The eminent German musicologist, Christoph (Johannes) Wolff, studied church music at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and in Freiburg im Breisgau; took Courses in musicology at the universities of Berlin and Erlangen. He obtained a performance diploma in 1963 from the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and his Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Erlangen (dissertation Der stile antico in der Musik Johann Sebastian Bachs: Studien zu Bachs Spätwerk, published in Wiesbaden, 1968).
Christoph Wolff taught the history of music at the University of Erlangen from 1965 to 1968; also at the University of Toronto from 1968 to 1970; then at Columbia University from 1970 to 1976. He also taught at Princeton University. In 1976 he became a professor of music at Harvard University; William Powell Mason Professor of Music, 1985-2002; and Adams University Professor, 2002 to present. At Harvard he served as Chair of the Music Department (1980-1988, 1990-1991), Acting Director of the University Library (1991-1992), and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1992-2000). Currently he is is Adams University Professor at Harvard University.
Recipient of various international prizes, several honorary degrees, Christoph Wolff holds an honorary professorship at the University of Freiburg and memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften. He currently serves as Director of the Bach-Archiv in Leipzig and President of the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales. In 1978 he was awarded the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association of London and in 1982 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Christoph Wolff has written extensively on the history of music from the 15th to the 20th century, particularly on Bach and Mozart. He has distinguished himself by innovative research into formative elements in Bach's works. He became editor of the Bach-Jahrbuch in 1974; edited volumes of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe (V/2, Goldberg Variations; 14 Canons; VIII/I, Musical Offering; Canons); the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe (v/15, 2-3, Piano Concertos), and the Hindemith-Gesamtausgabe (opera Cardillac, Op. 39). He wrote the major portion of the article on the Bach family for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980); also edited The String Quartets of Haydn, Mozart, and L.v. Beethoven: Studies of the Autograph Manuscripts (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1980) and with Hans-Joachim Schulze, Bach Compendium: Analytisch-bibliographisches Repertorium der Werke Johann Sebastian Bachs (5 volumes, Leipzig and Dresden, 1985 et seq.). Wolff published Bach: Essays on His Life and Music (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991) and Mozart's Requiem: Historical and Analytical Studies, Documents, Score (Berkeley, 1993). In 1984 he discovered 31 unknown organ chorales by Bach in the Neumeister Collection of the music library at Yale University; they were published in 1985. The New Bach Reader (New York, 1998), and Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musicia (New York, 2000 - translated into eight languages) are his most recent books.