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Classical Composers A-Z: Hugo Wolf

Peter Wintersgill tells of the composer Hugo Wolf, who wrote 300 songs.

13th March, 1860, in Windischgraz, South Austria.

Philip, leather dealer, amateur violinist.


Fourth of eight children.

Brought up in a musical home, was taught the piano and the violin by his father. Started school at five, had an unsettled childhood, going to three different schools, not settling at any of them.

Went to Vienna Conservatory at 15, was expelled after two years.

Early Adult Life
Got a job as assistant conductor in Salzburg, left after two months following a quarrel. Wrote Italian Serenade for string quartet in 1880.

Became a music critic in Vienna in 1884. He was very keen on Wagner, whom he praised, but not of Brahms, whom he scorned.

Was subject to mood swings and depression.

Later Adult Life
His main claim to fame was his leider, of which he wrote 300. He set poems by Reinich, Morike and Goethe, also the Spanish Song Book (1890).

His only opera. Corregidor, (1895) was based on de Falla's ballet The Three Cornered Hat. The piano parts were more than mere accompaniments; they were an integral part of the songs.

After becoming insane he was admitted to an asylum. After discharge from there he attempted suicide by drowning, but was rescued and admitted to another asylum, where he spent the last four years of his life.

He died on 22nd February, 1903, in Vienna, aged 43 of G.P.I, a form of neuro syphilis


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