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Hugo Wolf
Letters to Melanie Köchert
Hugo Wolf
Edited by Franz Grasberger
English edition and translation by Louise McClelland Urban
Foreword by Martin Katz


In 2003 events in Europe and North America celebrated the centennial anniversary of Wolf's death.

This is a love story. It tells of an extraordinary epistolary relationship between Hugo Wolf, one of the greatest masters of the German art song, whose dedication to the poetic spirit of his music was equaled only by Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann, and Melanie Köchert, the wife of a prominent Viennese jeweler with whom Wolf shared a lifelong emotional, spiritual, and artistic bond.

Wolf's letters to Köchert—he wrote 245 between 1887 and 1899—were composed during a period of almost unprecedented cultural upheaval in Europe, in the shadow of Vienna during the era of Freud, Mahler, and Klimt. They reveal Wolf at his most optimistic, celebrating his concert successes and the solitude he believed was so precious to his ability to compose. They follow Wolf through times of overwhelming despair, when his musical failures left him profoundly alienated, overcome, as he revealed to Köchert, "by a feeling of unspeakable emptiness and desolation." And they follow Wolf as he struggled to compose the 250 astounding art songs that are his creative legacy, and his almost simultaneous descent into madness.

Hugo Wolf: Letters to Melanie Köchert, sensitively translated by Wolf scholar and interpreter Louise McClelland Urban, is a literary and musical even of the highest order.

"For those unfamiliar with the prose of the most witty, literate, and compelling composer since Mozart, this book should whet the appetite for more!"—Susan Youens, author of Hugo Wolf: The Vocal Music

"Uncensored letters never intended for publication catch the composer in an unguarded moment, and offer insight that biography and even autobiography cannot approach."—Martin Katz, from the foreword

Hugo Wolf (1860–1903) composed an amazing quantity of exceptional music during his short and turbulent life, including three famous songbooks and an opera. He died in an asylum in Vienna after succumbing to severe dementia caused by a syphilitic infection.

Louise McClelland Urban is professor emerita of voice at the University of Maryland. She is recipient of the prestigious Hugo Wolf Medallion and a Creative and Performing Arts Award for Hugo Wolf Research. Her poetic prose translation of Wilhelm Müller's twenty-four poems is featured in Schubert's Winterreise: A Winter Journey in Poetry, Image, and Song, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

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cover of Wolf's book is a collage of old photos and letters

December 2003
LC: 2003050134 ML
333 pp. 6 x 9
21 b/w photos
ISBN 978-0-299-19444-4 Paper $24.95 s




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