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Joseph Wolfe

Joseph Wolfe

ART_CATEGORY: Conductors


Joseph Wolfe is an inspired young conductor with remarkable insight. He has a wide repertoire ranging from the Baroque to the music of 21 century, with a very special affinity with the music of the Classical and Romantic periods, all of which he conducts with great technical skill, sensitivity and flair. He has the ability to draw the most out of his players – inspiring them with his own passion to produce totally gripping performances.



The concert was certainly not lacking in emotional heat. Colin Davis’s son, Joseph Wolfe, led the LSO in a really blazing performance of Berlioz’s Le Corsaire overture. The most intense moment came right at the end, when Wolfe made Elgar’s Sospiri burn with such tragic feeling we were all overcome.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph 


Having completed his studies in London, Dresden and Berlin, Joseph Wolfe has distinguished himself as a conductor of great musical integrity and sensitivity, working with top orchestras around the world. Being a violinist has greatly informed Joseph’s approach to conducting and chamber music has also been a profound influence.



Wolfe has worked with many of the UK’s leading orchestras including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has conducted a critically acclaimed Schubert and Sibelius series with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at London's South Bank Centre, as well as making guest appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Manchester Camerata, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, the Oxford Philomusica and the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast. 

JW conducting


On the international stage, Wolfe has performed extensively with orchestras and opera companies in Europe and Asia. He has conducted ten performances of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking at Malmö Opera (several of which took place at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen) and conducted concerts with ensembles including the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Bamberg Symphony, the Lutoslawski Philharmonic and Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra, Wrocław, the Bavarian State Youth Orchestra and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin.


Since 2009 he is regularly invited to conduct in Asia and has worked on many occasions with the Japan Philharmonic, Sapporo Symphony, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Kyoto Philharmonic Orchestras, the Hiroshima Symphony, the Tokyo City Philharmonic, Gunma Symphony Orchestra, Hyogo Performing Arts Centre Orchestra and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. 


The soloists with whom Joseph has worked have nothing but praise for his accompaniment, notable among these are; Nicola Benedetti, Sarah Chang, Tasmin Little, Chloë Hanslip, Asako Urushihara, John Lill, Andre Watts, Michal Kanka and Jack Liebeck.



Urushihara's and Wolfe's performance of Elgar: A ferocious impact radiating from a tranquil 'place'

23rd April 2017, Hyogo Performing Arts Center

Asako URUSHIHARA (vn), Joseph WOLFE (conductor), Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra

Elgar 'Violin Concerto'


In a concerto performance, when a soloist with hidden passion which spouts forth in the midst of calmness encounters an orchestra conductor who loves this work more than anything and knows this well, a ferocious 'place' that nobody could have expected will be created. Edward Elgar's 'Violin Concerto' (performed 21st to 23rd April 2017), which combined Asako Urushihara with the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra, and Joseph Wolfe as conductor, was certainly that moment for me. This work is not often performed. There were also certainly expectations for this encounter. Urushihara faced towards him likewise with gentle calmness in her usual on-stage manner. The tone of the strings shone, but in an introspective way, where the fervent passion spouted introspectively with an austere sheen. Wolfe faced the solo performance head-on by conscientiously leading this well-constructed composition. The elegant lyricism was brought out in a natural way.

Moreover, the pizzicato tremolo appearing in the 3rd movement was also formed in an unaffected manner to a world where its entirety was filled with grace. This was a performance where a ferocious impact radiated from a tranquil 'place'.


(selected and written by Kunio SHIMADA (critic))




Sir Colin Davis Tribute Concert, The Barbican

London Symphony Orchestra / Joseph Wolfe, June 2013:


The concert was certainly not lacking in emotional heat. Colin Davis’s son, Joseph Wolfe, led the LSO in a really blazing performance of Berlioz’s Le Corsaire overture. The most intense moment came right at the end, when Wolfe made Elgar’s Sospiri burn with such tragic feeling we were all overcome.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph


Berlioz appeared with his overture Le Corsaire, conducted by Davis’s son Joseph Wolfe. He’d changed his surname to foster a separate identity, but still proved his father’s offspring with those punching arms, care for details, and driving passion. Similar looks, too.

Finally came the bittersweet strings and harp of Elgar’s Sospiri — a late discovery by Davis, who wanted to conduct the piece himself but told Wolfe: “If I don’t, you must do it for me.” So he did, with heat and heart. Then into the foyer and the wee dram. To Sir Colin!

Geoff Browne, The Times


Davis's son, Joseph Wolfe, ¬conducted a blazing interpretation of Berlioz's Corsair overture, in which the LSO strings were at their silkiest, notably representing the composer whose ¬reputation Davis did more than -anyone to raise to its current height; and a ¬piercingly tender interpretation of ¬Elgar's Sospiri, a work Davis wanted to conduct but never got around to.

The Guardian


The LSO was already assembled and welcomed Joseph Wolfe, Sir Colin’s son, looking remarkably like his father, and a conductor in his own right. Wolfe conducted with zeal Sir Colin’s beloved Berlioz, a tenderly loved and exhilarating account of Le Corsaire. To close, Joseph Wolfe returned for Elgar’s Sospiri. It seems this was a recent discovery for Sir Colin who said to his son that he hoped to conduct it, but if he didn’t, then he must. Never mind that the organ part wasn’t included, this ‘sigh’ of an elegy for strings and harp, played to a photograph of a happy and smiling Sir Colin, was given with eloquence, something at once private yet universal, and made for a rapt envoi.

Colin Anderson, ClassicalSource.com



Reviews  - Japan 2017


(Ongaku-no-Tomo June edition, Monthly review)

Orchestra - Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (95th subscription concert)

21st April, Hyogo Performing Arts Center (Grand Hall), Joseph WOLFE (conductor),


Elgar: 'Violin Concerto' and 'Symphony No. 1'


Talented conductor Wolfe, from England, made his appearance to perform two masterpieces by major composer and compatriot Elgar. The 'Violin Concerto' is a difficult work where the technical demands gradually increase as the work progresses which, even with the proficient Urushihara, and even though this was her 4th joint performance with Wolfe for this work, did not quite come to perfection. However, she resolutely fought until the end so as to not let up on the tension, meanwhile giving a notable performance where the parts which needed to be expressed were sufficiently done so. Although the orchestra also gave a sticky performance of the lengthy prelude, in due course that was responded to by the litheness and delicateness of the solo. While Wolfe showed himself as a careful and conscientious conductor as did his father Colin Davis, Wolfe also showed his individuality by incorporating freely created music here and there, frequently interchanging the hardness and softness of the sounds with superb modulation, thus bringing out Elgar's charm. In the latter half, and in the 'Symphony No. 1' in particular, even in a scenario where Wolfe's unique technique of shifting pulses, such as by syncopation, could evoke lagging, on the contrary agitatedly unfurled the music. He also showed glimpses of boldness, such as by occasionally getting effects with a dynamic different to what is written in the score. Beginning with the horns, a fine performance of the brass instruments in particular shone through.

Hajime TERANISHI (critic)



Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (95th subscription concert);

reviewed by Katsura KOISHI


Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (95th subscription concert)

~All-Elgar Programme~

Performed on 21st April 2017 at the KOBELCO Grand Hall of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center

Reviewed by Katsura KOISHI

Photos by Takashi IIJIMA; provided by the Hyogo Performing Arts Center

< Performers >

Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra

Joseph WOLFE (conductor)

Asako URUSHIHARA (violin)

< Programme >

Elgar: Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61

Elgar: Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55


This was a concert of only Elgar works - of two monumental works with performance times of over 50 minutes. I couldn't wait to learn what kind of concert this would be. What finally began was a torrential flow of music without any sharp edges whatsoever. The orchestra above all was leisurely and bountifully full of beauty.

The Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (PAC orchestra), needless to say, is made up of young performers who study and perform musical works for a three-year term, which little-by-little contributes to their improvement. The first-chair performers of orchestras such as the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Yamagata Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra insinuate themselves in each section as top performers in such a spirited young group, becoming the core performers and pulling the entire orchestra. I felt this style mostly works well. The basic group is young, where the maestros come as guests. I believe that's how bountiful music that embraces audiences is made.

Conductor Joseph Wolfe, who is also a violinist, young and easy-going, captures the essence of the harmony changes in music. He brings the music out closely together from within at the transition of successively connected sounds. Careful sound-spinning Asako Urushihara, the orchestra and Wolfe himself all are smoothly unified.


Wolfe, as an English conductor, has built an intimate relationship with the music of English musician Elgar. (Although a superficial management takes exception to such a style being regarded as acceptable), Wolfe's way of approaching large-scale works from within strongly conveys a sense of 'England', and thus was a really satisfying concert. The 'all-Elgar programme' should have had been the greatest 'selling point' in this performance, and thus looking forward to future programmes which would satisfy the audiences looking to 'listen to more Elgar'.


Reviews – Japan 2015


Ongaku Gendai, May 2015

Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra 286th Subscription concert


This subscription concert featured English conductor Joseph WOLFE, who studied in London, Dresden and Berlin. The performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 36 (Linz) was chosen in accordance with the wishes of the City Philharmonic of including German and Austrian works in the programme, and this had a truly fresh and lively sound. The works of Elgar, compatriot of the conductor, were featured in the latter half, where the Serenade for Strings in E minor was a work from Elgar's early period, composed of three beautiful pastoral-like movements, where the City Philharmonic Orchestra delivered a solid performance with a softness, as if scenes of England appeared before me. The main featured work of the 'Enigma Variations' was also a well-rounded work, and was composed before Elgar completed his subsequent major works. This was a refined performance of a magnificent drama unfolding through 14 variations centred round a theme, where musical portraits of his wife and friends were portrayed in each variation. Wolfe delivered a noble British sound, where he not only had the ability to show in a new light a clear structure of the characteristics of each variation, but also an awareness of the tone of the Japanese orchestra.

(Performance held on 21st February at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall)

(Shigeru FUKUDA)



Ongaku no Tomo, April 2015

Orchestra Gunma Symphony Orchestra (506th subscription concert)


Elgar: Violin concerto Op. 61, and Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 performed on 28th February at the Gunma Music Center, conducted by Joseph WOLFE and featuring violinist Asako URUSHIHARA

The programme for the Gunma Symphony Orchestra February subscription concert of the Elgar violin concerto and the Sibelius Symphony No. 5 was a rather sober one. The conductor was Joseph Wolfe, son of renowned English conductor Sir Colin Davis who passed away two years ago. Firstly, it must surely be noticed not only by this author that it is quite surprising that the aura of Wolfe was somewhat different to that of his father Sir Colin who had very much the aura of an English gentleman.

Wolfe conveyed in the Elgar work an extraordinary ability to precisely align with the solos by delicate agogic movements. Whereas Wolfe's father Sir Colin was the type to adjust the music from the exterior, Wolfe displayed an emotion-based music making by adapting to harmony changes. Wolfe's conveyance of a strong will for contrapuntal treatment is also his forte. It's been a while since I last heard Urushihara's performance, and her matured music making was nice and pleasant. To hear this massive work of nearly 50 minutes in one go is surely the achievement of Urushihara and Wolfe. Wolfe's contrapuntal treatment in the Sibelius brought a more lively music. That will for contrapuntal treatment running round at the end is surely the 'youth' of Wolfe. The Valse Triste by Sibelius was performed as th e encore piece, where a nice lingering moment remained. Wolfe is a conductor to keep an eye out for in future.

(Junichi KUNIDO)



Ongaku no Tomo, April 2015

Orchestra Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra


Mozart: Symphony No. 36 (Linz), Elgar: Serenade for Strings Op. 20, and Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme 'Enigma' Op.36, performed on 21st February at Tokyo Opera City, and conducted by Joseph WOLFE

Guest conducted by English born conductor Joseph Wolfe, where the stringed instruments in the Mozart 'Linz' Symphony were arranged in a 14, 12, 8, 8, 3 formation, which was a rather large one for this composer. Although there was a warm sound to the performance, I would have liked a little more articulation and lightness in the ensemble. The 4th movement etc. was well-modulated, and overall I thought this was a Mozart performance of a rather nostalgic style.

The formation for Elgar's Serenade for strings was also rather large, in a 14, 12, 10, 8, 7 arrangement, where the string orchestra had an appealing full low sound. A broad dynamic range with espressivo and passionate cantabile could be heard in the 2nd movement in particular, where the moments of conscientious expression recalled the conductor's roots as a violinist. The creation of romantic music in the Enigma Variations, the final work in the evening's programme, could also be heard. The scale of the 'Nimrod', the 9th variation of this work, which was performed in a deliberate and passionately singing manner, was particularly grand and emotionally moving. However, I also thought that the response of the orchestra during musical transitions was lacking, and it would have been good to have had more preciseness in the music-making.

(Haruo YAMADA)


London Philharmonic Orchestra / Joseph Wolfe, Brighton Debut

Young British conductor Joseph Wolfe produced some warm, rich and exciting music at his Brighton debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He strode to the platform, raised his baton, and began with a magnificent reading of Franz Schubert's Unfinished 8th Symphony. Wolfe swayed, leapt and jumped around, injecting great fire and urgent playing of quite exquisite music. Although there may be no great depths in a Saint-Saens cello concerto, Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey certainly produced some fast fireworks in his account of the second Cello Concerto. To end, Wolfe got yet another magnificent sound from the orchestra in a passionate performance of Sibelius' First Symphony. It was an epic account that must make him a future star.

Mike Howard, The Argus - Brighton


London Philharmonic Orchestra / Joseph Wolfe, QEH, London

Joseph Wolfe appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall in a solid programme of works by Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Sibelius. Wolfe is a son of Colin Davis, but such conducting successions are not uncommon…the conductor to whom Wolfe bears a striking physical resemblance, however, is Gustav Mahler. He came across as a sympathetic figure, warmly impassioned and well prepared.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times


RTÉ NSO / Joseph Wolfe / Tasmin Little

From the opening bars of a focused account of Mozart's Don Giovanni Overture, it was evident that rising British conductor Joseph Wolfe can aim for high intensity and control it. That was one of the characteristics of Sibelius's Symphony No 1, which closed the concert. This gripping performance had plenty of rhythmic drive, and Wolfe's way of creating long-term momentum was successful…such strong and committed playing thoroughly deserved the warm applause.


It was hard to pinpoint exactly how the dynamics of the relationship between soloist, conductor and orchestra were working, for everything seemed to work as one (Tasmin Little's / Elgar's Violin Concerto). The complexity of Elgar's orchestral scoring was subtly handled, with everyone listening as much as they were reading.


The way Elgar knits the solo part into the orchestral textures came across beautifully. This was a rarity - a performance whose completeness was something to treasure because, with any orchestra, conductor or soloist, such transcendence can never be commonplace.

Martin Adams, The Irish Times


Ongaku no Tomo September 2011

Japan Century Symphony Orchestra (162nd subscription concert)

June 9, 2011, The Symphony Hall

Joseph Wolfe, who conducted with a torrent of passion but without destroying form, starkly brought forth a well-modulated structural outline envisaged by Beethoven as well as an abundance of emotion with orthodox candour. The orchestra capably responded to Wolfeísdemands and with a densely rich sound and ensemble, the result was a very persuasive performance.

Takayoshi NAKAMURA


Ongaku no Tomo September 2011

Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (718th subscription concert)

June 15, 2011, Suntory Hall

Conductor Wolfe succeeded in subtly drawing out the quintessential English lyric beauty from the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in a solid and lovely performance (Alwyn's 'Autumn legend' for cor anglais and strings). Meanwhile, though Sibelius Symphony No. 7 is quite frankly a symphonic work with a peculiar concept as the originality of the orchestration stands out, the subtlety of the structure and form is clearly understood, and Wolfe vividly brings forth the best part of the work with mellowness. Such a very persuasive performance was a nice windfall.

Hiromi SAITO


Sapporo Symphony Orchestra

The 525th subscription concert

January 29 & 30, 2010

Sapporo Kitara Concert Hall

Wolfe's Tact Responds To The Audience's Expectation:

I found Wolfe's wisdom in the choice of this work as the opening piece (Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture). The fast passage at the beginning was refreshing, and it was followed by the graceful theme in the smooth performance. The audience's expectation from …{Joseph Wolfe} was naturally immense, and he responded with a performance that was dynamic, yet minute, and solid, yet vivid. Contrary to a performance that unnecessarily emphasizes the popularity of the work, his interpretation faithfully reproduced the composer's intentions embedded in the score. I was deeply impressed by his attitude toward music making. I reckon, however, that it takes an exceptionally high spirituality for Wolfe to uphold this attitude, especially considering his young age. Accolades should be given to the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra for responding to the conductor with superb performances. This concert proved that only excellent conductors could make the orchestra perform with their full abilities.

Takao Nakamura, Hokkaido Shimbun Newspaper, February 10, 2010


Ongaku no Tomo, March 2010

Sapporo Symphony Orchestra

525th subscription concert

January 29, 2010

Sapporo Concert Hall

Wolfe's talent was already obvious from this piece (Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture). The masculine sound was full of bursting vitality. I missed Hagner's performance. The second half of the program was Sibelius Symphony No. 2. Wolfe eliminated romantic sentiment from the second movement with exceptional persuasion. Also, he performed the introduction to the first theme of the finale free from any sort of tenaciousness… I was overwhelmed by the power, which gushed out of the sound.

Tomohiko Hondo


Century Orchestra Osaka 144th subscription concert

September 10, 2009

The Symphony Hall, Osaka

The performance of Haydn was also full of energy (Symphony No. 104 "London"). The exposition was repeated, giving a strong impression of period performance. The distinctive solid effect was this conductor's characteristic. Sharp rhythm and clear articulation - another lively, sophisticated rendition.

Tadao Koishi, Ongaku no Tomo, November 2009


Schubert and Sibelius series with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London's South Bank Centre

The 'Unfinished' Symphony has become, unfortunately, aural wallpaper, so popular, and so frequently is it heard. It gives special delight, therefore, to report pleasure (hardly the appropriate word on hearing this apex of Schubertian expression) from Joseph Wolfe's subtle and absorbing interpretation that was here beautifully played. The quiet opening on double basses gave way to a nervously inclined statement on violins that launched the wide-ranging themes of the first movement. Sometimes fierce, sometimes calm, all sides of Schubert's character were on display and portrayed with the right sense of balance and integrity. Likewise the second movement, Andante con moto, was true to its title and never lingered. Wolfe found a range of expression from his judicious choice of tempos that lifted the spirits and reinforced the essential nature of well-being in the music. It was a fine performance.


What was remarkable about the performance under Wolfe was how the indebtedness to Tchaikovsky was played down in favour of a true Sibelian sonority even in the often-mushy slow movement (Sibelius's First Symphony). Wolfe accentuated the varying woodwind themes above the string mêlée, which produced a true freshness to the fabric of the work. Each movement had an authentic momentum that gave the whole piece a semblance of formal unity rare in most interpretations. The coda in the finale was a true summing up of the emotional roller coaster heard before. Sibelius subsequently produced many more truly idiosyncratic masterpieces but none was to reveal a romantic coherence that lies at the heart of his First Symphony. It is to Wolfe and the LPO's credit that this character was bought to the fore in this wonderful performance.



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