BY GENERAL agreement, Fritz Reckow had one of the sharpest brains in all musicology - "a mind like a needle", in the words of one admiring colleague. His heart lay in the Middle Ages, but his relentless curiosity, which extended from medieval organum through Wagner and Bizet to questions of computer applications in music, meant that his interest was directly engaged across the entire eight centuries of Western music.
Reckow was faithful to the south-eastern corner of Germany for most of his life. He was born and schooled in Bamberg, before moving in 1959 just down the road to the University of Erlangen, a little to the north of Nuremberg, to study musicology. His studies were completed at the universities of Basel and Freiburg-im-Breisgau, where in 1965 he was awarded a doctorate in musicology. His subsidiary topics were medieval history (Middle Latin philology in particular) and New Testament literature and exegetics.
From 1965 to 1979 he worked with the renowned musicologist Hans- Heinrich Eggebrecht on the Dictionary of Musical Terminology, published under the auspices of the Institute for Musicology of the University of Freiburg- im-Breisgau and the Mainz Academy of Science and Literature; from 1973, for six years, Reckow was in charge of the project.
He began lecturing - and a Reckow lecture was guaranteed to stimulate lively interest - at Freiburg in 1966, with occasional secondments to the universities of Basel and Hamburg. In 1979 he turned down the offer of a chair at the University of Vienna in favour of a professorship in Kiel, where he also became director of the Musicological Institute. He was to remain in Kiel until 1987, when in the final move of his career he took up a similar position at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg.
Fritz Reckow's contribution to the study of medieval music was enormous. Two related themes that ran intertwined through his career were the relationship between music and language, and the idea of music as language, themselves topoi borrowed from the medieval mind. Indeed, this ability to cast off the academic accretions of the intervening centuries and examine a problem with his curiosity uncluttered by anachronisms was one of the distinguishing features of Reckow's scholarship, as of all outstanding medievalists. He realised straightaway that understanding the medieval mind meant embracing its own intellectual constructs - linguistic, mathematical and architectural - and sought to understand medieval music in those terms.
Reckow first made his mark with his PhD dissertation, a seminal examination …