Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras; Chair, Orchestral Conducting; Resident Conductor, Youth Philharmonic Orchestra
Hugh Wolff joined the NEC faculty in fall 2008, and has conducted a large share of NEC's College orchestral concerts in subsequent seasons. In fall 2009, he began work with students admitted to an elite training program for orchestral conductors. Since 2012, Wolff has also worked with the NEC Preparatory School's Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and led the YPO on tour in summer 2013, when it was also announced that we would continue to work with the group as Resident Conductor.
Hugh Wolff has appeared with all the major American orchestras, including those of Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Cleveland. Wolff is much in demand in Europe, where he has conducted the London Symphony, the Philharmonia, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Orchestre National de France, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Czech Philharmonic, Bavarian and Berlin Radio Orchestras, and Munich Philharmonic. He is a regular guest conductor with orchestras in Japan, Scandinavia, and Australia. He is also a frequent conductor at summer music festivals from Aspen and Tanglewood to Ravinia and Wolf Trap.
Wolff was principal conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (1997–2006), and maintains a close relationship with that ensemble. He has led that orchestra on tour in Europe, Japan, and China, and appeared at the Salzburg, Rheingau, and Mozart Würzburg Festivals. Wolff was principal conductor and then music director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (1988–2000), with which he recorded twenty discs and toured the United States, Europe, and Japan. Of this partnership, the New York Times wrote: “the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Hugh Wolff, has developed an effortlessly polished sound … Wolff shapes his interpretations with impeccable taste.”
Wolff's BSO appearances have included the world premiere of Ned Rorem’s Swords and Ploughshares in Symphony Hall. At Tanglewood he conducted Mstislav Rostropovich performing cello concerti of Haydn and Shostakovich.
A conductor whose interests span Baroque performance practice and the championing of new works, Wolff was music director of the New Jersey Symphony (1986–1993) and music director of Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival (1994–1997). He began his professional career in 1979 as associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich.
Wolff has an extensive discography, including a complete set of Beethoven symphonies with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, music from the Baroque to the present with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, film music of Georges Delerue, and new works of John Corigliano, Brett Dean, Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Aaron Jay Kernis, Edgar Meyer, and Mark-Anthony Turnage. He has collaborated on CD with Mstislav Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Larmore, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and jazz guitarist John Scofield. Four times nominated for a Grammy Award, Wolff won the 2001 Cannes Classical Award.
Born in Paris in 1953 to American parents, Wolff spent his early years in London and Washington, D.C. During his final years in high school, he studied piano with Leon Fleisher and composition with George Crumb. After graduating from Harvard College in 1975, Wolff won a fellowship to study conducting with Charles Bruck and composition with Olivier Messiaen in Paris. He returned to the United States to continue piano studies with Fleisher at the Peabody Institute. Throughout his career, Wolff has performed as a pianist in chamber music with orchestral colleagues and guest soloists. In 1985, Wolff was awarded the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conducting Prize, the largest conducting prize in the world at that time.
At the conclusion of NEC's Gift of Music capital campaign, a gift from the Calderwood Charitable Foundation endowed the Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras chair that is occupied by Hugh Wolff as of fall 2008. In addition to his work at NEC, Wolff has held masterclasses for conducting students at Juilliard, Yale, and Aspen, and conducted student orchestras at Juilliard, Peabody, Oberlin, the Royal Academy of Music (London), and Cincinnati College-Conservatory.
Wolff and his wife, harpist and author Judith Kogan, have three sons.
A.B., Harvard College; M.M. in piano and M.M. in orchestral conducting, Peabody Institute. Studies with George Crumb, Leon Kirchner, and Olivier Messiaen in composition, Leon Fleisher and Leonard Shure in piano, Charles Bruck in conducting. Recordings on Teldec, CPO, Decca, Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon, Virgin, Koch Swann, New World, HR, Argo, NMC.
photo by Andrew Hurlbut