Hugo Wolf: The strange man

It was a strange time of learning. Unfamiliar faces as if I were in a dream. English, statistics and singing all blended within my brain and heart; expanding me from the inside out. A certain composer found me and expanded my heart even more. A man who experienced joy and suffering, and like me, did not try to shy away from either one. I still to this day turn to his music, for it is only he who understands the darkness of the soul. This is how we met.

One day while in the university library I was deep in study. Sitting cross-legged I pulled my leg out and knocked a book shelve. A book fell down to my lap. I looked at the book. It was a biography of Hugo Wolf.

“What a strange name?”

For a month I was overtaken by his life. His music and lyrics opened a strange long-ago world for me. His crazy passion for life thrilled me. He adored the composer Richard Wagner and wrote music for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s lyrics. I did not really have to know what the music was about because my heart already knew.

One story I remember reading about him is when he was living on the street. He was very poor. He was sick and starving, yet he carried a large object around with him. It was wrapped up in cloth. One day a dear friend saw Hugo on the street. He asked his friend to his home for food and a place to sleep. The friend asked what he was carrying. He told him that he had lost everything, and this is all he had left. He carried it around with him and never left it unattended to. Hugo unwrapped the object. His friend saw that it was a large breast of a man. It was of the great composer Richard Wagner.

And to the one song by Hugo Wolf that escapes me….

"Do you know the land where citrons bloom,
Golden oranges glow among dark leaves,
A gentle wind blows from the blue sky,
The myrtle is still, and the laurel stands tall?
Do you know it well?
    It is there! - there
That I would go with you, my beloved."