Nigel Fortune: Highly respected musicologist and co-editor of the journal 'Music and Letters'

Nigel Fortune was one of the most authoritative musicologists and editors of his generation but, as a very modest man, he would have dismissed such a claim. Most of his life revolved round Birmingham, where he lived in the same house from the age of 10.

His connection with the University was crucial. He read Music and Italian there before going on to Cambridge where his PhD on 17th-century Italian monody was supervised by Thurston Dart, the influential scholar and performer at the start of the early music revival who became King Edward Professor at King's College, London. After leaving Cambridge, Fortune spent three years as Music Librarian at Senate House, University of London, before returning to Birmingham as a lecturer in the music department in 1959.

His career was notable for an unusually generous kind of collaborative work. With Denis Arnold, who became Heather Professor at Oxford, he edited and contributed to The Monteverdi Companion (1968, enlarged and reissued as The New Monteverdi Companion, 1985) and The Beethoven Companion (1971); with others he was a guiding spirit behind festschrifts honouring Sir Jack Westrup, Thurston Dart and Winton Dean. He also collaborated with Anthony Lewis, Professor at Birmingham for much of Fortune's time there, in book chapters as well as four volumes of The Works of Henry Purcell, which played a significant role in establishing the position of the major English composer. With Thurston Dart, Fortune edited John Dowland's Ayres for Four Voices (1953-63).

Fortune was a valued member of several important editorial committees including the Purcell Society, Musica Britannica and that of The New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980). He was secretary of the Royal Musical Association from 1957-71 and then became a vice-president. From 1980 to 2008 he was co-editor of the influential journal Music and Letters. Edward Olleson has aptly described him as "an unchanging pillar in [the journal's] architecture while co-editors have revolved round him... the perfect choice and an ideal working partner" and summed up Fortune's dedication to the journal as "a period of outstanding and selfless contribution not only to Music and Letters but also to musical scholarship at large". Anyone who has submitted copy to the journal can confirm that he brought the highest standards to his dealings with written English. Being edited by him was invariably instructive since nothing sloppy was ever allowed to pass into print.

But citing Fortune's punctilious professional activities is very far from accounting for his whole personality. He was remarkably loyal to his students, maintaining an interest in their careers long after they had graduated. And about his friends and colleagues with Birmingham connections he was a mine of information, all recalled with the precision he brought to his scholarly concerns. Fortune's enthusiasms stretched far beyond the periods of his own musicological expertise. He went to concerts; was a supporter of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; and a regular visitor to festivals such as Aldeburgh and Presteigne. Overall he was remarkably well-informed and that included the latest developments in 20th-century music.

Further, Fortune was a committed citizen who played a part in local affairs. As it happened Clare Short, the MP for Birmingham Handsworth, moved into the house next door in 1997: they were already friends and he sometimes assisted her in her constituency surgeries. He always enjoyed news about his wide circle of acquaintances and appreciated those who kept in touch. He faced his final illnesses with exemplary fortitude that endeared him to all those who were caring for him.

Peter Dickinson

Nigel Cameron Fortune, musicologist: born Birmingham 5 December 1924; lecturer, Birmingham University 1959-69, reader 1969-85; died Birmingham 10 April 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...