Peter Wright (1953-2020)

Peter Wright, who conducted significant research into polyphonic music of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, died on 30 December 2020 at the age of 67.

Peter Anthony Wright was born in Vienna on 14 April 1953.  His Austrian-Jewish mother had escaped the city with her family, after the Nazi annexation, for Palestine, married a member of the British occupying force, and after the war returned to Vienna, where Peter was born.  Subsequently the family moved to London, where Peter attended Thames Valley Grammar School before going up to Pembroke College, Oxford, gaining a BA Honours in Music there in 1974 and BMus in Musical Composition in 1975, working also as a freelance writer, composer and teacher in London and for the Open University.  In 1978 he received an MA in Renaissance and Baroque Music, and in 1986 a PhD, from the University of Nottingham, his dissertation being a palaeographical and text-critical study of parts of the 15th-century Trent codices 87 and 92.  After a year teaching at Exeter University, he was appointed lecturer in music at Nottingham in 1988, where he taught a wide range of courses from medieval to 20th-century music, palaeography and composition; he was advanced to a readership in 2000 and a personal chair in 2007, retiring in 2014 as emeritus.  In 2018 he was made an Honorary Senior Research Fellow of the University of Bristol.

He served on the Council of the RMA 2001–4, in 2011 held a British Academy Senior Research Fellowship, and was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, in the Michaelmas Term of 2012.  He was a member of the British Academy Committee for the series Early English Church Music from 2002, chairing it from 2011 to January 2020, and was convenor of the pre-1500 subcommittee from 2009 to 2019.

In the published version of his dissertation (1989), and in a fine series of articles, he published fundamental work on the compilers, scribes, contents and structure of the earlier Trent codices, on English 15th-century music on the Continent, including new attributions to Dunstaple and Byttering.  He made contributions on Brassart and Merques, and on Austrian and eastern European repertories.  He edited two fine volumes of English 15th-century Mass music, with Sanctus and Agnus settings, Gloria and Credo settings (EECM vols. 47 and 55).  He co-authored with Ian Rumbold a detailed study and facsimile of the early 15th-century St. Emmeram manuscript together with a book on the same manuscript and its context.  His long-running work on the Aosta manuscript, intended to accompany a DIAMM facsimile, is alas incomplete, but will be evaluated for at least partial completion.

His work won him the Westrup Prize (1995) and Centenary Competition prize (2018), both of Music & Letters, and (with Ian Rumbold) the C. B. Oldman Prize of the International Association of Music Libraries (2011) for outstanding work in music bibliography.

He was a person of the highest integrity, kind, caring, and with a dry sense of humour. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that entailed radical surgery followed by a series of treatments and entrance on to an experimental trial, the options finally running out in winter 2020.  He endured his illness with dignity and stoicism, continuing his research and professional service until the last moment.  He leaves his mother Gretl, his wife Joanne (a historian of Renaissance art) and two daughters, Jessica and Miriam.

Margaret Bent, Ian Bent

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