Fresh horizons

Hugh Wolff is an American conductor with a global perspective. Born in Paris, he is Harvard-educated, spent almost a decade at the helm of a German orchestra, and lived in London for several years. He recently returned to the US and set up home with his family in Boston, where he is Director of Orchestras at the New England Conservatory of Music. In 2017 he was appointed music director of the Belgian National Orchestra.

I really enjoyed working in Europe. Classical music is, after all, an essentially European art form, and people there seem to have a need for this music. Their personal interest in classical music is somewhat deeper; the music is more central to society as a whole. American society has always been fast-moving and flexible -- eager to embrace change and see what’s over the horizon. It’s a very interesting time to be working in America. Despite the economic tumult, there’s an opportunity to secure a place for classical music in society. If we don’t do it now, the opportunity might not come round again for a couple of generations.

I’m very excited to have been appointed music director of the Belgian National Orchestra effective September 2017. I first conducted this orchestra in 2010 and our relationship deepened each time since. I am so impressed with the musicians’ enthusiasm and commitment and believe we can make a real impact in a rapidly changing musical landscape. Belgium and Brussels are at the heart of the European Union, whose very existence is premised on cooperation among different cultures. The survival and the success of this endeavor have never been more important. The arts - and music in particular - have a critical role to play and I’m excited to be part of that

Hugh is used to relishing shifts of culture.

I was born in Paris by accident really, to American parents. My father was a US Foreign Service officer. During my primary school years, we lived in London. Relatively few Americans live abroad when they are young, and I feel lucky to have done so. I have very strong, positive memories of those years. Since living internationally has been part of my life, it was comfortable to move my own family to Europe for five years when I was Chief Conductor in Frankfurt. My three sons, now young adults, would, like me, say the experience of living abroad helps define who we are. Now we are settled back in the US, in Boston, where my work includes a major teaching commitment at the New England Conservatory of Music.