Musician and scholar;

Born: November 28, 1929; Died: September 9, 2011.

KENNETH ELLIOTT, who has died aged 81, was a distinguished musician and music scholar who dedicated his life and energies to bringing the works of forgotten generations of Scottish composers back into the public domain. In doing so, he allowed music to take its proper place in the nation’s acknowledged creative achievements as well as setting it in an international context.

Dr Elliott embarked on this enlightened project after his formal retirement as senior lecturer in Glasgow University’s music department in 1995. The vehicle was to be the publication of editions of early Scottish music under the general title of Musica Scotica.

These publications, while scholarly, are designed to encourage performances by amateur singers and instrumentalists as well as professionals. Their chaste design and clear printing make them ideal for the purpose. Dr Elliott himself was the general editor.

With his mane of Titian hair and slight figure, Dr Elliott never lost his enviably youthful looks or his enthusiasm. Music had loomed large in his life since childhood in Dundee, when he was a chorister in St Paul’s Scottish Episcopal Cathedral. His first degree at St Andrews was in classics, but he was much involved in the music scene.

A formative influence at St Andrews was the Professor of Music, Cedric Thorpe Davie, who wrote the incidental music, in the old Scottish style, for the legendary Edinburgh Festival productions of Sir David Lindsay’s The Three Estates. The young Elliott was in the chorus of the 1951 production but didn’t then realise there was an existing repertoire of early Scottish music. That had to wait till he went to Cambridge.

Here his future interests were gradually focused. Doing a BMus degree under Robin Orr, subsequently Professor of Music at Glasgow University, Dr Elliott attended a course on musical notation with the eminent scholar Thurston Dart. Having studied early manuscripts of English, French and Italian origin, he began to ask himself if there were comparable Scottish manuscripts. And so came his first encounter with the Carver Choir Book in the National Library of Scotland. The mysterious Robert Carver would turn out to be a major figure in the rehabilitation of the Scottish early music tradition.

Dr Elliott went on to do a PhD in Cambridge, working in conjunction with Helena Shire, whose interest was in literary aspects of Renaissance Scots songs. Three years’ work on the music of Scottish 16th and 17th century manuscripts led to the publication of part of Dr Elliott’s doctoral dissertation as Music of Scotland 1500-1700 in the Musica Britannica series.

The rediscovered vocal music, full of rhythm and energy, was promoted by the Saltire Singers quartet. Dr Elliott and Ms Shire prepared music for the quartet’s concerts at the Saltire Society’s base, Gladstone’s Land, during Edinburgh Festivals. Dr Elliott and Fred Rimmer, Robin Orr’s successor as Professor of Music at Glasgow University, also did a series of programmes on Scottish music for Radio Scotland, a precursor to John Purser’s later marathon survey, Scotland’s Music.

Meanwhile, Dr Elliott complemented his academic role in the music department at Glasgow with live music-making, whether piano recitals (he was a spirited Chopin interpreter), or chamber music, or directing the university choral society and chamber orchestra in performances that ranged from Purcell’s Fairy Queen to a series of Mozart Piano Concertos.

Over the years he produced performing editions for radio broadcasts or records for Paisley Abbey Choir. Alan Tavener and his Cappella Nova also collaborated in putting on performances of Dr Elliott’s editions at Glasgow Cathedral, most notably the Carver masses and motets.

As all this material accumulated, Dr Elliott’s thoughts turned to comprehensive publication. With the support of senior colleagues, the technical expertise of Dr Agnes Walker with music-friendly Calliope software, plus other academic and financial encouragement, the project became a reality. The first two volumes – comprising the complete works of Carver and 16th-century Scottish part-songs adapted for solo voice – appeared in 1996. His later publications included Five Cantatas by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik (2005) and Fifty Seventeenth-century Scots Songs (2008). Other scholars have also contributed to the magisterial series under his editorship.

While fascinating in itself, the music featured is interwoven with Scottish literature and history: poets of Scotland’s golden age provided poems for the songs; a 10-part Carver Mass, associated with the Battle of Flodden in 1513, moved an audience in Stirling Castle’s Great Hall last September 11 with its polyphonic climaxes and historical resonances; one of Sir John Clerk’s cantatas, Leo Scotiae Irritatus, concerned the Darien Scheme.

The most intellectually fastidious of men, Dr Elliott was always cautious in his comments about the music he loved and had devoted his life to, even in his assessment of Carver. In an interview 15 years ago he said: “I’m always a bit wary of making too grandiose claims for this music – perhaps because I’ve lived with it for so long.”

In 2000 he suffered a stroke and lay for several days in his Glasgow home before being rescued, when a worried colleague, Dr Greta-Mary Hair, persuaded the police to break down his door.

He was in hospital for several months and was left paralysed on one side. His virtuoso piano and harpsichord-playing days were over. But he surmounted what could have been a tragedy by devoting himself, in his nursing home in Bearsden, even more assiduously to his musical researches and editing. It was almost as if he had gained an extra degree of commitment and wisdom through his brush with mortality. It was always a pleasure to visit him there.