Albert Louis Wolff

This week, The Music Treasury will feature the French conductor and composer, Albert Louis Wolff.  His main focus was opera; he conducted the premier performance of several works throughout Europe. His long career spanned both World Wars, and while he was primarily based in Europe, he also conducted opera in the North and South Americas.

Orchestral and operatic works by Lalo, Massanet, Franck and others are on this week’s show, aired on Sunday, 13 March 2018, from 19:00 to 21:00 PDT.  The show can be heard on its host station from Stanford University, KZSU, as well as its simulcast Internet stream,  As always, the show is hosted by Dr Gary Lemco.

The following notes, derived from Wikipedia, shed more light on Wolff and his career.

Albert Louis Wolff, Conductor

Albert Louis Wolff (19 January 1884 – 20 February 1970) was a French conductor and composer of Dutch descent. Most of his career was spent in European venues, with the exception of two years as a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and a few years in Buenos Aires during World War II. He is most known for holding the position of principal conductor with the Opéra-Comique in Paris for several years. He was married to the French mezzo-soprano Simone Ballard.

Wolff was born in Paris, of Dutch parents, was a French citizen from birth, never lived in the Netherlands, and never had a Dutch passport. When only 12 years old, he began his musical education at the Paris Conservatoire. At the same time he played the piano in cabarets and was organist at the Église Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin (Paris) for four years. Upon graduation at age 22, he was awarded first prizes in harmony and accompaniment.

In 1906 he joined the staff of the Opéra-Comique, the theatre which became the center of his career, while leading ensembles elsewhere in Paris. He made his conducting debut at an opera gala in Strasbourg in May 1909, following this by getting much experience with short engagements in all operatic genres around France. Meanwhile, in 1908, he was appointed chorus master at the Opéra-Comique. This was his first experience with stage work. He remained in that position for three years before being given an opportunity to conduct the premiere of Laparra’s La jota.

Impressed with his performance, the Opéra-Comique took him with them to Argentina in 1911 where he conducted the Buenos Aires premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande. He later conducted the opera in its premieres in Naples, Copenhagen, Kristiania (now Oslo) and Stockholm. In August 1910 Wolff conducted Fauré’s incidental music in Georgette Leblanc’s production of the play Pelléas and Mélisande in the cloisters and gardens of Saint-Wandrille abbey.

He continued as an Opéra-Comique conductor until the outbreak of World War I. Throughout that conflict, Wolff served his country,first as at Les Éparges, then as a pilot (including a tour of Morocco), and was decorated for his courage.

At the end of the War, Wolff went to the U.S. to join the conducting staff at the Metropolitan Opera, replacing Pierre Monteux in the French repertoire. His made his debut in November 1919 in Gounod’s Faust. Although Wolff’s work with the company received consistently positive reviews, he spent less than two full seasons at the Met. While there, he conducted several performances of his own opera L’oiseau bleu, the premiere being in the presence of Maurice Maeterlinck, upon whose play of the same name the opera was based.

Wolff returned to the Opéra-Comique in 1921, succeeding André Messager as chief conductor, a position he held for the next three years. He conducted the first Paris performances of L’enfant et les sortileges and Angélique by Ibert, and the world premiere of Le brebis égarée (1923) by Milhaud. Around this time, he founded the Concerts Modernes Paris to provide public performance of new works. In 1924 he resigned his Opéra-Comique post and became musical director of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

In 1925 he became second conductor of the Concerts Pasdeloup, greatly extending his work in purely orchestral music (including an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1926); he later served as head conductor and director of the Pasdeloup from 1934–1940. From 1928 to 1934 he was principal conductor of the Orchestre Lamoureux. He conducted the premiere of Roussel’s 4th symphony (dedicated to him) with the Orchestre Lamoureux in October 1935; he had previously made the premiere recording of Roussel’s 3rd symphony with the Lamoureux. In 1938 he was twice a guest conductor at the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; in 1947 he conducted this orchestra with Geirr Tveitt in a recording of Tveitt’s 3rd piano concerto. He also conducted a radio performance of his own flute concerto with Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra on NRK.

Wolff conducted the premieres of the Opéra-Comiques L’École des maris (1935) and Madame Bovary (1951) by Emmanuel Bondeville.

In 1945 he was director of the Opéra-Comique for a short while and conducted the first performance of Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias (1947). Although he resigned the position not long after he took it, he continued to conduct occasionally at the theatre until his death in 1970. He conducted 124 performances of Pelléas et Mélisande there. He also became associated with the Paris Opera and was a conductor there beginning in 1949. In 1960 he conducted the Ravel Piano Concerto in G major in Stockholm with the eminent Swedish pianist Lars Sellergren.

Playlist for 13 May 2018:
Auber: Le domiono noir – Overture
Lalo: Rapsodie norvegienne
Massenet: Scenes Alsaciennes (Orchestral Suite No. 7)
Franck: Redemption – morceua symphonique
Suppe: Pique Dame – Overture
Charpentier: Impressions d’Italie
Lalo: Scherzo in A Minor
Reznicek: Donna Diana – Overture