Ursula Günther

Ursula Günther (15 June 1927  20 or 21 November 2006) was a German musicologist specializing in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries and the music of Giuseppe Verdi.


Ursula Günther was born Ursula Rösse in Hamburg.[1] After studying piano with D. Kraus and H. E. Riebensahm and music theory with H. Stahmer in Hamburg, she graduated with a music teacher's degree in 1947. From 1948 she studied music with Heinrich Husmann at the University of Hamburg along with other subjects such as art history, German and Romance Literature, philosophy, psychology, and phonetics. In 1957 at Hamburg she wrote a thesis under the tutelage of Heinrich Besseler on the change in style of the French song in the second half of the fourteenth century which built onto the research of Friedrich Ludwig.

With financial support from her husband, encouragement from Gilbert Reaney, Armen Carapetyan, and, from 1962, funds from the German Research Foundation, she took the position as a teacher in Ahrensburg in order to finish her habilitation which had been rejected by some German professors.[1] Encouraged also by Oliver Strunk and Nanie Bridgeman, she joined in 1969 the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris as attaché de recherche (researcher) and was promoted as chargé de recherche (research fellow) with Jacques Chailley in 1975, where she taught as a lecturer at the Sorbonne from 1969 to 1971 to prepare her "Doctorat d' état" on Verdi's French years.

After obtaining her habilitation in Göttingen in 1972 with an edition of motets of the fourteenth century (published in 1965 by A. Carapetayan in CMM 39), she taught one semester as a lecturer in Göttingen before returning to Paris to resume her work as "chargé de recherche".[1] In the summer of 1973 she was a visiting professor at New York University and was subsequently invited to give lectures by numerous American universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Brandeis, Philadelphia, Maryland, Bloomington, UC Davis, and Los Angeles. She was later appointed as chargé de cours (lecturer) by the Free University in Brussels to teach the history of music notation. In 1973, she turned down an offer from Brandeis University and in 1975 took a job as a lecturer at the University of Göttingen. While she continued to teach in Brussels, in 1977 was appointed professor at the University of Göttingen and finally gave up her post at the CNRS. The new University Act of the State of Lower Saxony enabled her to be director of Musicology in Göttingen for some time. In 1977, she held summer courses on Verdi research at Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois. In 1992, she retired[1] and lived in Ahrensburg near Hamburg, where she died either on 20 November[2] or 21 November 2006.[3]


Ursula Günther coined the term ars subtilior which classified the music of the late fourteenth century to describe the subtle rhythm reflected in the music of the time. Another field of research was the work of Giuseppe Verdi. She published his opera Don Carlos in an issue with the five-act French original version and also with the four-act Italian version. She published widely, becoming one of the most influential musicologists of the twentieth century.


Fourteenth-century music

Giuseppe Verdi

Friedrich Ludwig


  1. 1 2 3 4
    • Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, "Günther, Ursula". In: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  2. Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht [+unidentified editor], "Günther, Ursula" (updated 15 July 2008), Grove Music Online, edited by Deane Root (accessed 19 March 2014).
  3. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (5 December 2006), Feuilleton section.

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