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Hermann Wolff | Picture: Archiv Berliner Philharmoniker

Hermann Wolff, who was born in Cologne in 1845 and lived in Berlin from the age of 10, combined various talents in one: entrepreneurial spirit, business acumen and musicality. He had excellent contacts, knew many artists and had a sure feeling for promising composers.

In short, he possessed all the prerequisites to become one of the most important and influential concert agents of his day. In 1880 he opened his own “Concert Bureau” in Berlin; from then on he dominated the music market of the time. No one else in his line of work had so many innovative ideas and such entrepreneurial spirit.

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra also profited from his business acumen. Not just that [Hermann] Wolff procured the most famous soloists and best conductors of his day for them, as well as engaging the services of Hans von Bülow and Arthur Nikisch as musical heads of the subscription concerts he mounted, he was constantly showing the orchestra new ways out of existential crises.

His “philharmonic dinners” were legendary: Sunday meals to which he and his wife Luise, who had been an actress, invited the most important musical personages to their home. When Hermann Wolff, who had been so restless and driven, died surprisingly at the age of 56 on 3 February 1902, Luise Wolff took over the concert agency and managed it as he would have done.

Erich Sachs joined the business as a partner during the First World War. The agency continued to dominate the market. The end came for the Jewish company when the National Socialists seized power. Luise Wolff initiated the liquidation process in 1934 in order not to be subject to the repressive measures of the new rulers. She died in 1935 at the age of 80.