The French-born American conductor Hugh Wolff was born in Paris to American parents. He spent his early years in London and Washington DC. After graduating from Harvard, he returned on a fellowship to Paris, where he studied conducting with Charles Bruck and composition with Olivier Messiaen. He then continued his studies in Baltimore with Leon Fleisher.
Hugh Wolff is among the leading conductors of his generation. He has appeared with all the major North American orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Montreal Symphony. Wolff is much in demand in Europe, where he has worked with such orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Münchner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester and Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin. He is a regular guest conductor with orchestras in Japan, Scandinavia and Australia and a frequent conductor at summer music festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood and Ravinia.
A conductor whose interests span Baroque performance practice to the championing of new works, Hugh Wolff began his professional career in 1979 as Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich later going on to become Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (1986-1993) and Music Director of Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival (1994-1997).
Hugh Wolff was Principal Conductor and then Music Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (1988-2000), with whom he recorded twenty discs and toured the USA, 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.’
Hugh Wolff was later Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (1997-2006), with whom he maintains a close relationship. The Sunday Times wrote of their recording of George Antheil’s Symphonies Nos 1 & 6, ‘the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Wolff dazzles throughout.’ Together they have toured Europe, Japan and China, and appeared at the Salzburg, Rheingau, and Mozart Würzburg Festivals.
Hugh Wolff has an extensive discography on the Teldec label, with works ranging from Haydn to Igor Stravinsky with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra. His recordings for Decca include a disc of works by Aaron Jay Kernis with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Argo label), and a disc with Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded the Samuel Barber and Meyer Violin Concertos with Hilary Hahn for Sony Classical, which along with the disc of George Antheil Symphonies 1 & 6, won a 2001 Cannes Classical Award.
Hugh Wolff and his wife, Judith Kogan, have three sons and live in Boston.