Born in Schwabisch Hall, Wolfgang Gönnenwein studied music and German studies at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Tübingen. In 1959 he became the conductor of the choir Süddeutscher Madrigalchor (South German Madrigal Chorus). He also conducted the choir of the Bach-Verein Köln (de) from 1969 until 1973.
In 1968 he was appointed Professor for choral conducting at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart, in 1973 he was elected Rektor (president), serving until 1982. He also directed the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele (de) until 2004.
He was Generalintendant (General Manager) of the Staatstheater Stuttgart from 1985 until 1992.
For EMI, Gönnenwein recorded many of Bach’s sacred works, as well as Haydn’s oratorios and Mozart’s Requiem. Gonnenwein died on 26 July 2015 at the age of 82.