Edward Reilly

Musicologist and Mahler scholar
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The Independent Online

Edward Reilly was one of a triumvirate of Mahler scholars (the others being Donald Mitchell and Henry-Louis de La Grange) whose thorough investigative work provided the academic support to the rise of popular interest in Mahler's music.

Edward Randolph Reilly, musicologist: born Newport News, Virginia 10 September 1929; Professor of Music History, Vassar College 1972-96 (Emeritus); married 1957 Evangeline Broderick (two sons, one daughter); died Poughkeepsie, New York 28 February 2004.

Edward Reilly was one of a triumvirate of Mahler scholars (the others being Donald Mitchell and Henry-Louis de La Grange) whose thorough investigative work provided the academic support to the rise of popular interest in Mahler's music.

A native Virginian, Reilly begraduated at the University of Michigan, taught at Converse College, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the University of Georgia, before going to Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, just north of New York, in 1970-71; he stayed at Vassar until his retirement in 1996.

Although it is principally for his painstaking work on Mahler's manuscripts that Reilly will be remembered, he first established his reputation in questions of performance practice, publishing the first complete translation of the landmark 1752 treatise Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen by the 18th-century flautist and composer J.J. Quantz (as On Playing the Flute) in 1966. A companion volume, Quantz and his Versuch: three studies, followed in 1971.

History can follow some unpredictable paths. One of the founding fathers of modern musicology was the Austrian scholar Guido Adler; a close friend in Vienna was Gustav Mahler who gave Adler, as a 50th-birthday present, the manuscript of the song " Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" ("I Have Become Lost to the World"), the fourth of the five Rückertlieder and one of his most moving compositions. After the Anschluss in March 1938, the Adlers - who were Jewish - were in a position of obvious danger. Guido's son, Joachim, fled to the United States; Guido himself died of natural causes before a worse fate could be visited on him; his daughter, Melanie, was transported east and slaughtered.

It took Joachim Adler five years of post-war wrangling to recover a part of his father's library, confiscated by the Nazis, and in 1951 to import it to the United States, where it was sold to the University of Georgia as the cornerstone of their musicological holdings. This was a treasure trove of some size - some 74 boxes in all.

When Reilly arrived at the university in 1962, he sat down and patiently catalogued all these papers, generating the material for what would become one of his most influential publications, Gustav Mahler and Guido Adler: records of a friendship (1982).

Going through this forest of documents, Reilly discovered an unpublished postscript to one of Adler's books, where he mentioned the Mahler manuscript, which was hitherto unknown. So where had it gone?

In autumn 2000, Adler's grandson Tom was astonished to find that the son of the lawyer who had helped a pro-Nazi musicologist plunder Adler's library was now offering it for sale. Tom Adler sprang into action, armed with an affidavit from Reilly, who provided the documentary evidence to confirm the true ownership of the manuscript.

Four years of litigation followed before Adler's grandson was able to reclaim what had now become something of a symbol of the 20th century; when it was offered for auction at Sotheby's in May, it sold for £420,000.

Martin Anderson

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