Osborne, Richard (Ellerker) 1943-
OSBORNE, Richard (Ellerker) 1943-
PERSONAL: Born February 22, 1943, in Hessle, England; son of William Harold (a banker) and Georgina Mary (Farrow) Osborne; married Hailz-Emily Wrigley (a literature teacher), January 18, 1986. Education: University of Bristol, B.A., 1965, M.Litt., 1967.
ADDRESSES: Home—2 Vaughan Copse, Eton, Berkshire SL4 6HL, England. E-mail—[email protected] etoncollege.org.uk.
CAREER: Bradfield College, Berkshire, England, English teacher and head of department, 1967-88, head of sixth-form general studies, 1979-88. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), London, England, Radio Three, presenter; Critic's Circle, London, chairman of music section, 1984-87.
(Editor) Conversations with von Karajan, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1989.
Herbert von Karajan: A Life in Music, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 2000.
Till I End My Song: English Music and Musicians,1440-1940: A Perspective from Eton, Cygnet Press (London, England), 2002.
Contributor to Opera on Record and Dictionary of Composers, and to periodicals, including Gramophone, Times Literary Supplement, and Spectator; the Oldie, music critic.
SIDELIGHTS: After reading a review by Richard Osborne of a production of Gioacchino Antonio Rossini's opera Il turco in Italia, British Broadcasting Corporation producer and Giuseppe Verdi scholar Julian Budden commissioned Osborne to conduct a series of radio talks on Rossini. In 1978 Dent publishers commissioned Osborne to write a volume on Rossini for their long-established "Master Musicians" series. The subsequent study of Rossini's life and works was the first to appear in English in fifty years (books in the intervening period had been biographical only). John Rosselli lauded Osborne's Rossini in the Times Literary Supplement, noting that "it deserves to become the standard account in English." The volume's popularity has ensured continued reprints.
Osborne is also editor of Conversations with von Karajan and author of Herbert von Karajan: A Life in Music. The latter was called "the most comprehensive biography yet published of the Austrian conductor, one of the most significant, yet controversial musical figures of the twentieth century" by Notes reviewer Gary A. Galo. Karajan joined the Nazi Party (a career move), but during the war was married to a Jewish woman, a fact that offset his membership, and he eventually went through a "de-Nazification" hearing in order to clear his name. This, however, worked against him, in that it called attention to his status within the Party. He married three times, each time to fill different needs in both his professional and personal lives. Osborne builds on previous research in producing this volume, large at 851 pages, in documenting the life of the opera builder and conductor, who, following the war, earned an international reputation. He recorded with British record producer Walter Legg's new Philharmonia Orchestra, then became leader of the Berlin Philharmonic. His recordings for Deutsche Grammophon sold in numbers that rivaled pop recordings.
Osborne studies Karajan's relationships with performers, producers, directors, and various orchestras. Galo noted that "Osborne's close relationship with Karajan may cause readers to question his objectivity, but such doubts are without foundation, since the author's findings are consistently supported by diligent research; he is exhaustive in his documentation, offering sixty-four pages of detailed notes and references, listed by chapter. Nor does he shy away from criticism when it is warranted. He frequently comments on Karajan's performances, both recorded and live, and his observations are invariably well-founded."
Patrick J. Smith wrote in Opera News that "whether Karajan is seen as the ultimate careerist or as the successor to Toscanini and Furtwangler, his story is worth the telling. Bravo to Osborne for telling it so well." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "beautifully written, eminently fair-minded and full of enthralling anecdotes, this book will be catnip to any serious music lover."
Osborne's Till I End My Song: English Music and Musicians, 1440-1940: A Perspective from Eton is a history of music at Eton College, beginning with the formation of its choir by decree of Henry VI. Osborne notes the many famous composers who studied at Eton, including Thomas Arne, who wrote the music for "God Save the King" and "Rule Britannia." He writes that all of England's national songs have been touched by writers of music and lyrics from Eton. Cecil Spring-Rice wrote the words to the hymn "I Vow to Thee, My Country," and set it to the music of Holst's "Jupiter." The choir school was closed in 1968, but music continues to be funded and remains an important component of an Eton education.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Economist, September 5, 1998, review of Herbert vonKarajan: A Life in Music, p. 80.
Library Journal, May 1, 2000, Bonnie Jo Dopp, review of Herbert von Karajan, p. 116.
Notes, December, 2001, Gary A. Galo, review of Herbert von Karajan, p. 386.
Opera News, July, 2000, Patrick J. Smith, review of Herbert von Karajan, p. 73.
Publishers Weekly, April 24, 2000, review of Herbert von Karajan, p. 74.
Times Literary Supplement, September 26, 1986, John Rosselli, review of Rossini.*