Derrick Puffett, who died in 1996 at the age of 49, was a musicologist of great originality and integrity who was for over a decade a pivotal member of the British music analytical community. He firmly believed that an analysis should be a disciplined piece of work concerned with the way in which the music is constructed (‘how the notes work’) rather than with the analyst’s fantasies about it. Although himself well-grounded in Schenkerian and other analytical methods, he was eclectic in the means he brought to bear in his own analysis, ever conscious of the dangers of overzealous attempts to apply systems, and insistent that a work must be approached from whatever directions its content suggested. In 1982, in The Song Cycles of Othmar Schoeck (Berne: Haupt, 1982), he wrote, ‘one should be free to borrow any procedure that may be useful, without having to commit oneself to a party line’, and in 1986 he observed that there was a very narrow line between ‘finding’ a ‘concept’; and ‘cooking an analysis’; (in ‘The Fugue from Tippett’s Second String Quartet’, Music Analysis 5/23). And in 1984: ‘analytical judgements, however rigorously they may be argued, are likely to come out wrong if they are not supported by wide knowledge. Every analyst must be a historian as well’ (King’s College London Music Analysis Conference, 1984).

In his own analysis context was balanced with scrutiny, and there were always unexpected insights and new perspectives. His analytical judgements were sound because they were indeed supported by a wide knowledge and because they grew out of his love of the music itself. His writing was marked by humour, subtle evidence throughout of a man who viewed the world and his reactions to it unselfconsciously and with a sense of proportion; his work speaks with a voice that was very much his own. Convinced of the importance of a thorough working knowledge of the formal methods of analysis, he sounded a strong voice in opposition to the verbal excesses and the self-indulgence of the New Musicology while maintaining a sincere regard for those aspects of it that he felt had something solid to add to the knowledge of music and what makes it work.

Latterly his interest was focused especially on symmetries in the works of Wagner, Strauss, Mahler and Bruckner
the augmented triad, the French sixth and tritonal relationships, and the significance of such constructs in the music of these composers and on the meanings attached to pitch-specific references. At the time of his death he was working on books on Berg, Elgar (this began as a book on Falstaff, but was becoming something much more all-encompassing), Mahler (the Fourth Symphony and the Scherzo of the Sixth) and Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony, and articles on Bruckner (the Adagio of the Ninth Symphony), Busoni, Britten (Death in Venice), Ravel (Chansons madécasses), Tales of Hoffmann and the Kyrie from the B minor Mass. In the ‘bottom drawer’ were works on the Russians Rachmaninov and Stravinsky and on the English composers Holloway and Knussen. Surely the greatest loss was a major book on Wagner’s last seven operas (Fullness of Harmony: Wagner Seen from the End of the Twentieth Century) which had occupied him for many years.