Hugo Wolf

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Hugo Wolf, after a photograph etched by Ferdinand Schmutzer (1921)

Hugo Wolf (born March 13, 1860 in Windischgrätz , † February 22, 1903 in Vienna ) was an Austrian composer and music critic .


Origin and education

Birthplace with a memorial plaque in Slovenj Gradec (Windischgrätz)

Hugo Wolf was the fourth of eight children of the leather merchant Philipp Wolf (1828–1887) and his wife Katharina, née Nussbaumer, who came from Malborgeth and had Slovenian roots on her mother's side.

Wolf learned to play the piano and violin from his father, who was also a passionate musician . His school days in Graz and at the Stiftsgymnasium St. Paul im Lavanttal were not very happy. His skills were only shown in music.

From 1875 he was a student of Robert Fuchs at the Conservatory in Vienna , where Gustav Mahler was his classmate. Apparently he learned very little there, and in 1877 he was dismissed for a joke in the form of a threatening letter to the rector with which he might not have had anything to do with. From the age of seventeen he was dependent on himself for his musical education. After taking piano lessons and thanks to irregular financial support from his father, he was able to live in Vienna for a few years.

In 1881 he accepted a position as assistant conductor at the Salzburg City Theater, but was dismissed after three months and at least never again employed as a musician.

Hugo Wolf (1885)

Activity as a music critic

In 1884 Wolf became a music critic of the tabloid Wiener Salonblatt, founded in 1869/70, "which accommodates the needs of the Austrian nobility" - an international social review and gained some notoriety due to his uncompromisingly biting and sarcastic style, which, however, should hinder his later success. His ardent admiration for Richard Wagner was connected with a harsh rejection of Johannes Brahms , whose work he despised all his life. Brahms, however, read Wolf's attacks in the Salonblatt with relish among friends. Wolf was not employed by this newspaper because of his passionate reviews, but because one of his patrons returned his fee to the paper in the form of advertising orders.

Life as a composer

In 1887 Wolf published twelve of his songs , quit his position at the Salonblatt and began to devote himself only to composition. The following nine years would establish his fame as a composer. They were characterized by periods of intense creativity alternating with periods of mental and physical exhaustion, in which he sometimes found it unbearable to even listen to any music.

Wolf suffered from extreme poverty all his life , which was difficult to bear due to his poor health and his proud, sensitive and nervous character. His sensitive and difficult temperament stood in the way of his professional success. He owed his income almost exclusively to the persistent efforts of a small group of friends, music critics and singers (including Ferdinand Jäger ) to make his songs known, the support of the Vienna Academic Wagner Society and the founding of Hugo Wolf societies, e.g. . B. 1897 by Michael Haberlandt in Vienna . He was also sponsored by Heinrich and Marie Werner in Perchtoldsdorf , who let him have their house in the cold season when it was not inhabited by them themselves. The publication of his songs by the music publisher Schott in 1891 brought him reputation, but after five years only 85 marks and 35 pfennigs. Accordingly, Wolf lived mostly in simple accommodations until the generosity of his friends gave him his own place in 1896, in which he could live for a year.

Sickness and death

Honorary grave in the Vienna Central Cemetery

In September 1897, the effects of syphilis , which he contracted at the age of eighteen, necessitated admission to a mental institution. Among other things, Wolf had started to speak of himself as the appointed director of the Vienna Court Opera , and in this function he planned to pay his respects to the director of the court theater. The appointed for this visit car took Wolf directly to the clinic of the Vienna neurologist Wilhelm Svetlin (1849-1914), the private hospital for Gemüthskranke on the Erdberge to Vienna III. , Leonhardgasse 3 and 5. Although Svetlin had recognized the artist's incurable illness, he released him on January 24, 1898 as cured. Wolf stayed on the Adriatic until the summer of that year , then in Traunkirchen , Upper Austria .

After an (aborted) suicide attempt in the Traunsee , he was not sent to Klinik Dr. Svetlin, but handed over to the Lower Austrian state insane asylum in Vienna-Alsergrund . After four painful years, he died there on February 22nd, 1903. Franz Seifert removed his death mask.

His honorary grave with a tomb designed by Edmund von Hellmer is located in the Vienna Central Cemetery (group 32 A, number 10). In 1903, the year of his death, Hugo-Wolf-Gasse in Vienna- Mariahilf (6th district) was named after him.

Significance in music history

Among those composers of late Romanticism who took the position that the traditional rules of beauty and form must be abandoned if they stand in the way of a more precise or lively realization of a dramatic or emotional expression, Wolf does not take a special place because of the particularly daring originality of his methods and the remarkable peculiarities of his personal style, but because these are the direct consequence of an extremely profound poetic insight and imagination.

The frequency of songs built from a single musical phrase - a kind of leitmotif - in the accompaniment has led to the misleading claim that his work is nothing more than the transfer of Wagnerian principles to the art song . In reality, the shape of his songs varies as much as the shape of the poems he set to music. Equally remarkable is the wide range of musical styles that Wolf mastered. At Wolf, however, form and style are so closely linked to the poetic ideas they embody that they can hardly be analyzed independently of the text.

Hugo Wolf Park in Vienna (Döbling) around 1920
Stern on the Vienna Music Mile

Wolf owes his place among the greatest song composers to the truthfulness and originality of his works and the lively expressiveness with which he presents them. These results are not only the fruit of his extraordinary musical talent, but also of an extraordinary critical understanding of poetry . No other composer had such a scrupulous reverence for the poems he set to music. To put a single accent wrongly was just as abominable sacrilege as misinterpreting an idea or ignoring an essential hint in the text.

Nowhere has the subtlety in the declamation reached a higher degree than in Wolf's songs. The objective and dramatic attitude of his mind should also be emphasized. He preferred to make himself the mouthpiece of poetry instead of using his art to express his own personality, which is why he did not set texts to music by authors whom he contemptuously called "I poets". That is why the men and women who are characterized in his songs stand as if alive in front of the listener and form a kind of gallery of portraits that are clearly the work of his hand, but all of which retain their own identity. These claims can be verified both in terms of the simpler and more melodic of his songs, and in terms of those of extreme complexity and difficulty. Among the first one could be The Abandoned Maiden and The Gardener (Mörike), Secret Love and The Musician (Eichendorff), Anakreon's Grave (Goethe), All went, Herz, zur Ruh ( Spanish songbook ) and numbers 1 and 4 of the Italian songbook mention. Among the latter are An aeolian harp and Der Feuerreiter (Mörike) as well as Ganymed , Mignon and Prometheus (Goethe).

The composer Joseph Marx from Graz , who became famous for his songs written shortly after Hugo Wolf's death, is generally regarded as the musical heir to Wolf's song tradition. With a late romanticism characterized by impressionistic sound painting, Marx tied directly to Wolf's melodious style and thus added another sonorous facet to the Austrian song.

Hugo Wolf's letters to Emil Kauffmann, on behalf of the Hugo Wolf Association in Vienna

Wolf had a close friendship with the university music director in Tübingen and composer Emil Kauffmann , and they exchanged intense letters about their compositions for Mörike poems.

Works (selection)

Stage works

Vocal works

Title page of the 53 Mörike songs , original edition from the Fritz Kauffmann collection


  • Bouquet of songs . Seven poems from the book of songs by Heinrich Heine (1878, published posthumously 1927):
    You have company this evening , I stood in dark dreams , This is a roar and howling , From my great pain , I dreamed of a king's child , my darling we sat together , the blue hussars blow
  • Poems by Eduard Mörike (1888):
    The convalescent to the hope , the boy and the Immlein , an hour before day , Jägerlied , The Drum , He's * , The deserted maiden , encounter , Nimmersatte love , journey on foot , on a Aeolian Harp , concealment , in the spring , Agnes , on a hike , Elfen Lied , the gardener , Citronenfalter in April , at midnight , on a Christmas Rose I-II , sigh *, on an old picture * , in the morning * , sleeping Christ child * , Holy Week * , To the New Year , Prayer * , To sleep * , New love * , Where can I find consolation * , To my beloved , Peregrina I-II , Question and answer , Farewell , Homesickness , Song of the wind , Think it, o soul * , The hunter , advice of an old , First love song of a girl , the song of a lover , the Feuerreiter , Mermaid Binsefuß , singing Weyla's * , The ghosts on Mummelsee , stork message , As a warning , order , at a wedding ceremony , self confession , goodbye ( * also with orchestra)
  • Poems by Joseph von Eichendorff (1887-88):
    The friend , the musician , unspoken love , The serenade , The soldier I-II , The Bohemian Girl , Night Magic , The Schreckenberger , the soldier of fortune , Dear all , homesickness , The Scholar , The desperate Lover , accident , love happiness , sailor's farewell , expectation , the night , forest girl
  • Poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1888/89):
    Harp player I – III * , mocking song from Wilhelm Meister , Mignon I – III , Philine , Mignon * , The Singer , The Pied Piper * , Knight Kurt's Bride , Gutmann and Gutweib , Cophtisches Lied I – II , Cheeky and Glad I – II , Heartfelt , Prometheus * , Ganymede , Limits of Humanity , Epiphany , Nepomuk's Eve , Ingenious Drifting , The Shepherd , The New Amadis , Flowers , Equal and Equal , The Brittle , The Converted , Spring over the year , Anakreon's grave * , thanks to the pariah , royal prayer
    West-Eastern Divan (from the "Book of the Singer"): Phenomenon , creation and enlivening
    West-Eastern Divan (from the "
    Gift Book "): Whether the Koran is forever? ' We must all be drunk! , As long as you are sober , you have because of the drunkenness , What were in the tavern today
    West-Eastern Divan (from the "Book of Suleika"): No opportunity makes thieves , Happy in your love , When I sailed on the Euphrates , This closed I am willing to interpret , If I had any doubts , come, dear, come , how should I stay cheerful , When I think of you , curls, hold me , I will never lose you (* also with orchestra)
  • Spanish songbook based on Paul Heyse and Emanuel Geibel (1889/90):
    Spiritual songs: Now I am yours , whom you gave birth to God, you pure one , Now wander, Maria , you who float , lead me, child to Bethlehem , oh, the boy Eyes , I come with great effort and laden , Oh, how long the soul slumbers! , Lord, what is the ground here , wounds are you bearing my beloved
    Worldly songs: Sound, sound, my pandero , In the shadow of my curls * , Juana's wise is strange , Only mock with loved ones , On the green balcony , When you're too go to the flowers * , who lost his lovely love * , I drove across the sea , blind looking, dark lamp , oaths, so love swore , heart, do not despair quickly * , say, is it you, my lord , May all evil tongues , brains, brains, not whimpering , Tell him that he may come to me , Bitt 'him, mother , love me ignites in the breast , Painful pleasures , maid' is not love , Oh, in May-was it , all went, heart, to rest , one day, one day, thought mine , deep in my heart I am tormented , come, oh death, surrounded by night , whether gloomy glances also slipped , covers me with flowers , and you sleep, my girl , you blow to march , Do not cry, little eyes! ' Who hurt your little foot? , Your mother, sweet child , There only sorrow and passion , Woe to him who enmeshed my beloved! ' Go, beloved, go now! (* also with orchestra)
  • Ancient sages . Six poems by Gottfried Keller for a woman's voice and piano (1890): Step inside
    , high warrior , My darling sings like a finch , You milk-young boy , I walk in the morning dew , The charcoal burner is drunk , How the bright moon shines
  • Italian song book based on Paul Heyse (Part I 1890/91, Part II 1896):
    Part I: I was told you were traveling far away , you were the most beautiful , blessed be through whom the world was born , blessed are you blind , who called you then ' The moon has made a grave complaint , Now let's make peace , That all your charms would be painted , You think to catch me with a thread , My love is so small , And do you want to see your love die , How For a long time it has always been my desire , journeyman, if we want to wrap ourselves in robes , no, young gentleman! , You are proud, beautiful child , Even small things can delight us , To serenade you , you young people , My dearest sings , Lift up your blond head , We both fell for a long time , I am told that your mother wants 'it is not
    part II: I now eat my bread does not dry more , My lover has invited me to dinner , I let me say , already stretched I out in bed tired limbs , you tell me that I was not a princess , let they just go! ' How much time did I lose , And if you get up early in the morning from bed , I know your position , How should I be happy? ' Oh, if your house were as transparent as a glass , I die , wrap my limbs in flowers , bless the green! ' When you brush my eyes , what's the anger for, my darling? , Benedeit the blessed mother , be quiet for once! , No longer can I sing , If you, my love will climb in to the sky , I got in Penna a loved one live , Today 'night I got up , O you knew how much I because of you , devour' the abyss of my loved one hut , What kind of song do you want to be sung?
  • Three poems by Michelangelo for bass voice and piano (March 1897):
    Well I think to myself often , all ends, was entstehet , feel my soul
  • Numerous other settings, youth songs, songs that were unpublished during his lifetime based on texts by Byron , Eichendorff, Goethe, Hebbel , Heine, Fallersleben , Ibsen , Kerner , Lenau , Mörike , Reinick , Rückert , Scheffel , Shakespeare and others. a.

Choral works

  • Six sacred songs for mixed choir a cappella (Eichendorff) (1881)
    Look up , unity , last request , resignation , surrender , elevation
  • Christmas Eve ( August von Platen ) for solos, mixed choir and large orchestra (1886–89)
  • Elfenlied (Shakespeare, translation by August Wilhelm Schlegel ) for soprano solo, female choir and orchestra (1889–91)
  • Der Feuerreiter (Mörike) for mixed choir and orchestra (1892)
  • Dem Vaterland (Reinick) for male choir and orchestra (1890–98)
  • Morning Hymn (Reinick) for mixed choir and orchestra (1897)
  • Spring Choir from Manuel Venegas ( Moriz Hoernes ) for mixed choir and orchestra (1897/98)

Orchestral works

Chamber music

  • Concerto for violin and piano op.6, unfinished (1875)
  • Piano Sonata in G major op.8, 1876
  • Piano Sonata in G minor, Op. 14, only first movement preserved (1876)
  • String Quartet in D minor (1879–1884)
  • Intermezzo in E flat major for string quartet (1886)
  • Italian Serenade in G major for string quartet (1887)


The history of the International Hugo Wolf Academy for Song, Poetry and Lied Art dates back to Wolf's lifetime . It began as an initiative of a Wolf Circle of Friends and now organizes the Stuttgart International Competition for Lied Art every two years . The International Hugo Wolf Society Vienna is editorially involved in Wolf's work . In the 19th district of Döbling , south of Krottenbachstrasse , is the Hugo Wolf Park, which was laid out in 1925 and has been named after the composer since 1953. On July 14, 1992 the asteroid (5177) Hugowolf was named after the composer. The following year, the Hugo Wolf Quartet chose the composer as their namesake.

See also

Wolf Museum

Otto Werner, the childless grandson of Heinrich and Marie Werner, bequeathed parts of the collection and the Werner House , which came from the time after the Second Turkish Siege, to the community of Perchtoldsdorf , with the condition that a Wolf Museum be set up. This was opened in 1973 with the original facility.


Web links

Commons : Hugo Wolf  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ernst Decsey: Hugo Wolf. Das Leben und das Lied (1927), p. 10 f.,
  2. Kukula: Memories of Hugo Wolf , p. 1.
  3. ZDB -ID 1271939-0 .
  4. Thomas Chorherr (ed.), Franz Endler (collaborator): Great Austrians. 100 portraits of famous Austrians . Ueberreuter , Vienna 1994, ISBN 3-8000-3212-0 .
  5. ^ Ludwig Eisenberg : Hugo Wolf . In: Large biographical lexicon of the German stage in the XIX. Century. Paul List, Leipzig 1903, p. 468–487 ( ).
  6. a b c d † Hugo Wolf. In:  Neue Freie Presse , Abendblatt, No. 13827/1903, February 23, 1903, p. 6, bottom center. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nfp.
  7. ^ Wilhelm Svetlin: The private sanatorium for the mentally ill on the Erdberge in Vienna. Report on their history and activities on the occasion of the fifty-year existence and the relocation to a new institution building . Braumüller, Vienna 1884.
  8. ^ Karl Emil Kauffmann . In: Stadtwiki Tübingen.
  9. ^ Hugo-Wolf-Park on the website of the City of Vienna.
  10. Minor Planet Circ. 20524 (PDF)
  11. ,