(b Berlin, 17 April 1869; d Munich, 25 May 1947). German musicologist. In addition to his practical music studies at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, Wolf studied musicology (under Spitta and Heinrich Bellermann) and German literature at the University of Berlin. He took the doctorate under Riemann at Leipzig in 1893 with a dissertation on an anonymous music treatise of the 11th–12th centuries. After studying medieval music sources in France and Italy he completed the Habilitation in 1902 at Berlin University with a work on Florence and 14th-century music history, and lectured on early music history and church music. From 1899 to 1903 he was secretary of the new International Music Society. He became professor in 1907. From 1908 until 1927 he also taught at the Akademie für Kirchen- und Schulmusik in Berlin. In 1915 he became director of the early music collection at the Prussian State Library, Berlin, and in 1927 he became director of all the music collections there. He retired in 1934, shortly after Hitler came to power, and proved himself to be one of the few musicologists in Germany to express disapproval with the new political situation. In 1933 he resigned from the board of the Deutsche Musikgesellschaft out of solidarity with Alfred Einstein, who was dismissed as editor of its journal because he was Jewish, and in his contribution to Peter Raabe’s Festschrift (1942) he insinuated subtle condemnations of the wholesale removal of Jews. Wolf was thereafter held in suspicion by his colleagues and was closely watched by Nazi authorities.
Wolf was a pioneer in the field of musicology based on source studies. The most important aspects of his work were devoted to palaeography, music of the Ars Nova, the history of music theory and Protestant church music. His two most important works, the three-volume Geschichte der Mensuralnotation von 1250–1460 (1904) and the two-volume Handbuch der Notationskunde (1913–19) remain model standard works, based on thorough study of the sources. In them Wolf not only demonstrated the development of the so-called ‘black’ and ‘white’ mensural notation, but was also the first to deal thoroughly with the complex field of tablature notation. In connection with these studies he made many important new discoveries about medieval music. His studies of music theory are based on Riemann’s work, but here too he arrived at new conclusions. A conscientious editor of early church music, he published compositions of J.R. Ahle, the Newe deudsche geistliche Gesenge (originally published by Rhau at Wittenberg, and a work of prime importance in the history of Protestant church music) and, above all, a complete edition of the works of Obrecht. He was also responsible for the two-volume edition of Isaac’s secular works and the Squarcialupi manuscript, the most important source work for the Italian Trecento. Without his pioneering source work the resulting growth in medieval and Renaissance music studies would hardly have been possible. Wolf was also instrumental in helping to publicize and promote the study of non-Western music, and co-founded the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Musikwissenschaft in 1933.
Ein anonymer Musiktraktat des elften bis zwölften Jahrhunderts (diss., U. of Leipzig, 1893); extracts in VMw, ix (1893), 186–233, 408–17
‘Dufay und seine Zeit’, SIMG, i (1899–1900), 150–63
‘Die Musiklehre des Johannes de Grocheo’, SIMG, i (1899–1900), 65–130
‘Johann Rudolph Ahle’, SIMG, ii (1900–01), 393–400
‘Luther und die musikalische Liturgie des evangelischen Hauptgottesdienstes’, SIMG, iii (1901–2), 647–700
Florenz in der Musikgeschichte des 14. Jahrhunderts (Habilitationsschrift, U. of Berlin, 1902); extracts in SIMG, iii (1901–2), 599–646
Geschichte der Mensural-Notation von 1250–1460 (Leipzig, 1904/R)
‘Neue Beiträge zur mittelalterlichen Musik’, JbMP 1907, 97–110
‘Ein anonymer Musiktraktat aus der ersten Zeit der “Ars Nova”’, KJb, xxi (1908), 33–8
‘Die Akzidentien im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert’, IMusSCR III: Vienna 1909, 124–5
H.Osthoff: ‘Johannes Wolf zum Gedächtnis’, Mf, i (1948), 19–26
K.von Fischer: ‘Zu Johannes Wolfs Übertragung des Squarcialupi-Codex’, Mf, ix (1956), 77–89
L.A.Dittmer: ‘The Lost Fragments of a Notre Dame Manuscript in Johannes Wolf’s Library’, Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance Music: a Birthday Offering to Gustave Reese, ed. J. LaRue and others (New York, 1966), 122–33
P.M.Potter: Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the End of Hitler’s Reich (New Haven, CT, 1998)