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Hans Wolf (1912-2005)



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The second cover made by Curt John Witt for the recording by Hans Wolf of Symphony in D (César Franck).























































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See also:
The Seattle Times
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Hans Wolf was a friend of Marcel Prawy and, like Prawy and so many other refugees, enlisted in the US Army during World War II. He became a US citizen and was sent to Europe with the Allied Forces in the spring of 1945. Via Innsbruck - where he put in a good word for conductor Fritz Weidlich and conducted Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony - he returned to Vienna. But he did not stay very long.

He finally choose to settle in the US, but only after making a few recordings for Don Gabor's Remington Records, starting in 1950 and - according to the data given by the Austrian web site that lists many historic data of recordings made in Vienna - he made his last Remington recording in February 1952 while conducting the Austrian Symphony Orchestra.

Despite the low quality of the recordings and pressings, and despite the few recordings that were made of this conductor, one can hear that Hans Wolf was a man who knew about styles and had insight in whatever score he would bring to his audience. A Symphony of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is playful and detailed, yet serious.

In the build up and development of themes in César Franck's Symphony in D, he creates suspense and excitement, while the individual structure of every movement comes to light, specifically in the slow, lyrical movement and passages. His Franck is not the heavy, slow and ponderous Franck, but a somewhat faster, no less interesting rendering. In the second movement the orchestra is singing. The performance must have been the result of good communication and good instruction, no doubt, but they also convey that the basis of it is talent. Timing and phrasing are excellent. Dr. Wolf masters the score and is in full control throughout. The recording greatly evokes his passion for music. The performance has nuance and never fails to get the attention of the listener.

LP Cover of Symphony No. 2 conducted by Hans Wolf
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major Op. 75 with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Wolf - Remington R-199-19.

Also his Brahms 2nd has the great line, the structural concept, asking the utmost discipline of the orchestra, even though the recording time was limited and he had to rely on the fact that the musicians knew this or that work already more or less by heart. And his Beethoven's 5th Symphony is assertive and dynamic.

Hans Wolf was a creative musician, enjoying all sorts of music. He had imagination. His enthusiasm must have been aroused very easily. "Let's do it" could have been his life's motto. But he also had the energy to work, to further the quality and to persevere in following his ideas, sticking to them, and not being distracted at all.

Wolf's artistic insight, his feeling for the essence of the music, must have been a natural gift, but was certainly heightened and shaped when studying with legendary Heinrich Schenker.

Heinrich Schenker (June 19, 1868 - January 14, 1935) was a musicologist, a composer, and a musician. He composed mainly for piano, wrote Songs (Lieder), and made arrangements of Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach, of Piano Concertos of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, and of Five Organ Concertos of Handel. He also wrote an "explanation" to Beethoven's Sonatas Op. 101, 109, 110 and 111.
Searching for the essence of a composition, he analyzed the music and discovered unexpected complexities and structures existing within a composition, presenting themselves in layers, showing the relationships between melody lines and chords. He said that a composition could be understood in its essence by defining the "Urlinie", the kernel line, so to speak, and the "Ursatz", the inner, basic structure which is the fundament of a composition.

 Although it is stated that Wilhelm Furtwängler never became a student of Heinrich Schenker, the famous conductor met with Schenker in person and received ample advice. Heinrich Schenker had studied with Anton Bruckner and had witnessed Brahms and Wagner. He also witnessed Mahler and important composers of the first half of the 20th century like Richard Strauss and Arnold Schönberg. Wilhelm Furtwängler had been struck by the ideas Schenker put forward in his book "Beethovens Neunte Sinfonie" (Beethoven's Ninth Symphony). Furtwängler writes in his essay on Heinrich Schenker ("Ton und Wort", 1954, page 198-204), that he, quite by accident, picked up Schenker's book in 1911, the time when he started his career in Lübeck where he was "Kapellmeister".

Furtwangler did not agree with everything Schenker wrote and he also found that Schenker could not hold on to his theory of the "Urlinie" completely and in all instances. Of greater importance however is the idea introduced by Schenker called "Fernhören" (Fernhoeren), listening over a distance in time, a philosophical-psychological, natural, inborn attitude of man. It means understanding the greater concept of the music, the structure of a musical work, which goes beyond the annotation, goes beyond a single phrase or a separate movement. "Fernhören" is hearing in perspective, hearing the work's evolution, while being reminded of origin and cause, remembering response and result, which may well lay in an earlier movement or melody. It is the ability of the human being that he can listen in time and space (realm) and thus can grasp the greater architecture of the music, knowing its origin and its musical key, and knowing where it leads to. Heinrich Schenker found that "Fernhören", is most significant in European and specifically in relation to German classical music.
(Interpreting this idea of Schenker's to the extreme, one could say that in its essence it is Carl Gustav Jung's "collective unconscious" made conscious, and finally materializing in sound.)

As is so often the case when a great mind is devising a theory, all and everything has to be explained in relation to the original idea put forward. Nevertheless the Schenkerian ideas about structure and counterpoint can intensify the study of music and make the performance of a composition more comprehensible. In that lies the importance of his approach.
Another writing of Schenker's was on Schubert's 8th Symphony, Unfinished (Unvollendete), the Symphony that asks for a thorough understanding of its structure and development, in order to set the right pace and create the appropriate atmosphere, right from the first chords of its somewhat mysterious beginning.
Schenker's publications are many.

Understanding music in this perspective gives birth to a completely new and greater concept of music in general and of a musical work in particular.

 Carl Bamberger (1902-1987) was also a student of Schenker's. He started off as a cellist and became a conductor with a great sense for timing, and he had full control over the execution when conducting many a composition. Carl Bamberger migrated to the USA and became Director of the Orchestra and Opera Section of Mannes College of Music/School of Music, New York, in 1938 at age 36. You can hear Carl Bamberger on Concert Hall Society - Musical Masterpiece Society recordings.

A senior student of Schenker's was Anthony van Hoboken (1887-1983) from the Netherlands, who at age 22 left Rotterdam and went to live in Frankfurt (Germany) to study harmony and composition and eventually came to Vienna to study with Schenker.  In 1927 he began his 'Archiv für Photogramme musikalischer Meister-Handschriften' (Archive of photograms of musical master manuscripts). He researched the collections of museums and libraries and collected privately also the manuscripts of the great European composers. During World War II the collections were stored in fireproof vaults and survived. Hoboken gave the world the 'Hoboken Verzeichnis' which systematically catalogues the works of Josef Haydn. He had started working on it since 1934 and it was ready in 1957. (Image taken from Dutch music monthly Mens en Melodie, issue no. 4, 1957.)

Schenker had many more pupils and followers. Another important name is that of Oswald Jonas who maintained correspondence with Heinrich Schenker from 1908 until Schenker's death. To students and collectors Jonas is generally known for his introduction to the facsimile of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 109 (also with the annotation "für das Hammerklavier"). The Robert Owen Lehman Foundation had the facsimile printed by Van Leer Printers in the Netherlands though without the original title page. The Library of Congress, Washington D.C., made the manuscript avaible.

Other names of Schenker students are those of composer Paul Hindemith, conductor Otto Klemperer, composer Arnold Schönberg and ... Hans Wolf who had met these important figures and had absorbed the deeper meaning of Schenker's work, theory and insight.
- Rudolf A. Bruil

Hans Wolf at 21 must have been about the youngest student of Heinrich Schenker's. Wolf studied for nearly two years with Heinrich Schenker, from March 1933 till the end of 1934; Schenker died in January 1935.

In the correspondence between Heinrich Schenker and his pupil Oswald Jonas, there is a letter describing a nasty occurrence in September of 1934. After having traveled from Vienna to Hamburg, young Hans Wolf, who was Jewish, was denied by the Nazis to return to Vienna. Through the intervention of Wilhelm Furtwangler however, he was allowed to return. Such an experience and witnessing other incidents most certainly made him decide to return to the US in the early 1950s.


Hans Wolf in the nineteen eighties.
Picture courtesy the Seattle Opera.

Hans Wolf was originally from Hamburg, he was born in the Hansa town on December 5, 1912, came to Vienna to study at the University and received a Ph.D. in 1937. The title of his thesis was "Notions of Musical Movement in the Teachings of Bass and Composition of the 18th Century as a Continuation of the Instruction of the Counterpoint" (Die musikalischen Bewegungsbegriffe in den Generalbaß- und Kompositionslehren des 18. Jahrhunderts als Fortsetzung der Lehre vom Kontrapunkt”). The subject of his thesis shows the influence of Heinrich Schenker.

The political situation in Austria was getting more and more threatening. The earlier Hamburg incident, the rumors that the Anschluss (Annexation) could be at hand, and the fact that Hans had now finished his studies and had received his title, these made the Wolf family (Hans Wolf was now 26 years of age) decide to migrate to the United States where they found refuge, as so many Europeans who fled for the Nazis did.

The early release of Cesar Franck's Symphony in D conducted by Hans Wolf - Remington RLP-199-36 recorded on 11 July, 1950.

Click here for a Sound Clip of a fragment of Franck's Symphony in D Second movement.

In the US, Wolf taught at John Fletcher College (Iowa) for a while. He enlisted in the Army, probably in 1943, the same year as Marcel Prawy did. Wolf became a translator and was sent to Europe. In 1945 he returned to Vienna, to the musical culture that formed him.

Like Berlin also Vienna was divided into sectors by the four powers: the US, the UK, France and the Soviet Union. Although Wolf later said that he was living it up, he must have experienced the cumbersome and restricted atmosphere. He was aware of the fact that most Austrians just continued where they had left off in 1938 and held their conservative beliefs. He would not stay very long. After he had made recordings for Remington as a conductor - and had assisted producer Marcel Prawy at several instances and was involved with the special early Masterseal productions of high priced LP recordings - he returned to the New World.

The Masterseal discs were pressed on a higher quality vinyl and were presented in luxurious, heavy gatefold covers of which the liner notes were adorned with the laurel emblem mentioning "A Marcel Prawy Production".

From left to right: Dr. Hans Wolf - Dr. Marcel Prawy -
Prof. Fritz Busch - Dr. Hans Sachs, and possibly a recording technician or janitor in 1950.
Image courtesy KHM-Museumsverband, Vienna.

Hans Wolf left for the US in 1952. For about one year he was involved in the early stereo recordings of Audiosphere Binaural tapes. See the elaborate page published by Bob Furmanek about the history of stereo recordings on tape and disk in the 1950s and the page about Raymond Cook.

There are a few instances when Hans Wolf returned to Europe on a visit. That was in early 1953, as Marcel Prawy recounted in his book "Marcel Prawy talks about his life" (Marcel Prawy erzählt aus seinem Leben, Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna, 2001). And Wolf traveled to Germany in 1958 and/or 1959 and conducted the Mannheim National Symphony Orchestra in a recording of a Haydn Symphony which was released in the US on the Period label.

Hans Wolf in the nineteen seventies. Images submitted by Monte Jacobson, courtesy The Seattle Opera.
Picture courtesy the Seattle Opera.
Hans Wolf at 90, conducting Johann Strauss's Operetta The Gypsy Baron in Seattle in 2003.
Picture courtesy the Seattle Opera.

As said, when Marcel Prawy started producing and taping performances for Donald Gabor's Remington Records in 1950, he also asked Dr. Hans Wolf, still living in Vienna, to join him. Wolf made recordings of compositions by Beethoven, Brahms, Franck, Mozart, and by Haydn (with cellist Gaspar Cassadó).

Below two examples of Masterseal LP recordings. It is not sure whether Hans Wolf was specifically involved with these recordings.

A unique recording of Volkmar Andreae at 70 years of age: Bruckner's Symphony No. 1 on Masterseal MW-40, released in the Fall of 1951
Vittorio Gui conducts Mendelssohn Bartholdy's 'Reformation Symphony' (No. 5) and Hebrides Overture. MW-49, released in August of 1952

After Wolf had returned to America he worked in various cities and with several opera companies. For Four Star Television in Los Angeles he conducted Aida (Verdi) and Carmen (Bizet). At the invitation of Glynn Ross (founding General Director of the Seattle Opera) and conductor Henry Holt, Wolf became assistant and then associate conductor and chorus master of the Seattle Opera from 1969 till 1981. He performed many operas in English, often with his own translation, Associated Press reported. From 1981 until 1996 he led the revival of Tacoma Opera, serving as artistic director and conductor.

In 2003 Hans Wolf was honored by Seattle's Mayor Greg Nickels by proclaiming March 30, 2003, Hans Wolf Day. He also received congratulations from Washington's governor and a special handwritten note from Beverly Sills on "MET" stationery. On August 5, 2005, Hans Wolf died in Seattle.


Violoncellist Gaspar Cassado plays Haydn's Cello Concerto with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra, Hans Wolf conducting.
Mozart's K 385, Haffner, was also released in France on a 10" Concerteum: TCR 257.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 conducted by Hans Wolf was one of the earliest Remington releases. Above is the modern cardboard cover with the Remington logo designed by Alex Steinweiss.
At left César Franck's Symphony in D on the German DIAMANT label.

The pre-Steinweiss cover of the recording of Hans Wolf conducting Symphony No. 2 of Johannes Brahms on RLP-199-19.Cover by Sherman Alpert.
The recording of Symphony in D of Cesar Franck was also available on the Plymouth-Merit label (P-12-4), omitting the name of the conductor.
Einhorn's version of the Cesar Franck cover made by Curt John Witt.

The recordings of Hans Wolf for Remington Records:

R-149-9 - Beethoven: Symphony No. 5. The Austrian Symphony Orchestra. (Also released as Plymouth P-12-65.) (Released in the Spring of 1951).
In a discography "Ludwig van Beethoven on records" in High Fidelity Magazine (Spring, 1952) music critic C.G. Burke wrote about Hans Wolf's recording of the Fifth Symphony. Wolf's competitors were Otto Klemperer, Willem Mengelberg, Bruno Walter, Carl Schuricht, and Serge Koussevitzky.

C.G. Burke made a comprehensive study of the recordings of works by Beethoven which was published in High Fidelity Magazine, Spring 1952 edition. He explained how the study was made.

"There are 230 recorded versions of 119 Beethoven works, occupying 329 sides (...) this compendium reviews every Beethoven work recorded on LP as of mid-January. (...) Since the synopsis was conceived as a practical guide for music lovers, the writer has submerged his own prejudices as rigidly as he could. He has tried to indicate the broader, the more universal values of the discs, rather than certain niceties or certan eccentricities pleasing or repellent to himself."

About Beethoven's Fifth conducted by Hans Wolf, Burke wrote:

"The Wolf direction is the most direct of all. This Symphony, with all its magnificence has a very simple plan to which the conductor adheres without deviation. This is the way qualified conductors conduct untill an overwhelming consciousness of their own réclame inspires them to make improvements in masterpieces. Wolf's would be the best edition if his orchestra had been closer to unanimity and the recording, which is solidly satisfactory, more luminous in differentiation." - C.G. Burke - High Fidelity, Spring 1953


NOTE From the Kurt Wöss Page: On Masterseal MSLP 5008 Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Schubert's Symphony No. 8 conducted by Kurt Wöss can be found, whereas there exists no Remington disc with this coupling conducted by Wöss. Originally Beethoven's Fifth was released on a 10" disc (R-149-9) with the Vienna Symphonic Society Orchestra conducted by Hans Wolf and Schubert's Eighth was originally a recording with conductor H. Arthur Brown (R-149-15). The name Wöss was probably a convenient substitute, especially when Brown had fallen from grace and the Remington label had ceased to exist. 

The second cover and label of Remington R-149-33

R-149-33 - Mozart: Symphony No. 35 "Haffner" (K 385) (Released in the Summer of 1951)

R-149-48 - Beethoven: Egmont Overture, conducted by Hans Wolf (coupled with Overture Ruy Blas, Mendelssohn, conducted by George Singer)

R-199-19 - Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major Op. 73 (Released in the Fall of 1951)

R-199-36 - Franck: Symphony in D minor (Released in the Fall of 1951)

R-199-79 - Haydn: Cello Concerto with Gaspar Cassado and Mozart Symphony no. 35 "Haffner" (K 385) (Released in May 1951)

Hans Wolf conducted the Niederöstereichisches Tonkünstler Orchester at various occasions. On January 28, 1951, he led the orchestra in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Symphony K 385, „Haffner“), Anton Dermota singing the aria of Don Ottavio from „Don Giovanni” (K 527), and two songs by Richard Strauss (Morgen, Op. 27, No.4, and Ständchen, Op. 17, No 2), and the program concluded with Outdoor Overture by Aaron Copland performed at the occasion of the 50th aniversary of the composer.
On January 20, 1952, he conducted Franz Schubert (Symphony no. 1), César Franck (Variations symphoniques with pianist Grete Scherzer), and Peter Tchaikovsky (Pathétique Symphony).
The dates of these live performances are not the dates the recording sessions took place.

The last recording Wolf made for the Remington label was taped on Wednesday, February 13, 1952 starting at 2 pm at the Musikverein in Vienna. He conducted the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerorchester in Cello Concerto by Joseph Haydn, Gaspar Cassado being the soloist. Producer was Marcel Prawy.
Soon after that Wolf must have left Vienna.
As he had become an American citizen, he easily could leave without delay.

In 1953 Wolf returned for a short while to be involved with the first stereo recordings of conductor Vittorio Gui taped during the Florence May Festival in Italy. On the program were Finlandia and Valse Triste (Jean Sibelius), Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 (Edvard Grieg), and Overtures to Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser (Richard Wagner). At a later date Hans Wolf wrote an extensive article about the benefits of stereophonic tape recording as he had been working with
Livingstone Audio.

Hans Wolf in 1955 when he was Musical Director for Livingston Electronics.

One may regret that Dr. Hans Wolf did not make more recordings for the Remington label or another label as the performance of the Franck Symphony in D is very well conducted and has atmosphere, and after all shows his natural feeling for song, melody and presentation. And though the performance is absolutely Wolf's, the influence of Heinrich Schenker is certainly noticeable.
As I mentioned earlier, there is only one more recording known to me of Hans Wolf made for another label and that is the one when he conducted the Mannheim National Symphony Orchestra in Haydn's Military Symphony (No. 100, in G). On Side One of that disc is Symphony No. 94 conducted by Herbert Albert. The recording was issued in 1959 in the Period Showcase Series. Reference SHO-2321 (stereo) and SHO-321 (mono).

The Period Showcase Series contained recordings which were bought from European and Russian labels. Violinist David Oistrakh, Pianist Emil Gilels, and conductors Samuil Samosud, Kiril Kondrashin, and Alexander Gauk performed with the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and the USSR State Orchestra. And there were the Vienna Symphony, The Paris Chamber Orchestra, The Lucerne Festival Orchestra, The Paris National Orchestra, The Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and the Manheimer National Symphony Orchestra.


Opera director Lincoln Clark who started as an opera singer in California, studied with Lotte Lehmann and went to Germany to act in films and on the stage, and who later became a known director, wrote to me after seeing the page about Hans Wolf:

"Hans and I were colleagues and best friends working for Seattle Opera over a period of 10 years, positive, dedicated, superb musician, generous to a fault, and a charming fellow. Seattle misses him." - Lincoln Clark, opera director.

Lincoln Clark, 1926-2016

Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times music critic, mentions in Hans Wolf's Obituary (Monday, August 8, 2005) how Hans Wolf, late in his life was invited back to Germany.

"One of his proudest moments was his trip in 1991 to the town of Linz-on-Rhine, near Cologne, Germany, for a ceremony erecting a plaque to Jewish victims of World War II. The town dedicated a public square to Dr. Wolf's uncle, surgeon and humanitarian Dr. Sigmund Wolf, an immigrant to this country who died in 1952.
When Hans Wolf arrived in Linz, researchers handed him a meticulous 12-page transcript of the trial of those who had ransacked his uncle's family home in the infamous Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when Nazis ran through the streets of Germany smashing windows and destroying property belonging to Jews.
"A part of Germany has gone kaput," Hans Wolf recalls his uncle saying. "It's time for us to go." (Hans Wolf's family in Hamburg, warned that they were on the death lists, had already left for the U.S.)
Linz-on-Rhine named the square "Sigmund-Wolf-Platz." At the dedication ceremony, Hans Wolf took a quotation from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as the text for his speech: "Alle Menschen werden Brüder." ("All men become brothers.") It was an apt text for Dr. Wolf's own life, as he constantly extended the hand of friendship to aspiring musicians and audiences." - Melinda Bargreen

Original research, concept and text (c) Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published March 25, 2008



Copyright 1995-2009 by Rudolf A. Bruil