Death of Venzuela’s foremost musicologist, 83

Colleagues and students report the passing of Alejandro Planchart, a world authority on medieval music and a prolific contributor to Grove.

Caracas born, he taught first at Yale, then at the University of California, Santa Barbara, conducting numerous recordings of early music.

He died at Santa Barbara on April 28.

 

 

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  • A sad note, learned today by accident. A good friend and colleague at Yale many years ago. Didn’t know he was fac-
    ulty at Santa Barbara where I earned my doctorate in 1971.
    A great loss of a good man and fine scholar and performer.

  • A tribute by Martin Best:
    Alex,as we always called him, was part of my life between 1980 and 1983 or so. I had just recorded The Dawn of Romance for EMI, which made something of a stir in the medieval music field. In 1981 I went to Nimbus and recorded The Last of the Troubadours, the first album ever to be devoted to a single Provencal composer-poet, and it won the international Edison Award.
    I say this because it was the thing that connected Alex and I to each other. He was extraordinarily generous in his praise, and treated me as a colleague, rather than as someone groping in a pretty dark field. In 1980 I was at UCSB as part of the ACTER project, doing a show I’d created called Ariel,all about Shakespeare and the music of the spheres. What a cast! Ian Richardson, Johnny Nettles, Annie Firbank and Sebastian Shaw. Oh we had such a great time.
    Alex, though, was under some attack from Denis Stevens, another great musicologist, who had been turned down for the post that Alex was occupying. I think there was a law suit going on between Denis and the University. Anyway, the following year I was asked back to UCSB as a Regents’ Lecturer, and before arriving I had asked Alex if he could help me learn more about rhythmic modes in the middle ages, and the use of them, or not, by the scribes of the 13th & 14th century who’d compiled the chansonniers in which the work of the troubadors reposed. Not only did he help me: he assigned a grad student to me, and together we explored microfiches and facsimiles.
    At the same time, Alex had got involved in a publishing venture with a firm called Ross Eriksson, who issued the first in what was intended to be a Provencal series. Alex had written a scholarly introduction, but the book itself was a complete shambles. Very beautiful, but with critical information printed upside down, a contents list that bore no relation to the contents, and translation howlers. I still have this book, and was looking at it last night and thinking of Alex: his incredible knowledge, yes, but also his huge sense of fun, his generosity, the times we spent with his students in various campus bars and dives, his way of paying for his parking simply by amassing parking tickets and paying them once a year, and his way with his student orchestra.
    In 1982 or 3 I returned to UCSB with ACTER, this time giving a solo concert in the big concert hall there. After the show, it was a treat to see Alex at one side of my dressing room, and Denis Stevens the other, both trying to pretend the other didnt’ exist.
    I kept in touch with Alex. I found it was something of a fillip to my profile that I even knew him at all, and some quite eminent scholar-performers tried to reach him via me. I felt bathed in borrowed eminence.
    After my 1983 visit, Alex was asked to write a report on my contribution to the residency, and he paid me the ultimate compliment when he wrote that ‘Martin is a real pro.’
    I am aware that this post is about me as much as it is about Alex, but that is Alex’s doing as a person, an academic, and a musician. He seemed to make everyone he touched feel that they counted for something in his eyes, and in the eyes if others. His greatest challenge, he told me, was getting his grad students to recognise that they were part of an elite. Some of them had come from modest origins, and he was determined to change their self – image.
    In my library, in addition to the Ross Eriksson one off, I am privileged to have his two volume work on the Winchester Tropes, which I also looked into last night. The work that went into it, the sheer beauty of the intellectual penetration, and of course the newness of it all, is breathtaking.
    Most of all, though, Alex was a wonderful individual with a sense of fun, of the absurd, of the pomposity of academia and how to prick it, and someone whom I am grateful to have lived in order to know.
    Alex, of course, was fluent in Latin, so I’ll just say Requiescat in Pace. He deserves it, and he is probably up there with Dante designing the music that sings “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”

  • A tribute from Martin Best:

    Alex,as we always called him, was part of my life between 1980 and 1983 or so. I had just recorded The Dawn of Romance for EMI, which made something of a stir in the medieval music field. In 1981 I went to Nimbus and recorded The Last of the Troubadours, the first album ever to be devoted to a single Provencal composer-poet, and it won the international Edison Award.
    I say this because it was the thing that connected Alex and I to each other. He was extraordinarily generous in his praise, and treated me as a colleague, rather than as someone groping in a pretty dark field. In 1980 I was at UCSB as part of the ACTER project, doing a show I’d created called Ariel,all about Shakespeare and the music of the spheres. What a cast! Ian Richardson, Johnny Nettles, Annie Firbank and Sebastian Shaw. Oh we had such a great time.
    Alex, though, was under some attack from Denis Stevens, another great musicologist, who had been turned down for the post that Alex was occupying. I think there was a law suit going on between Denis and the University. Anyway, the following year I was asked back to UCSB as a Regents’ Lecturer, and before arriving I had asked Alex if he could help me learn more about rhythmic modes in the middle ages, and the use of them, or not, by the scribes of the 13th & 14th century who’d compiled the chansonniers in which the work of the troubadors reposed. Not only did he help me: he assigned a grad student to me, and together we explored microfiches and facsimiles.
    At the same time, Alex had got involved in a publishing venture with a firm called Ross Eriksson, who issued the first in what was intended to be a Provencal series. Alex had written a scholarly introduction, but the book itself was a complete shambles. Very beautiful, but with critical information printed upside down, a contents list that bore no relation to the contents, and translation howlers. I still have this book, and was looking at it last night and thinking of Alex: his incredible knowledge, yes, but also his huge sense of fun, his generosity, the times we spent with his students in various campus bars and dives, his way of paying for his parking simply by amassing parking tickets and paying them once a year, and his way with his student orchestra.
    In 1982 or 3 I returned to UCSB with ACTER, this time giving a solo concert in the big concert hall there. After the show, it was a treat to see Alex at one side of my dressing room, and Denis Stevens the other, both trying to pretend the other didnt’ exist.
    I kept in touch with Alex. I found it was something of a fillip to my profile that I even knew him at all, and some quite eminent scholar-performers tried to reach him via me. I felt bathed in borrowed eminence.
    After my 1983 visit, Alex was asked to write a report on my contribution to the residency, and he paid me the ultimate compliment when he wrote that ‘Martin is a real pro.’
    I am aware that this post is about me as much as it is about Alex, but that is Alex’s doing as a person, an academic, and a musician. He seemed to make everyone he touched feel that they counted for something in his eyes, and in the eyes if others. His greatest challenge, he told me, was getting his grad students to recognise that they were part of an elite. Some of them had come from modest origins, and he was determined to change their self – image.
    In my library, in addition to the Ross Eriksson one off, I am privileged to have his two volume work on the Winchester Tropes, which I also looked into last night. The work that went into it, the sheer beauty of the intellectual penetration, and of course the newness of it all, is breathtaking.
    Most of all, though, Alex was a wonderful individual with a sense of fun, of the absurd, of the pomposity of academia and how to prick it, and someone whom I am grateful to have lived in order to know.
    Alex, of course, was fluent in Latin, so I’ll just say Requiescat in Pace. He deserves it, and he is probably up there with Dante designing the music that sings “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”

  • I own a recording of his of works of Johannes Ockeghem: the Missa Caput, along with Motets and Chansons (Lyrichord LL 7213) with the Capella Cordina; and with a name like Plainchant, you just knew he had to be involved with the music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods!

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