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?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine