(b Paris, 21 Oct 1953). American conductor. After graduating from Harvard University, he gained a master's degree at the Peabody Conservatory and spent a year at the Paris Conservatoire. He studied the piano with Leon Fleisher, composition with Messiaen, Crumb and Leon Kirchner, and conducting with Charles Bruck. From 1979 to 1982 he served as Exxon/Arts Endowment Conductor of the National SO, Washington, DC, under Rostropovich, and in 1980 made his Carnegie Hall début with that orchestra. Subsequent appointments included music director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania PO (1981–6), associate conductor or the National SO (1982–5) and music director of the New Jersey SO (1985–93). In 1988 Wolff was appointed principal conductor of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, in 1992 its musical director, and in 1997 chief conductor of the Frankfurt RSO. His guest engagements have included the principal orchestras of Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, and the LPO, LSO and Czech PO. He has recorded music ranging from Haydn's Paris symphonies to works by Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Copland, and has conducted the premières of works by Stephen Albert, Michael Colgrass, Corigliano, Aaron Kernis, Tod Machover, Panufnik and Takemitsu. Wolff's conducting is characterized by clean lines, concise and often elegant phrasing and rhythmic strength.
Wolff, Kurt von.
SeeWolfurt, Kurt von.
(d before 6 March 1502). German composer. A cleric by this name held a benefice controlled by the Elector Palatine from about 1490 until 6 March 1502, when it was given to another, since Wolff had died. This circumstance, together with the transmission of Wolff's works in publications edited by Georg Forster, who had studied and gathered music in Heidelberg, led Pietzsch to conclude that Wolff belonged to the Palatine court in Heidelberg. Most of Wolff's 11 songs (all in RISM 153927, ed. in EDM, 1st ser., xx, 1942/R four pubd earlier in 15132/R) combine imitation with a tenor cantus firmus; his most famous song, however, So wünsch ich ihr ein gute Nacht, sometimes attributed to Thomas Stoltzer, uses no imitation. The songs are outstanding for their tunefulness and independence of accompanying voices. Wolff's single surviving motet, Conserva me Domine (in 15386; ed. in Keyl, 438–49), recalls Josquin in its use of paired voices, occasional close imitation and careful declamation of the text.
R.Eitner: ‘Das alte deutsche mehrstimmige Lied und seine Meister’, MMg, xxvi (1894), 1–135, esp. 18
G.Pietzsch: Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Musik am kurpfälzischen Hof zu Heidelberg bis 1622 (Mainz, 1963), 102
S.Keyl: Arnolt Schlick and Instrumental Music circa 1500 (diss., Duke U., 1989), 71–9
Wolf-Ferrari [Wolf], Ermanno
(b Venice, 12 Jan 1876; d Venice, 21 Jan 1948). Italian composer. (He added his mother’s maiden name, Ferrari, to his surname around 1895.) Although he learnt the piano and was profoundly affected by music from an early age, he also showed signs of having inherited the talents of his father, a painter of Bavarian origin. He therefore studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome (1891–2), keeping music as a spare-time activity. In 1892, however, after he had moved to Munich to continue his art studies, he entered the Munich Akademie der Tonkunst, where he was a counterpoint pupil of Rheinberger. In 1895, without having completed his final examination, he returned to Venice. He also spent some time in the late 1890s in Milan, where he became a protégé of Boito and met Giulio Ricordi, who did not, however, accept his music for publication. Thus began the long period in which his music repeatedly proved more acceptable in Germany than in Italy.
During 1900–03 Wolf-Ferrari was again in Munich, after the failure in Venice of Cenerentola. But the successes in Germany of the same opera’s revised version, and of his cantata La vita nuova, resulted in his being appointed director of the Liceo Musicale, Venice (1903–9). After resigning from that post, he devoted himself almost entirely to composition, living near Munich but regularly visiting Venice. In 1911–12 he visited the USA. World War I (during which he took refuge in Zürich) inevitably came as a severe shock, in view of his mixed blood and background and his hypersensitive yet childlike temperament: he composed little during the conflict or the years immediately thereafter. Having become more active again from the mid-1920s, he was in 1939 appointed professor of composition at the Salzburg Mozarteum. In 1946 he moved to Zürich once more, but returned to Venice for the last year of his life.
Taken as a whole, Wolf-Ferrari’s output is strangely heterogeneous. Although best known for his comic operas of 1902–9, in which he revealed a special flair for graceful semi-pastiches of 18th-century music, he had first come to prominence, around 1900, as a composer of high seriousness, responsive to many different aspects of the Romantic tradition. Among his first published compositions only the Serenade in E fairly consistently foreshadows the nimble archaisms of the Goldoni operas. In most of the other early pieces such premonitions tend to be obscured by elements which are frankly, even ponderously Germanic. The chamber works owe much to the Mendelssohn–Schumann–Brahms tradition, but have a tendency to loose-jointed rhapsodizing which weighs heavily, for instance, on the unusually scored Sinfonia da camera. Wagnerian influences too are evident; there are deliberate echoes of Tristan at the beginning of the A minor Violin Sonata’s second movement. The same sonata’s impassioned, rhythmically obsessive first movement carries chromaticism to extremes that parallel Reger. Among the choral compositions the much-praised La vita nuova, which by 1937 had had over 500 performances abroad (but only two in Italy), looks back to Bach through late 19th-century eyes, with results which sometimes recall the neo-Bachian music of Brahms.
Even Cenerentola only intermittently anticipates the opera buffa qualities of Wolf-Ferrari’s next few operas. This extremely eclectic score is notable, rather, for the delicate yet sometimes surprisingly dissonant chromaticism of some passages: the very first bars repeatedly sound D, D and E simultaneously. Then, in 1902–6, the combined impacts of Mascagni’s commedia dell’arte opera Le maschere (about which Wolf-Ferrari had mixed feelings, but which evidently set him thinking) and of Goldoni’s famous comedies led to the composition of Le donne curiose and I quatro rusteghi. The latter is a particularly successful free evocation of the world of opera buffa (especially of the Venetian variety) in a style flexible enough to admit many romantic touches (some of them relatable to the Verdi of Falstaff) and even a few gently ironic ‘modernisms’ where the dramatic situation warrants them – for instance at the beginning of Act 3. Il segreto di Susanna, though even more popular than I quatro rusteghi, is less sure-footed in its mingling of 18th-century idioms with others of more recent origin. This opera’s shortcomings are, however, negligible compared with those of I gioielli della Madonna, in which Wolf-Ferrari suddenly – perhaps in an attempt to break down Italian resistance to his music – jumped on to the bandwagon of post-Mascagnian verismo, with results which, though uninhibitedly colourful in its evocation of Neapolitan idioms, are often of a vulgarity that had hitherto seemed foreign to him. The return of his special vein of lighthearted satirical comedy in L’amore medico confirms that even to attempt a crude melodrama like I gioielli was a betrayal of his true nature.
The psychological crisis aroused by World War I inevitably left its mark on Wolf-Ferrari’s few works of those years. The little-known, problematic Gli amanti sposi is particularly interesting in this respect. Although it too is based, freely and not altogether satisfactorily, on a Goldoni comedy, much of the music has an expressive complexity far removed from the simple-heartedness of I quatro rusteghi. In these passages free pastiche tends again to yield place (as in parts of L’amore medico) to a chromaticism relatable to, but more purposefully deployed than, that of Cenerentola. Something of the same disturbed state of mind is still evident in Sly, notably in the central character’s intense monologue in Act 3: but, as subsequent revivals have demonstrated, for all its eclecticism, this is the most genuinely powerful of Wolf-Ferrari’s few serious operas. In La vedova scaltra and Il campiello he returned yet again to Goldoni, and this time reverted, for much of the time, to a style very close to that of the pre-war comedies. Neither of these later Goldoni operas achieved the worldwide fame of I quatro rusteghi and Il segreto di Susanna; but Il campiello in particular contains scenes in which the earlier operas’ sparkle is fully rekindled, and others which show that Wolf-Ferrari was still capable of striking new departures: the formidable quarrel scene in Act 3 of Il campiello is probably the most ‘modernistic’ passage in any of his works.
Meanwhile Wolf-Ferrari was again, after a long interruption, turning his attention to instrumental music. The Idillio-concertino is a particularly successful small-scale embodiment of his best light manner, while the rhapsodic though pleasingly melodious Violin Concerto suggests that by the 1940s he had lost touch with even the mildest modern trends, and was content to ring the changes on manners already familiar from his earlier music. His last decade also saw the publication of his book, Considerazioni attuali sulla musica (Siena, 1943).
Irene (Wolf-Ferrari), 1895–6, unpubd, unperf.
La Camargo (M. Pezzè-Pascolato, after A. de Musset), c1897, inc., unpubd
Cenerentola (fiaba musicale, 3, Pezzè-Pascolato, after C. Perrault), 1897–1900; Venice, Fenice, 22 Feb 1900; rev., Bremen, 31 Jan 1902
Le donne curiose (3, L. Sugana, after C. Goldoni), 1902–3; Munich, Residenz, 27 Nov 1903, as Die neugierigen Frauen (musikalische Komödie)
I quatro rusteghi (3, Sugana, G. Pizzolato, after Goldoni), Munich, Hof, 19 March 1906, as Die vier Grobiane
Il segreto di Susanna (int, 1, E. Golisciani), Munich, Hof, 4 Dec 1909, as Susannens Geheimnis
I gioielli della Madonna (3, Golisciani and C. Zangarini), Berlin, Kurfürstenoper, 23 Dec 1911, as Der Schmuck der Madonna
L’amore medico (2, Golisciani, after Molière), Dresden, Hof, 4 Dec 1913
Gli amanti sposi (op giocosa, 3, Sugana, Pizzolato, Golisciani and G. Forzano, after Goldoni: Il ventaglio), lib begun 1904, music mainly c1916, Venice, Fenice, 19 Feb 1925
Das Himmelskleid (La veste di cielo) (Legende, 3, Wolf-Ferrari, after Perrault), c1917–25, Munich, National, 21 April 1927
Sly, ovvero La leggenda del dormiente risvegliato (3, Forzano, partly after W. Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew), Milan, Scala, 29 Dec 1927
La vedova scaltra (3, M. Ghisalberti, after Goldoni), Rome, Opera, 5 March 1931
Il campiello (commedia lirica, 3, Ghisalberti, after Goldoni), Milan, Scala, 12 Feb 1936
La dama boba (commedia lirica, 3, Ghisalberti, after F. Lope de Vega), Milan, Scala, 1 Feb 1939
Gli dei a Tebe (L. Andersen [L. Strecker] and Ghisalberti), Hanover, Oper, 4 June 1943, as Der Kuckuck von Theben
Edns of W.A. Mozart: Idomeneo, Munich, Staatstheater, 15 June 1931, and B. Galuppi: Il filosofo di campagna, Venice, 1954
At least three unrealized operatic projects
With orch: La sulamite, op.2, canto biblico, solo vv, chorus, orch, 1898; Talitha Kumi (La figlia di Giairo) (orat, Bible: Mark), op.3, T, 2 Bar, chorus, orch, 1900; La vita nuova (cant., after Dante), op.9, S, Bar, chorus, orch, 1901
Unacc. or with pf: 8 cori, unacc. (?1898); 8 rispetti, opp.11–12, 1v, pf, 1902; Canzoniere (Tuscan trad.), 44 rispetti, stornelli ed altri canti, op.17, 1v, pf (1936); La passione (Tuscan trad.), op.21, chorus (1939), also for 1v, pf (1940); other small choral pieces
Orch: unpubd works, mid-1890s; Serenade, E, str, ?1893; Idillio-concertino, A, op.15, ob, 2 hn, str (1933); Suite-concertino, F, op.16, bn, 2 hn, str (1933); Suite veneziano, op.18, small orch (1936); Triptychon, E, op.19 (1936); Divertimento, D, op.20 (1937); Arabesken, e, op.22 (1940); Vn Conc., D, op.26 (1946); Symphonia brevis, E, op.28 (1947); Vc Conc. (Invocazione), C, op.31 (1954); Concertino, A, op.34, eng hn, 2 hn, str, 1947; Chiese di Venezia, c1948, unpubd, orch inc.