Hugo Wolf (1860 - 1903) Pathography

By Breitenfeld, Tomislav; Thaller, Vlatko et al. | Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Hugo Wolf (1860 - 1903) Pathography

Breitenfeld, Tomislav, Thaller, Vlatko, Jagetic, Nada, Bergovec, Marko, et al., Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Wolf was born on the 13th of March, 1860, in Slovenjgradec, in the family of leather manufacturer, Fillip Wolf. His father originated from Sent-Juraj of Celje (surname Volk?) - where the Ipavci, the well known family who did composition as good as medicine, lived. His mother was from the Slovenian-german family (Orehovnik and Stank from Mojstrane and Naborjeta).1,2

Since the childhood, Wolf showed a high interest for the music, and joined a family orchestra early. After the primary school, he continued schooling in Graz, but had to leave it because of the bad results in languages. His father placed him in the Benedict convent of St. Paul, in the valley Lavantal, 20 kilometres north from Slovenjgradec. Class master wrote in the Documents: "Wolf is very keen on music, and very loyal to his parents". The difficulties in school followed him here as well, and father sent him to his uncle Liebezeit. It didn't last too long - once again, he left school. One could imagine that he knew only music. However, he was very intelligent and the reason for his problems was his temperament and his will to do only music. So it was on the Vienna's Conservatory too, which he entered when 15 years old. His colleague was Gustav Mahler. Mahler was a brilliant student, and Wolf didn't have any other choice but to leave the school and to study on his own. He was very close to Mahler, as they were both very talented. There were times when they lived together in a rented flat. Vienna was the place where he met Brahms and Wagner, whom he appreciated and admired.3,4

Wolf had depended on his father subventions until the 1887, when his father died. His father left him a sense for music, and his mother temperament. He was unadjustable, hard, quite cold in manner and changed his mood often. Sometimes it was conditioned from the outside (success or failure), but there is a possibility that his cyclotimia was the consequence of the acquired syphilis (cyclotimia is the period when the sadness and joyfulness follow each other). He had some bursts of creativity (1888-1890), he edited 200 solo-compositions and in 1895, around "Corregidor"). In addition, it is possible that the period of creativity was the result of brain activity after the syphilis had affected it, and the long period of silence was the part of so called "secondary syphilis" manifestation.5

After "Corregidor" he turned inside himself, and timidly avoided all the contacts with people. That period followed the time when he didn't like to appear on the stage or to meet people, if the people weren't his fans. In 1896, he had one bright period, when he made an Italian song-book, and in 1897, a master piece - "Michelangelo songs". Before that time, he was struck with insomnia, tiredness and turmoil. In the last Michelangelo song, one can see a drastic fall in his creativity, which was followed with the "Manuel Venegas" opera.6

In 1896, Argyll-Roberts pupil was detected. We don't know how he reacted when he learned of his disease. He became more pale in the incoming days, and the world around him seemed different than it used to be. There were only a few flashes of fervour or rage, when everything burned inside him. In 1897, insomnia, which became worse, was complicated with nightmares. He attacked friends (Humperdinck), became extravagant and with many hyperbolic expressions came to a conflict with his old friend Mahler, because he refused to put "Corregidor" in the opera's programme.7 In the summer, he fell down of the bicycle (clumsiness connected to tabes dorsalis), and became quite weird - he exaggerated in everything, didn't response to letters, drunk too much and sometimes devoured food.

Finally, proclaimed to his friends, that Mahler was not an Opera's director any longer and that the position of director belongs to him. He had extremely unreal plans when thinking of his new duty. The letters to his friends andprotectors followed, especially to Melanie Kocher, who was quite familiar to him. …

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