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James Haar

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 16, 2019

James Haar (1929–2018)

James Haar died on 15 September 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri, the city of his birth. He was one of the foremost musicologists of his generation, and was a productive scholar, dedicated teacher, and devoted AMS member over a career spanning more than six decades.

Haar earned his B.A. at Harvard University in 1950 with an honors thesis on Frescobaldi’s keyboard music. He completed the M.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a thesis on parody technique in Josquin’s masses under the supervision of Glen Haydon (1954). His Harvard Ph.D. dissertation, “Musica mundana: Variations on a Pythagorean theme” (1961), was prepared under the guidance of John Ward and Nino Pirrotta. At Harvard he served in a variety of teaching capacities before going to the University of Pennsylvania (1967–69) and New York University (1969–77), where he chaired the Music Department. In 1978 he was appointed W. R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a position he held until his retirement in 1997. Until 2008 Haar continued to teach courses as a visiting scholar and to serve on dissertation committees. In 2009 he gave his last AMS Annual Meeting presentation, forty-nine years after his first.

His AMS service began in 1966 with a term as JAMS Editor-in-Chief. He was elected Vice President in 1973 and President in 1977, and also served for more than forty years on AMS committees, among them Publications, Finance, AMS 50, COPAM, and Kinkeldey. Few corners of the AMS have not benefited from his efforts and influence. In 1995 he was elected an Honorary Member. In 1987, he was honored with election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The majority of Haar’s scholarship focused on the madrigal, a topic in which he had few peers. Approaching the subject as a series of case studies, each new article or essay illuminated another problem, the solution of which added to our understanding of the whole. His essays remain relevant today, serving as models of meticulous scholarly practice. In addition to his own publications, he was a Senior Consulting Editor for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980), and served on many other editorial boards. He continued to publish into his final years, with his last (co-authored) essays appearing in 2017.

Haar’s teaching mirrored his scholarship, with high expectations of his students. He oversaw nearly thirty dissertations on topics ranging from medieval and Renaissance source studies to early Baroque violin music, Mannheim opera, Beethoven, and Richard Strauss. Always generous with his time, he was equally generous with his home, and frequently hosted parties with students and colleagues. A visit to Haar’s residence was not complete without a tour of the garden, one of his favorite non-musical activities, and the high point of any party was watching him play four-hand piano with his students. He was the embodiment of the word “professor,” and will be greatly missed.

—Scott Warfield

First published in the Feb. 2019 AMS Newsletter, p. 30.

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