Joseph Woelfl was very well educated in various disciplines as can be seen in his creative works. As piano virtuoso he knew all possibilities of his instrument and even developed new ones like a progressive emancipation of the left hand parts and the in Great Britain still common “Woelfl-Jump”. His profound education as violinist by Leopold Mozart got him into contact with string chamber music. Often one can find special effects like glissando or ricochet as well as information on the fingering noted in the violin parts. He had singing lessons at the Salzburg Kapellhaus and was a member of the Cathedral choir. Thereby the vocal parts in his ecclesiastical music benefitted as well as his stage works and songs. At the age of 12 his engagement as continuo player at local opera productions by Leopold Mozart gave him insight into the practice of the musical theatre very early on.
Even though he got his musical education mostly by the Mozart-family, he (like L. v. Beethoven) tied in with J. Haydn. This shows mainly in his symphonies and string quartets. Whereas he took up recent developments from Italy, France and England in his stage and piano works.
His personal style is furthermore moulded on a livelong adoration of J. S. Bach which is reflected in his insistence that each of his pupils (like himself) should be able to perform the complete “Well-tempered piano” by heart. In various reviews by AmZ (s. Bio) the contrapunctual style of his setting in his compositions is often praised. Woelfl’s relocation to England brought with it a change in his attitude towards style: it was now necessary to write for a foremost bourgeois public. The result thereof was an initiation of the musical classicism that was taken up and brought to full potential by his successors. Here Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy who started his career as a pianist at the age of 9 with a piece by Woelfl must be mentioned.
As composition teacher Woelfl acted rigorously didactic. His pupil Charles Neate (1784-1877), co-founder of the Philharmonic Society London, reported that he was the first teacher in England who took up musical form as subject in his lessons.
Quittung Woelfls für den Verkauf einer Klavier-Komposition aus dem Jahr 1808 in London
London Aug 2 1808
I have recieved two and fourty pounds from
Mr. Preston for the Copy-right of my Op. 48
consisting of 3 Sonatas for the Pianof. [forte] with Irish Airs
£ 42 J. Woelfl
London, 2. August 1808
Ich habe zwei und vierzig Pfund von
Herrn Preston für das Urheber-Recht an meinem Werk Op. 48 erhalten,
beinhaltend 3 Sonaten für das Pianoforte mit irischen Airs(x)
£ 42 J. Woelfl
(x) Airs: Weisen, Meldodien