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Professor Peter Branscombe

Former chair of Austrian studies at St Andrews University; Born December 7, 1929; Died December 31, 2008. PROFESSOR Emeritus Peter Branscombe, who has died aged 79, held the chair of Austrian Studies at St Andrews University until he retired more than a decade ago.

Former chair of Austrian studies at St Andrews University; Born December 7, 1929; Died December 31, 2008.

PROFESSOR Emeritus Peter Branscombe, who has died aged 79, held the chair of Austrian Studies at St Andrews University until he retired more than a decade ago.

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His career at Scotland's oldest university spanned almost four decades and he was a greatly respected academic and colleague who won the affection and loyalty of many generations of his students.

Born in Sittingbourne, Kent, he was educated at Dulwich College and Worcester College, Oxford.

Called up for National Service soon after the end of the war, he was drafted into military intelligence and served in Vienna at the height of the "Third Man" period of stand-off between Soviet and Allied occupying forces.

This was the beginning of a life-long love affair with the city that shaped his academic career. Following research for his PhD thesis at London University, Branscombe was appointed as a junior lecturer in German at St Andrews in 1959. He served diligently the Department of German and the School of Modern Languages for 37 years until his retirement in 1996.

His scholarly work spanned a wide spectrum and Branscombe published essays on many aspects of German and Austrian literature.

His Penguin translation of poems by the renowned German-Jewish writer Heinrich Heine was one of the most widely read of his works.

He focused on Austrian literature, in particular theatre and opera libretto by writers such as Franz Grillparzer and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and he developed an expertise in Ferdinand Raimund and Johann Nestroy, writers/composers of Viennese popular music in the early nineteenth century. His professorial chair helped him forge close and fruitful links between the department, the Austrian Institute in London and scholars in Austrian universities. Branscombe became, integrally with his literary research, also a widely respected musicologist.

He wrote a book on Mozart's opera, The Magic Flute (1991), and with Eric Blom and Jeremy Noble he jointly produced the great English edition of Otto Erich Deutsch's Mozart: A Documentary Biography.

He also published many essays on Mozart, Haydn and Schubert and contributed to the major Richard Wagner Handbook.

For many years he worked with Austrian and British colleagues on the definitive edition of the farcical and satirical musical comedies of Johann Nestroy, himself editing a large number of volumes, including Nestroy's hilarious parodies of Wagner's Lohengrin and Tannhauser.

This enterprise engaged his immense capacity for detailed investigation, as he deciphered near-illegible manuscripts and scores, discovered lost and unknown works in archives, and unmasked parodies of Nestroy's parodies. Finally, to the very end, he was contributing to the wider promotion of the music he so loved - through LP/CD reviews, record sleeve/CD inset essays and text translations.

It included entire English versions of Wagner's opera texts, programme notes for Glyndebourne and Covent Garden opera performances and for Edinburgh Festival concerts, for which he also gave numerous introductory talks at the Queen's Hall.

Probably his last word as a music journalist was the essay on the 150th anniversary of the birth of the pioneering English woman composer, Dame Ethel Smyth, which was published, along with his usual crop of CD reviews, in a music periodical issue of last month.

Branscombe was one of a number of distinguished scholars who served on the International Advisory Board of the Modern Humanities Research Association London involved with the annual publication of the Austrian Studies journal. He was also invited to deliver the prestigious Cramb Lecture at Glasgow University during the height of his career.

Branscombe was a Friend of the St Andrews-based Heisenberg Ensemble and a keen supporter of the St Andrews University Symphony Orchestra. He was also a life member of the conservation pressure group, St Andrews Preservation Trust. His other interests included cricket and ornithology.

Professor Keith Brown, deputy principal and Master of the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard, said: "Peter was a much respected and liked colleague.

"He continued to be active in research and the life of the school until very recently."

He is survived by his wife, Marina, a graduate of his department whom he married in 1967, daughter Sophie, sons Julian and Neil and three grandchildren.

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