Stanley Wolfe, a composer and Juilliard faculty member for five decades, died on May 29 of cardiac arrest at the Michael Malotz Skilled Nursing Pavillion in Yonkers, N.Y. He was 85.
Born in New York City in 1924, Wolfe entered The Juilliard School of Music in 1948 as an undergraduate under the instruction of William Bergsma, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin, and received a master’s degree in composition from the School in 1955. Wolfe joined the faculty that same year, teaching theory, contemporary music, and composition. In 1956, he became director of Juilliard’s Extension Division (now the Evening Division), a post he held for 33 years until he retired from administrative duties in 1989. He remained on the School’s faculty until 2005. Wolfe was also a professor of music at Fordham University at Lincoln Center from 1969 through 1973 and a lecturer in the New York Philharmonic’s preconcert series, in 1985.
Wolfe received a number of high-profile awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957 and the Alice M. Ditson-American Symphony Orchestra prize in 1961. He was the recipient of three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, in 1969, 1970, and 1977. In 1990, he received a citation and recording award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Wolfe, who described himself as primarily a symphonist, composed six symphonies, the first of which he wrote in 1952. The Fifth Symphony, commissioned under the auspices of the Lincoln Center Fund, was given its premiere in April 1971 by the Juilliard Orchestra, conducted by Jorge Mester. The same orchestra, conducted by Sixten Ehrling, gave the first performance of Wolfe’s Sixth Symphony in the spring of 1981. His symphonies have been performed by the Houston Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Eastman Philharmonia. In addition to his symphonic compositions, Wolfe composed the dance score King’s Heart (1956), written for José Limón and commissioned for Juilliard’s 1956 Festival of American Music. Other compositions include Canticle for Strings (1957), Lincoln Square Overture (1958), and String Quartet (1961)
In 1989, Wolfe completed a Violin Concerto that received its premiere by the New York Philharmonic with Mark Peskanov (Diploma '78) as the soloist and Leonard Slatkin (BM ’67) conducting. The Chicago Symphony gave the work an additional four performances with the same soloist and conductor.
An avid golfer and chess player, Wolfe lived in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., for 39 years. His wife, Marguerite Wolfe (née Wiberg), died in 2001. He is survived by his children, Madeleine Narvilas and Jeffrey Wolfe; a granddaughter, Mariella Narvilis; and a sister, Anita West.