Together with Gustav Mahler, Hugo Wolf can be considered as one of the greatest composers of Late Romantic lieder. Both of them followed the tradition of Schubert and Schumann, but intensified the gerne with Wagner's techniques of text declamation and harmonic development. What makes Wolf's song cycles special, is the fact that often they are devoted to a single poet, like in his Mörike-Lieder (1889), Eichendorff-Lieder (1889) en Goethe-Lieder (1890). For each cycle, he spent a considerable time studying the text to create the best matching music. His accomodation of musical structure, harmonic subteties and pianistic texture are all inseperable from the lyrics. Partly due to his psychological sophistication his songs can be heard as miniature operas.
Even though he did start writing on several full-fledged operas, it never became a true succes. Only his opera Der Corregidor (1896) was completed. Things went downhill from there. In 1897, Wolf had a nervous breakdown as a consequence of a syphilis infection he had since his teens. After a failed suicide attempt, he was admitted to a clinic in Vienna. The somber Michelangelo-Lieder (1898) would become his last completed composition. Wolf died in 1903, three weeks before his 43st birthday.