Hugo Wolf

Hugo Wolf (1885)

Hugo Wolf, full name Hugo Philipp Jakob Wolf, was Slovene-born world-known composer and music critic. He was born on March 13th, 1860 in Slovenj Gradec, he died on February 22nd, 1903 in Vienna. He was born as a third child into the German-speaking family of a tanner, a respected bourgeois and music enthusiast Filip Wolf and to wife Katarina, born Nussbaumer. Both parents had Slovenian ancestors. Until arrival in Slovenj Gradec, their last name vas Volki (en. Wolfs), but since the settlement was mostly German, they enforce them self with surname Wolf. Already as a young boy, he started to play piano and violin and is considered as a very talented music child with an absolute ear for music. He gets his first music lessons by his father and home teacher Sebastian Weixler. He was involved in the father’s orchestra in, which Hugo played the violin.

In Slovenj Gradec he visited bilingual-four grade school, he continues his studies in Graz, later in Šentpavel in the Lavant valley, and later the same unsuccessfully in Maribor. After unsuccessful schooling he comes back to Slovenj Gradec, where he at home studied Viennese classics and in Maribor first songs are created – piano sonata, variations for piano, five solo songs, among them four after Goethe songs, some sketches for string Quartet and choral songs.

Hugo-Wolf-Park in Vienna (Döbling) in the year 1920

By his wish to live from music, in the year 1875, he started to visit a conservatory in Vienna, where he successfully finished the first year. But in the second year, he gets expelled, because of disciplinary offense. So he comes back to Slovenj Gradec and in summer 1877 first cycles of choral songs and solos are created. In November the same year, he returns to Vienna, where at almost 18 years, he gets infected with syphilis, which until his early death in the year 1903 marks his life and work. With piano and financial support from his father, he lives for several years in Vienna. In the year 1881, he starts to work as a conductor assistant in city theater in Salzburg. But after three months he resigns and thus never gets hired as a musician.

Hugo Wolf

He becomes a music critic at the boulevard newspaper Viennaer Salonblatt in the year 1884. He was an ardent fan of Wagner and he criticized Brahms. In the year 1887, he published 12 of his songs, resigns his post at the newspaper, and fully devotes himself to composing. Next nine years he was at his peak of his composer’s fame. Between the year 1888 and 1891, he was torn between Austria and Germany, but this period was for him most creative. In the year 1888, he creates one of his first immortal solo songs for lyrical suggestions of Eduard Mörike. This year he makes music for 43 solos. In the same year, several concerts follow with his solos. In the year 1889 first songs from the monumental Goethe cycle are created, in the year 1890, he travels to Germany for several times, where he makes a circle of acquaintances, like Ludwig Strecker, the manager of important publishing house Schott. This is how his songbooks finally come to the wider music public.

The period between the years 1891 and 1895 is the period of his non-creation because his illness progressed. After a long period of inactivity, comes the year 1895, which results in a new version of processing of Alarcon’s Spanish short story The Three-Cornered Hat, later renamed into Correidor. In full swing, however, he won over the audience only in the posthuman period between the years 1902 and 1906. In the last years of his life, Hugo was hospitalized in the best ward of the Lower Austrian State Mental Hospital in Vienna, because of the progression of the disease, where he dies on February 22nd, 1903.

Wolf suffered extreme poverty until his death, which was a heavy burden, because of his health condition and pride. The income came solely because of the persistent effort of his small group of friends, music critics, and singers, who perform his songs, the support of Vienna academic society Wagner and the establishment of Society Hogo Wolf in the year 1897 with Michael Haberlandt in Vienna.

He is buried in central Vienna cemetery, his post-mortal mask was created by Franz Seifert. The same year, in Vienna, they named a street after him Hugo-Wolf-Gasse.


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Birth house of Hugo Wolf
Birth house of Hugo Wolf is located on Glavni trg (en. Main square) in Slovenj Gradec, the facade of the house is adorned by a memorial plaque from the year 1903, in the German language, since the time of death of the great composer, which was removed after second world war. [_Read more_]

Slovenj Gradec
Slovenj Gradec is a seat of the only city municipality in the Carinthia region, at the same time it is administrative, economic, banking, school, information, health, supply, and transport center of the Mislinja valley and wider area of Carinthia. It is also a Slovenian synonym for the cultural center. [_Read more_]