Ludwig Finscher

2006 Balzan Prize for the History of Western Music since 1600

For his wide-ranging research activity in the field of musicology; for his penetrating, memorable insights into great works of music; for his profound commentaries on musical phenomena as well as his editorial direction of the new edition of the encyclopaedia Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, which makes the newest research accessible to a wide circle of musicians and music lovers.

Ludwig Finscher (*1930 – †2020) is one of the most important musicologists in the world and an outstanding expert on the history of western music.

He was born in 1930 in Kassel, Germany, and studied musicology from 1949 to 1954 at the University of Göttingen, where he earned his doctorate with a dissertation on masses and motets by Loyset Compère (Die Messen und Motetten Loyset Compères) in 1954. In 1967, he completed his Habilitation at the University of Saarbrücken on the origin of the classical string quartet (Das klassische Streichquartett und seine Grundlegung durch Joseph Haydn); it has subsequently been recognized as the key publication on the beginning of this very important genre of instrumental music. He was also the first musicologist to do archival research on this genre in Italy, France, England and Bohemia. He became professor of musicology at the University of Frankfurt a.M. in 1968 and at Heidelber University in 1981. He retired from this last position in 1995.

Ludwig Finscher’s important research covers many aspects of music history from the late Middle Ages to the first half of the 20 th century. He is also highly esteemed as editor of compositions by 16 th century composers, as well as by W.A. Mozart, C. W. Gluck and Paul Hindemith. He has written monographs on Joseph Haydn and on chamber music. His other works go beyond the scope of this year’s prize, but his two-volume work on music of the 15 th and 16 th centuries, Musik des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, should be mentioned. He is still very active, especially in research on Mozart’s instrumental music. His enormous contribution to the new edition of the encyclopedia of music, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, should also be noted. He is the editor-in-chief of this extensive publication (currently at 26 volumes), for which he has also authored about 40 articles, some of which are exhaustive. In them, as well as in many separate articles covering topics in music history of the 18 th , 19 th and 20 th centuries (about 130), he has shown his broad knowledge and deep understanding of the spiritual and emotional meaning of music. He has also published studies on Protestant church music and is editor of the Capellae Apostolicae Sixtinaeque Collectanea Acta Monumenta.

All of Finscher’s publications are fundamental for further study and research. His writings always place the subject and the description of the sources in the foreground; his personal interpretation remains in the background, thus showing his great modesty. For Finscher, music history is part of the greater cultural, social and historical milieu, and he explains facts by their spiritual dependence on the philosophical developments in European thought. His approach is interdisciplinary and his understanding of music history is therefore different from that of musicologists of the past. His language is clear and understandable for non-specialists. When a topic might tempt other authors to use vague metaphors or unusual terminology, he prefers to express his opinion as simply as possible. His article on the concept of the “classical” in music (Zum Begriff der Klassik in der Musik) is considered to be the greatest contribution to this subject.

Finscher is not only highly admired among leading German musicologists, he is also acclaimed by the international academic community. He has served as President of the German Musicological Research Society and of the International Musicological Society, is a member or honorary member of several German and foreign academies and holds the Orden Pour le Mérite.

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