Serenade for String Quartet (1887; arr. for Small Orch. as Italienische Serenade, 1892); Serenade (1889; fragment). Piano: Sonata in E-flat major/D major (1875; unfinished); Variations in G major (1875); Variations in E major/A major (c. 1875; fragment); Sonata in D major (1875; unfinished); Sonata in G major (1876; unfinished); Fantasia in B-flat major (1876; unfinished); March in E-flat major for 4-Hands (1876); Sonata in G minor (1876; unfinished); Rondo capriccioso (1876); Wellenspiel in D major (1877; unfinished; not extant); Verlegenheit in A minor (1877; fragment); Humoreske in G minor (1877); Schlummerlied in G major (1878); Scherz und Spiel in G major (1878); Fantasie über Lortzings Zar und Zimmermann (e. 1878; not extant); Reiseblätter nach Gedichten von Lenau (c. 1878-79; not extant); Paraphrase über Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg von Richard Wagner in G major (c. 1880); Paraphrase über Die Walküre von Richard Wagner in E minor (c. 1880); Canons in C major (c. 1882). VOCAL: C h o r a I : Die Stimme des Kindes for Voices and Piano (1876); Im stillen Friedhof for Voices and Piano (1876); Im Sommer for Men’s Voices (1876); Geistesgruss for Men’s Voices (1876); Mailied for Men’s Voices (1876); Wanderers Nachtlied for Men’s Voices (1876; not extant); Die schöne Nacht for Men’s Voices (1876; not extant); Fröhliche Fahrt for Voices (1876); Mailied for Men’s Voices (1876; fragment); Grablied for Voices (1876); An Himmelshohn die Sterne gehn for Voices (c. 1876); Die Stunden verrauschen for Solo Voices, Mixed Voices, and Orch. (1878; unfinished); Sechs geistliche Lieder for Voices (all 1881; rev. by E. Thomas, 1903); Wahlspruch for Men’s Voices (c. 1883; not extant); Christnacht for Solo Voices, Mixed Voices, and Orch. (1886-89; rev. by M. Reger and F. Foil, 1903); Elfenlied for Soprano, Women’s Voices, and Orch. (1889-91). S o n g s : 12 Lieder aus der Jugendzeit (1888); Lieder nach verschiedenen Dichtern, 31 songs (1877-97); Gedichte von Mörike, 53 songs (1888); Gedichte von Eichendorff, 20 songs (1886-88); Gedichte von Goethe, 51 songs (1888-89); Spanisches Liederbuch, 44 songs after Geibel and Heyse (1889-90); Italienisches Liederbuch, 46 songs after Heyse, in 2 parts: 22 songs (1890-91), 24 songs (1896). 20 of the songs were orchestrated by Wolf; others by Max Reger. 40 previously unpubl. songs, mostly of the earliest period, were publ. in Leipzig in 1936, in 4 vols., as Nachgelassene Werke, ed. by R. Haas and H. Schultz.
R. Batka and H. Werner, eds., Hugo Wolf: Musikalische Kritiken (Leipzig, 1911; Eng. tr., 1979).
CORRESPONDENCE E. Hellmer, ed., H. W.: Briefe an Emil Kaufmann (Berlin, 1903); M. Haberlandt, ed., H. W.: Brief an Hugo Faisst (Stuttgart, 1904); H. Werner, ed., H. W.: Briefe an Oskar Grohe (Berlin, 1905); E. Hellmer, ed., H. W.: Familienbriefe (Leipzig, 1912); H. Werner, ed., H. W.: Briefe an Rosa Mayreder, mit einem Nachwort der Dichtetrin des “Corregi-dors” (Vienna, 1921); idem, H. W.: Briefe an Henriette Lang, nebst den briefen an deren Gatten, Prof. Joseph Freiherr von Schey (Regensburg, 1922); H. Nonveiller, ed., H W.: Briefe an Heinrich Potpeschnigg (Stuttgart, 1923); F. Grasberger, ed., H. W.: Briefe an Melanie Kochert (Tutzing, 1964; Eng. tr., 1991); E. Hilmar and W Obermaier, eds., Briefe an Frieda Zerny (Vienna, 1978); D. Langberg, ed., H. W.: Vom Sinn der Töne: Briefe und Kritiken (Leipzig, 1991). MEMOIRS: H. Haberlandt, H. W.: Erinnerungen und Gedanken (Leipzig, 1903; 2nd ed., enl., 1911); H. Werner, H. W. in Maierling: Eine Idyll (Leipzig, 1913); E. Hellmer, H. W.: Erlebtes und Erlauschtes (Vienna, 1921); H. Werner, Der H. W.-Verein in Wien (Regensburg, 1921); idem, Gustav Schur: Erinnerungen an H. W., nebst H. W.s Briefen an Gustav Schur (Regensburg, 1922); idem, H. W. in Perchtoldsdorf (Regensburg, 1924); R. Kukula, Erinnerungen eines Bibliothekars (Weimar, 1925); H. Werner, H. W. und der Wiener Akademische Wagner-Verein (Regensburg, 1927); F. Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage (Vienna, 1936); M. Klinckerfuss, Aufklänge aus versunkener Zeit (Urach, 1947). BIOGRAPHICAL: E. Decsey, H. W.(Berlin and Leipzig, 1903-06); E. Schmitz, H. W.(Leipzig, 1906); E. Newman, H. W.(London, 1907); M. Morold, H. W.(Leipzig, 1912); E. Decsey, H. W.: Das Leben und das Lied (Berlin, 1919; 2nd ed., 1921); K. Grunsky, H W.(Leipzig, 1928); B. Benevisti-Viterbi, H. W.(Rome, 1931); H. Hécaen, Mani et inspiration musicale: Le cas H. W.(Bourdeaux, 1934); H. Schouten, H. W.: Mens en componisi (Amsterdam, 1935); A. Ehrmann, H. W.: Sein Leben in Bildern (Leipzig, 1937); R. Litterscheid, H. W.(Potsdam, 1939); M. Hattingberg-Graedener, H. W.: Vom Wesen und Werk des grössten Liedschöpfers (Vienna and Leipzig, 1941; 2nd ed., rev., 1953); K. Eickemeyer, Der Verlauf der Paralyse H. W.s (diss., Univ. of Jena, 1945); A. Orel, H. W.(Vienna, 1947); F. Walker, H W.: A Biography (London, 1951; 2nd ed., enl., 1968); N. Loeser, H. W.(Antwerp, 1955); D. Lindner, H. W.(Vienna, 1960); E. Werba, H. W. oder der zornige Romantiker (Vienna, 1971); K. Honolka, H. W.: Sein Leben,sein Werk, seine Zeit (Stuttgart, 1988). CRITICAL, ANALYTICAL:
Gesammelte Aufsätze über H. W.(Berlin, 1898-1900); P. Müller, H. W.(Berlin, 1904); K. Heckel, H. W. in seinem Verhältnis zu Richard Wagner (Munich, 1905); K. Grunsky, H. W.-Fest in Stuttgart: Festschrift (Gutenberg, 1906); W. Salomon, H. W. als Liederkomponist (diss., Univ. of Frankfurt am Main, 1925); K. Varges, Der Musikkritiker H. W.(Magdeburg, 1934); G. Bieri, Die Lieder von H. W.(Bern, 1935); A. Breitenseher, Der Gesangstechnik in den Liedern H. W.s (diss., Univ. of Vienna, 1938); U. Sennhenn, H. W.s Spanisches und Italienisches Liederbuch (diss., Univ. of Frankfurt am Main, 1955); E. Sams, The Songs of H. W.(London, 1961; 2nd ed., rev. and enl, 1981); R. Egger, Die Deklamationsrhythmik H. W.s in historischer Sicht (Tutzing, 1963); M. Shott, H. W/s Music Criticism (diss., Ind. Univ., 1964); C. Rostand, H. W.(Paris, 1967); P. Boylan, The Lieder of H. W.(diss., Univ. of Mich., 1968); B. Campbell, The Solo Sacred Lieder of H. W.(diss., Columbia Univ., 1969); M. Carner, H. W. Songs (London, 1982); E. Werba, H. W. und seine Lieder (Vienna, 1984); D. Stein, H. W.’s Lieder and Extensions of Tonality (Ann Arbor, 1985); J. Haywood, The Musical Language ofH. W.(Ilfracombe, 1986); D. Ossenkop, H. W.: A Guide to Research (Westport, Conn., 1988); H.-H. Geyer, H. W.s Mörike-Vertonungen: Vermannigfaltigung in lyrischer Konzentration (Kassel, 1991); S. Youens, H. W.: The Vocal Music (Princeton, 1992); A. Glauert, H. W. and the Wagnerian Inheritance (Cambridge, 1999).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire