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Charles A. Roeckle

OBERDOERFFER, FRITZ (1895–1979). Fritz Oberdoerffer, musicologist and professor of music, was born on November 4, 1895, in Hamburg, Germany. Oberdoerffer attended school in Hamburg (1906–08) and Jena (1908–14). Following service in the German army in World War I, he studied at the University of Jena in 1919 and at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1920 to 1923, pursuing studies in music theory, music composition, and piano. In 1921 he was awarded the Robert Schumann Stipendium at Leipzig.

On February 14, 1925, he married Rosemarie Herschkowitsch. A daughter, Marianne, was born on February 11, 1926. By 1926 the family had moved to Berlin, where Oberdoerffer took advanced piano lessons from 1926 to 1929 from a famed Russian piano virtuoso, Leonid Kreutzer. In 1929 Oberdoerffer entered the Humboldt University of Berlin to undertake graduate study in music history and literature, philosophy, and German literature. Among his teachers were some of the most influential musicologists of the twentieth century, including Arnold Schering, Johannes Wolf, Erich Moritz von Hornbostel, Curt Sachs, Georg Schünemann, and Friedrich Blume. Oberdoerffer completed his studies at the university in 1933 and received his Ph.D. in 1939. His dissertation, Der Generalbass in der Instrumentalmusik des ausgehenden 18. Jahrhunderts (The Thorough-Bass in the Instrumental Music of the Late 18th Century), was published by Bärenreiter Verlag in Kassel in 1939.

From his arrival in Berlin, through his years of graduate study, and into the years of World War II, Oberdoerffer earned a living by teaching and performing. He received a State Teacher Certificate for piano in 1927 and a State Teacher Certificate for music history in 1933. From 1926 to 1938 he taught piano and music history at various music conservatories in Berlin, including the Klindworth–Scharwenka Conservatory. He was also active in Berlin from 1926 to 1944 as a private instructor of piano, music theory, and music history; as a vocal coach; and as an accompanist and chamber music performer. From 1942 to 1945 (with an interruption from 1944 to the end of the war), he taught music history, ear training, and score playing at the Institute for Evangelical Church Music in Berlin–Spandau. Before the end of the war Oberdoerffer and his wife and daughter were compelled by the Nazis to work in a forced labor camp. After World War II, Oberdoerffer was appointed chief of archive records and tapes at the library of Radio Berlin, a position he held from 1945 to 1948. In 1949–50, he was employed as an editor with the C. F. Peters Corporation, a music publisher, in New York City.

He moved to Austin in 1950 to become a guest professor at the University of Texas. There, his duties included teaching courses in musicology, music history and literature, piano, and coaching. He remained a "guest" from 1950 to 1964, at which time he was given a permanent appointment and promoted to the rank of professor. From 1964 until his retirement in July 1974, he taught courses in musicology, music history and literature, and coaching. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at UT, Oberdoerffer continued to pursue his research. He wrote an extended article on thorough-bass (Generalbass) for the eminent German music encyclopedia Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, as well as ten smaller articles for the same publication. He also published articles in leading scholarly journals such as Acta Musicologica, Die Musikforschung, and Musica, as well as articles in Deutsche Tonkünstlerzeitung, Neues Musikblatt, American Music Teacher, and Texas String News.

However, even in his research, he was never far from his passionate love of performance and from his commitment to making the music of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe available for general performers. He worked tirelessly to produce modern performing editions of vocal and choral compositions, chamber music, and orchestral works of these centuries. His numerous editions include works by composers such as Melchior Vulpius (1570–1615), Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672), Johann Rosenmüller (1619–84), Christoph Bernhard (1628–92), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637–1707), Henry Purcell (1659–95), Louis–Nicolas Clérambault (1676–49), Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741), Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Michael Haydn (1737–1806), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91). His editions were published by Bärenreiter, Kassel–Wilhelmshöhe; Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis; Lienau, Berlin–Lichterfelde; C. F. Peters, New York; B. Schott's Söhne, Mainz; and Vieweg, Berlin–Lichterfelde. In 1974, after twenty-four years on the faculty of the Department of Music at the University of Texas at Austin, Oberdoerffer retired. In recognition of his distinguished service, he was named professor emeritus. He died in Austin on December 8, 1979.


Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Charles A. Roeckle, "OBERDOERFFER, FRITZ," accessed May 25, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fob05.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 9, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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