Alejandro Planchart, 1935-2019
Monday, April 29, 2019
AMS Honorary Member Alejandro Planchart died on 28 April 2019.
Follow this link for an obituary by Margaret Bent and Susan Rankin.
Alejandro Enrique Planchart (1935–2019)
Musicologist Alejandro Enrique Planchart, Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was an original—brilliant, tireless, exuberant, and colorful. He died in Santa Barbara on 28 April 2019 at age 83.
Born into a cultured and musical family in Caracas, Venezuela, Planchart made his home for more than six decades in the United States while never abandoning his roots. He earned his Mus.B. (1958) and Mus.M. (1960) at Yale, studying with Hindemith, and pursued his Ph.D. (1971) in musicology at Harvard. Planchart’s bicoastal career brought him to Santa Barbara, where he taught from 1976 until his retirement in 2002. He had taught previously at Yale (1967–75) and the University of Victoria (1975–76) and served visiting stints at Brandeis (1982–83) and Harvard (1989–90).
A lifelong musician, Planchart sang, played piano and harpsichord, and composed vocal and instrumental works. At a time when medieval and Renaissance vocal music was largely inaccessible, Planchart brought this repertoire to life through his editions and recordings and by involving students at Yale and Santa Barbara in his ensemble Capella Cordina. Many trace an enduring love of early music to this memorable experience.
The bookends of Planchart’s musicological work coincide with the beginning of the high middle ages and the birth of the Renaissance, though he made forays into the music of Morales, Tartini, Mozart, and the Beatles. In The Repertory of Tropes at Winchester (Princeton University Press, 1977), Planchart set the standard by cataloguing and analyzing this eleventh-century music within its historical context. At the other end of his oeuvre stands his magnum opus, Guillaume Du Fay: The Life and Works (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Like the fifteenth-century master, Planchart moved peripatetically between North and South in researching this book. Along the way, he produced scores of articles on Du Fay and his contemporaries, and on musical works, institutions, and performance. A consummate master of the vast cahiers of the Archives du Nord in Lille and the Vatican Library, he wore this learning lightly, sharing freely with colleagues and spearheading dissertations.
Tropes remained a preoccupation for Planchart. He penned articles on Italian collections and, with John Boe, edited the thirteen-volume Beneventanum Troporum Corpus (A-R Editions). Troping was also a metaphor for his teaching. Anyone delivering a paper who caught sight of Planchart in the audience knew he would bound to the microphone afterward and expand on a word or phrase with intelligence and insight. Planchart educated not by preaching, but through patient nudging.
Planchart’s legendary prowess as a raconteur also influenced his scholarship. From his account of a childhood piano lesson with Rachmaninoff to his evocative nicknames (“Winnie the Trope”) and spot-on wordplay (“tenors with ‘tin ears’”), he delighted listeners while aptly encapsulating ideas. His penchant for story-telling is evident in his writing, which strove to expose the humanity of the actors and the pulse of events. By the time his masterwork on Du Fay appeared, Planchart and the composer, it seemed, were old friends.
Planchart garnered many accolades for his scholarship, including the Howard Mayer Brown Award of Early Music America (2006) and the Medal of the City of Tours (Loire) and the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (2013). An honorary member of the AMS, he died only days before he could learn of yet another award: the British Academy’s prestigious Derek Allen Prize for lifetime achievement.
Planchart’s penetrating research, his magnanimity toward colleagues, and his outsized role in championing early music helped shape our entire discipline. With one slight emendation, the envoi that Planchart crafted for Du Fay, borrowing from Compère’s motet Omnium bonorum plena, captures the demise of his luminous presence:
“Luna totius music[ologi]ae…has set.”
—Anne Walters Robertson
 “The moon of all music[ology]…has set;” cf. Planchart, Guillaume Du Fay, I: 314.
Alejandro Planchart (2013)