Hugh Wolff

Music Director, Orchestre National de Belgique (from 2017)

The energetic and fiery Hugh Wolff started his career in his home country with positions in New Jersey and Saint Paul.  Most recently he was Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra where he established his name as serious and dynamic music maker.  Now based in the US, Wolff remains a regular guest conductor with orchestras in Europe, the USA, the Far East and Australia. Wolff’s repertoire interests span baroque performance practice to the championing of new works.

Hugh Wolff leads Frankfurt Radio Symphony for Philipp Glass 80th birthday concert

01 Jul 2017

On Sunday 9 July, Hugh Wolff will be conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in a concert presented by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and on the occasion of the 80th birthday of...

Hugh Wolff returns to the National Orchestra of Belgium and to Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

09 May 2017

Before Hugh Wolff takes over as Music Director of the National Orchestra of Belgium in September 2017, he returns to the orchestra for two concerts at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. They...

Hugh Wolff to conduct the Minnesota Orchestra

15 Feb 2017

Hugh Wolff will be leading the Minnesota Orchestra at three concerts taking place on 23, 24 and 25 February at the Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. He will be joined by the violinist Karen Gomyo for...

Hugh Wolff leads the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

09 Jan 2017

Hugh Wolff will be travelling to Florida’s Jacoby Hall later in January to conduct three concerts with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Joined by cellist Joshua Roman, these performances take...

Hugh Wolff starts the season with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne

29 Sep 2016

Hugh Wolff returns to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on 13 and 15 October with an all-American programme featuring John Adams’s Lollapalooza alongside Gershwin’s Concerto in F with Denis...

Hugh Wolff returns to the Aspen Music Festival and School

01 Jul 2016

Returning to the Aspen Music Festival on 6 July, Hugh Wolff will conduct the Aspen...

Hugh Wolff returns to the Sarasota Music Festival

04 Jun 2016

On 18 June, Hugh Wolff will lead the Sarasota Orchestra and clarinetist Moran Katz in a performance of Copland's Clarinet Concerto, alongside Mendelssohn's Symphony...

Hugh Wolff returns to Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and NDR Philharmonic Orchestra

17 May 2016

As part of a day-long event conceived by architect Daniel Libeskind in cooperation with Alte Oper Frankfurt, Hugh Wolff returns to lead Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra for two unique...

Hugh Wolff returns to National Symphony Orchestra

08 Apr 2016

Hugh Wolff returns to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington for three concerts featuring violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and Kennedy Center...

Hugh Wolff is named new Music Director of Orchestre National de Belgique

26 Feb 2016

The new chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra is known. The Orchestra and ICA are delighted to announce that from September 2017, American conductor Hugh Wolff takes over the baton...

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“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 - Jul 2013

“[The] gifted and important American conductor…led a splendid program with playing to match by the CSO…Conducting without a score (as he did the Haydn), Wolff found all the complexity in Shostakovich’s score, from the fife-and-drum-like Allegro – a caricature of the victorious Stalin (kudos to piccoloist Joan Voorhees) – to the sorrowful slow movement.” - Jan 2011

“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.”

ArtsAtl - Nov 2010

“From the first performance of the complete work in 1935… [Walton Symphony No.1] gained a reputation for being devilishly difficult due to its complex rhythms, intricate textures and taut, constantly evolving themes. Hugh Wolff and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra triumphantly surmounted its challenges with a gripping and inspirational interpretation…. Wolff’s textural clarity unravelled the densely interwoven lines to reveal a wealth of detail… shrewdly combined with expressive freedom and spontaneity… Every time he visits Sydney, Wolff gives performances that stimulate and excite in equal measure. I hope we’ll see him again.”

The Australian - Jun 2009

“Wolff stays always at the heart of the music; it was a pleasure to hear music so ably shape. ..Wolff kept a brisk but unobtrusive pace, barely pausing between movements yet never leaving any question where in the piece one was; the longest rest came in the moments before the final coda, and so absolute was his control by then that he held the whole auditorium in suspended silence.”

Washington Post - Nov 2009

Hugh Wolff is among the leading conductors of his generation. He has appeared with all the major American orchestras including those of Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Cleveland. Much in demand in Europe, where he has conducted the London Symphony, the Philharmonia, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Orchestre National de France, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Bavarian and Berlin Radio Orchestras, Wolff is a regular guest conductor with orchestras in Canada, Japan, Korea, Scandinavia and Australia. He works frequently at summer music festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood and Ravinia.

Hugh Wolff has been appointed the next Music Director of the Orchestre National de Belgique and will take up his position in September 2017. Between 1997 – 2006 he was principal conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra with whom he maintains a close relationship. They have toured Europe, Japan and China together and appeared at the Salzburg Festival. 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 United States, Europe, Japan and the Far East. 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.”

A conductor whose interests span from baroque performance practice to the championing of new works, Wolff was music director of the New Jersey Symphony (1986-1993) and Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival (1994-1997). He began his professional career in 1979 as associate conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich.

Wolff has an extensive discography including a complete set of Beethoven symphonies with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, music from the baroque to the present with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and new works of John Corigliano, Brett Dean, John Harbison, Aaron Jay Kernis and Mark-Anthony Turnage. He has collaborated on CD with Msitislav Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Edgar Meyer, Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Larmore, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and jazz guitarist John Scofield. Three times nominated for a Grammy Award, Wolff won the 2001 Cannes Classical Award.

Born in Paris to American parents, Wolff spent his early years in London and Washington DC. He studied piano with Leon Fleisher and composition with George Crumb. After graduating from Harvard College in 1975, Wolff won a fellowship to study conducting with Charles Bruck and composition with Olivier Messiaen in Paris. He returned to the United States to continue piano studies with Fleisher at the Peabody Institute. Throughout his career, Wolff has performed as a pianist in chamber music with orchestral colleagues and guest soloists. In addition to his performing career, Wolff holds the Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras chair at New England Conservatory where he is in charge of four orchestras and teaches graduate students in orchestral conducting.

This season he returns to Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra and the Seoul Philharmonic, and in Europe to Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, the Orchestre National de Belgique as well as Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Schleswig Holstein Festival.  

July 2017