Hugh Wolff is the best-known American chamber music conductor, and has established an important career with full-sized orchestras.
He was born in Paris to American parents. He studied at Harvard University and the Peabody Conservatory in the United States. His piano instructors were Leon Fleisher and Leonard Shure; he also studied composition with George Crumb and Leon Kirchner. He continued musical training at the Paris Conservatoire, studying conducting with Charles Bruck and composition with Olivier Messiaen.
He began his conducting career in 1979 as assistant to Msitslav Rostropovich at the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C. He was appointed the same orchestra's Associate Conductor in 1982, and in 1985 became the Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
He was appointed Principal Conductor of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1988. In 1992 he was elevated to the position of that orchestra's music director. During his leadership there, he has recorded over twenty CD releases, more recordings than any of the SPCO's other conductors, and led the SPCO on a well-received European tour. He has also conducted most of the major American orchestras and such well-known orchestras the Czech Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic.
In 1997 Wolff accepted the unexpected offer to became Chief Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, where he remained until 2006. He announced his retirement from the SPCO effective at the end of the 1999-2000 season. ~ Joseph Stevenson