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Professor David Wyn Jones retires after 46 years

8 January 2021

David Wyn Jones

Professor David Wyn Jones has retired following 46 years of service at the School of Music.

David first joined the School  as an undergraduate and stayed on for postgraduate study. He was appointed Lecturer in 1974, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 1998, Reader in 2002 and going on to be awarded a Professorial Chair in 2007. He was Head of the School of Music from 2008 until 2013.

Current Head of the School of Music, Professor Kenneth Hamilton, had the following to say: "For many decades, David Wyn Jones has been the heart and soul of Cardiff University School of Music. He rose through the ranks from undergraduate student to Head of School, becoming a world-renowned scholar of Classical music along the way. When I myself took up the Head of School post, I found his seasoned, deft and diplomatic advice to be absolutely invaluable. His latest incarnation will be as Emeritus Professor, and we hope he shall long remain not only a presence among us, but also the historical memory of the School of Music—someone who remembers the past, and who ensures that we both celebrate and learn from it."

Throughout his career, David has written extensively on music and musical life in Vienna. His scope can be seen in his recent Music in Vienna, 1700, 1800, 1900, a study of the gradual decentralization of musical culture in the city that moves from the official music of the imperial court to the world of Johann Strauss and Viennese operetta. He has published no fewer than twelve books, including well-received biographies of Haydn and Beethoven for non-specialist readers, the Oxford Composer Companion: Haydn, and a major study on the symphony in Beethoven’s Vienna. He is now, undoubtedly, one of the world’s leading authorities on the music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and their contemporaries.

He receives frequent requests to contribute his expertise to academic journals, publishers and research projects, as well as to the public dissemination of scholarship such as through the BBC or, currently, as advisor to the British Library for its Beethoven Exhibition in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and as an advisor to the University of Vienna Institute of Musicology’s ‘Concert Life in Vienna 1780–1830’ research project. David was elected to the Fellows of the Learned Society of Wales in 2019.

His most recent publication, Beethoven Studies 4, contains essays by scholars both new and established that represent a broad range of different methodologies. His co-editor on the book and colleague at Cardiff University, Dr Keith Chapin, writes, “I knew David’s research well before I knew him personally, and it always impressed me for its meticulous attention to seemingly minor detail and David’s ability to parlay it into major revelations. Since then, I have come to know him as a generous, open-minded, and perpetually curious scholar who loves his subject and is alert to the wry ironies of music history. His is a quiet type of scholarship that avoids the limelight. Precisely because of that, it has won the respect of the entire academic community.”

But it is not only his academic achievements that David will be remembered for, but also his dedication to his students and the bonds he has forged with so many of them throughout the years.

David has acted as a lecturer, mentor and supervisor to hundreds of students over the years and still recalls the achievements of many of them, including those who graduated many decades ago.  David’s teaching centred on Classical repertory, drawing in particular on his specialist knowledge of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven but extending to a popular opera module that charted developments from Handel to Weber, all presented with an inspiring mixture of expertise, irony and enthusiasm. His PhD supervision mirrored these interests but also embraced music aesthetics and the cultural and musical environment in Habsburg and Napoleonic Milan (1790–1802).

Recent PhD graduate Alessandra Palidda said: “Despite his own research commitments, David was always available to discuss issues at any level, from the overall methodology, sources and focus to tiny edits. Supervisions with him always lasted so long, as it was so easy to turn them into engaging chats. So often, he went the extra mile to help me and encouraged me to get my work out there; with him I developed as an academic, not just as a PhD candidate.”

One family all had the pleasure of studying with David. Eric, Elizabeth, and daughter Angharad Phillips described him as “a truly inspirational man who has significantly moulded the lives of our family and so many other students.” They went on to say: “Gaining world recognition for his research work and published books, his legendary reputation as a musicologist is justly deserved. He remains a modest, humble, kind and generous man. It has been a great honour and privilege for us all to have studied under him.”

Dr Ben Curry, a former student and now Music Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, said: “David Wyn Jones, is, without doubt, one of the best teachers I know.  His humour, insight and encouragement made such an impact upon me and he somehow made it all seem effortless!  It was not until the second year of my undergraduate degree at Cardiff that I properly recognised that my modest and friendly harmony teacher was also an exceptional scholar.  I still enjoy his writing today; his sharp mind, wit and generous spirit is always in evidence – a charming and delightful man who I’m sure will be greatly missed.”

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