was born in Paris, France, whilst his father was working
as an officer in the United States Foreign Service. The family relocated to London, England,
where Hugh attended primary school.
When he was ten years of age, he began playing piano and writing
composition with George Crumb and piano with Leon Fleischer in high
school. Then he attended Harvard
and continued his studies with Leon Kirchner in composition and Leonard Shure in piano.
It was here he got his first taste of conducting the Bach Society
Orchestra. He graduated magna
cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music
composition in 1975.
In 1975, he returned
to his birthplace to study composition and conducting with Olivier Messiaen and Charles Bruck,
respectively, on a fellowship/scholarship. When he came back to the U.S. a year later, he attended the Peabody
Conservatory of Music in Baltimore,
Maryland, where he resumed
his piano studies with his old high-school teacher, Leon Fleischer. He got a chance to watch the
Baltimore Symphony rehearse, and conducted a community orchestra in nearby Annapolis.
In 1979, he
started sending out resumes and it paid off when he received an invitation
to audition for the National Symphony Orchestra, in Washington, D.C. They hired him as the Exxon/Arts
Endowment conductor, and he was thrown into the fire quickly, subbing for Antol Dorati for two weeks when the maestro was unable
to fulfill his guest conducting duties. Hugh was lauded for his quick turn
at the podium, and remained with the NSO for six years, as assistant conductor
to Mstislav Rostropovich, then as associate
conductor. He was asked to be
the guest conductor of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and the Hartford
Symphony during the 1980-81 season.
In 1982, when Mstislav was scheduled to perform Henri Dutilleux’s cello concerto with the London
Philharmonic, he asked the orchestra if Hugh might conduct. They accepted, and Hugh had one more
bullet on his growing resume.
It was not long after his London
debut that the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, based in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre,
hired him to be their music director.
To sweeten the pot, he was named the NSO’s
associate conductor, a title he would assume for three years.
orchestras wanted Hugh as a guest conductor: the Chicago Symphony, the New Jersey
Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, and the Stockholm
Philharmonic. The NJSO hired
him as their music director in 1985, the same year that the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts gave him their
Hugh was with
the NJSO from 1985 to 1993.
Within that time frame, he also led the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
as their principal conductor and appeared on a pair of TV specials, Live from Lincoln Center in December
1990 and A Capitol Fourth in
1992. In 1992, the SPCO named
him their music director, a position he held until 2000. During his tenure, they recorded
twenty CDs and toured Europe, Japan, and the States.
In 1993, Hugh
was asked to be the artistic director for the American Russian Youth
Orchestra and guest conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. His guest status changed in 1997
when they named him their principal conductor. Under Hugh’s baton, the
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra appeared at the Mozart Wurzburg, Rheingau and Salzburg
festivals, and toured China,
Europe, and Japan.
In 2001, he
won the Cannes Classical Award for his recordings of George Antheil’s
first and sixth symphonies and Samuel Barber’s and Edgar Meyer’s
violin concertos, featuring Hilary Hahn. More recordings followed: George
Antheil: Symphony No. 3, Meyer/Bottesini: Concertos, with Edgar Meyer, and
Scorched, with the HR Big Band. In 2005, the Frankfurt Radio
Symphony Orchestra changed its moniker to the HR Symphony Orchestra. Their other recordings include Beethoven: Die Sinfonien
and Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 88, 89 & 91.
In March 2008,
Hugh directed the Munich Philharmonic at the Beethoven Festival in Warsaw, Poland. He became the director of orchestras
at the New England Conservatory of Music in autumn 2008. The NEC Symphony performed Max Bruch’s
“Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor”, with Dami
Kim as soloist, in Jordan Hall on 22nd April 2009. On 24th October 2009,
Hugh conducted the NEC Philharmonia and the Wayne
Shorter Quartet in a performance of “Prometheus Unbound”, under
the umbrella of the NEC’s Jazz40 series.
and groups with whom he has worked include the Bavarian Radio Orchestra,
the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Joshua Bell, the Berlin Radio-Symphony
Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the
Cleveland Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra,
the Israel Philharmonic, Jennifer Larmore, the
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the London Symphony
Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre
National de France, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the San Francisco Symphony, John Scofield, Jean-Yves Thibaudet,
and Dawn Upshaw.
2011, he conducted the NEC Philharmonia in a pair
of concerts at Harvard and the NEC.
Then he reunited with the National Symphony Orchestra, this time as
resident conductor, for an eight-day tour of Kentucky. His itinerary included stops in Florence, Lexington, Louisville, Owensboro, Paducah, and Somerset,
with performances of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 4”, Aaron
Spring Suite”, Michael Daugherty’s “Route 66”, and
Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis
and Chloe: Suite No. 2”.
No rest for
the weary: His spring 2011
schedule was booked with dates in Boston, Massachusetts, Helsinki,
Finland, Luxembourg, Geneva
and Lausanne in Switzerland,
and St. Polten and Vienna in Austria.
Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
9031-73135 (CD: Christmas with Thomas
Hampson – Traditional Christmas Selections)
Arranger – Thomas Pasatieri
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Conductor – Hugo Wolff