Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

OBITUARY: Owen Jander

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

OBITUARY: Owen Jander

Article excerpt

(June 4, 1930, Mount Kisco, New York-January 21, 2015, Wellesley, Massachusetts)

The Beethoven scholar Owen Jander died on January 21,2015, at the age of eighty-four. A memorial service was held in Houghton Chapel on the Wellesley campus on Sunday, March 15. He is survived by Eugene Cox, his husband and partner of fifty-three years.

Professor Jander received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in 1951, where he sang in the Virginia Glee Club and played in the orchestra, and his MA. (1951) and Ph.D. (1962) from Harvard University, where he also served as a teaching fellow. His dissertation was tided The Works of Alessandro Stradella Related to the Cantata and Opera. Before setding into a thirty-two year teaching career from 1960 to 1992 at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, he taught at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, and the Friends' School in Ramallah, Jordan.

Dr. Jander, the Catherine Mills Professor of Music History, was a much beloved teacher at Wellesley and won the College's Pinanski Prize for Teaching in 1991. The award citation read in part, "He puts so much life and energy into his teaching that his audience is irresistibly drawn into his love for music." In the 1970s Owen spearheaded a project to bring to the campus a new organ, commissioned from the C.B. Fisk company and built in seventeenth-century style with meantone tuning. This instrument was inaugurated in 1981. He was also passionate about historical keyboard instruments, especially the fortepiano, and founded Wellesley's Collegium musicum and served on the board of the Westfield Center for Early Keyboard Studies. As Martin Brody (current Catherine Mills Davis Professor of Music) and Charles Fisk (Phyllis Henderson Carey Professor of Music) wrote in their obituary in Wellesley Magazine (Spring 2015):

Owen's impact on the life of the College was extraordinary. He was an inspired and inspiring scholar, teacher, and colleague. His publications remain fresh, powerful, and important. He tackled large intellectual questions and microscopic musical details with equal intensity and joyfulness, just as he mixed vast erudition and intense personal engagement with a balance of grace and authority. He wrote about music passionately and with the greatest skill and seriousness, but always with a light touch.

His research interests included seventeenth-century Italian music, the Goldberg Variations, performance practices, and, beginning in midcareer, Beethoven's music, focusing on the role of narrative in individual works such as the Violin Concerto, the Fourth Concerto, the "Tempest" Sonata, the Symphony in C Minor, the Pastoral Symphony, and the Choral Fantasy. Brody and Fisk correctly note both the importance of his Beethoven studies and the special nature of his approach:

The work Owen is now perhaps best known for is his study of form and narrative in Beethoven, a subject he came to at midcareer. Here, too- as in his work on the milieu of Roman baroque music-his intensity of imagination, depth oflearning, and empathie identification with his subject shine through brightly. Owen's work on Beethoven sparked a far-ranging, public dialogue about narration in absolute music, but it also subtly transformed our understanding of Beethoven's world. In just a few sentences, he could take us into late 18th-century Vienna, informing us (for example) about the translations and editions of Ovid or the liberalization ofViennese culture in the 1790s, even as he showed us something new about the most widely studied music in the Western canon. He evoked Beethoven s world as deeply and imaginatively as any in the imposing cohort ofBeethoven scholars, from Thayer to Tovey to Lockwood.

Indeed, Owen's publications stand out for their originality (which continues to challenge positivist and other conservative scholars and readers) and their success in examining Beethoven's music in the cultural context of his times. …

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