Happy birthday, Ernst Wilhelm Wolf!

Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, Porträtstich von Gottlob August Liebe

Weimar was to become the main place of activity of the composer and pedagogue Ernst Wilhelm Wolf. Born on February 25, 1735 in Großenbehringen in what was then Thuringia, he went to school in Eisenach and Gotha. Despite great poverty in the family, his musical education was good right from the start, and Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel was one of his first teachers. In Gotha, he became acquainted with the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Carl Heinrich Graun – a lifelong friendship was to connect him with the former. He had already been choir prefect in Gotha, so that he was quickly considered for the position of director of the Collegium musicum during his studies in Jena. This gave him the opportunity to perform his own works during his studies. Further stations in Leipzig and Naumburg followed before he came to Weimar, where he settled down. He began his musical career there as piano teacher to Duchess Anna Amalia, later becoming concertmaster in the ducal chapel, then organist to the court and finally court conductor. He held the latter post until his death. In addition to his actual duties at court, he also made music with his wife Maria Carolina, daughter of the violinist Franz Benda, who was an excellent singer and harpsichordist. A joint concert tour to Berlin led to an offer from Frederick II, which Wolf also turned down.

Wolf’s musical output is extensive and varied: he created operas, passions, operettas, songs, symphonies, chamber music in various formations and solo works. The Kölner Akademie, under the direction of Michael Alexander Willens, has explored his music in a number of recordings. In addition to Christmas cantatas, this also includes his Passion oratorio.