What’s on my desk today (and my iPod)?
I have always loved the orchestral music from Berlioz' Romeo et Juliette, but have found the last movement,
"Romeo at the Capulet's Tomb," very difficult for audiences to comprehend. This is astonishingly original, through-composed program music,
verging as close to atonality as anything written in the 19th century. Berlioz himself recognized the problem in a frank footnote in
the score suggesting the movement be omitted unless the audience is "familiar in every respect with the Shakespeare tragedy and endowed with
a highly poetic mind." For an upcoming performance at New England Conservatory, I hope to overcome this problem by using surtitles to convey
the details of the drama.
Early next year, I will twice be performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony paired with unusual works with chorus.
First, with the Rochester Philharmonic, the Beethoven will follow Lili Boulanger's Psalm 130 - a journey literally "From the Abyss"
to Beethoven's starry vision of humanity's potential for good. Then, at NEC as part of a festival of revolutionary music called "Music:
Truth to Power," it will be paired with Shostakovich's Second Symphony, subtitled "To October." In this avant-garde work by the
twenty-one year old Shostakovich, the chorus sings a hymn of praise to Lenin and the workers' paradise, a delicious ironic pairing with
"Mr. Wolff and his young charges closed the concert with a bang-up performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6. The Presto finale, with the young players reveling in the thrill of collective virtuosity, was sheer joy." – The New York Times
"Wolff's Shostakovich 10 was powerful, three-dimensional and devastating, and the Atlanta Symphony blossomed by his approach. Much of the opening movement builds to an unbearable tension. Wolff paced it tautly and meaningfully, with understated authority. When the music finally crossed that emotional threshold and plummeted into some dark netherworld of a broken psyche, Wolff did not, would not, relent... Credit Wolff with delivering the crucial essence of a harrowing masterpiece of the 20th century."
"Conductor Hugh Wolff presided over one of the Utah Symphony’s most high-spirited programs of the season on Friday. From Beethoven’s ever-popular “Leonore” Overture No. 3 to Saint-Saëns’ playful Cello Concerto No. 1 to Charles Ives’ invigorating Symphony No. 2, the concert was a sheer delight."
"The evening's strength was the conductor, Hugh Wolff, an urbane host who without undue Sturm und Drang made Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony, the composer's third, an absolute delight."
Click here to read the full review from the Washington Post.