Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Osorio, Jorge (Federico)

(b Mexico City, 22 March 1951). Mexican pianist. He trained at the conservatory in Mexico City and the Paris Conservatoire, and later at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, making his official début in 1964 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. The winner of numerous international awards, he has made admired recordings of music by Beethoven, Brahms, Ponce, Prokofiev, Ravel and Tchaikovsky. He has also proved to be a sensitive interpreter of Debussy and Schubert. His playing combines a beautiful, rounded tone with an impressive grasp of large-scale structure, and while he commands a virtuoso technique he has never been a flamboyant player. Osorio’s interpretations are notable for a classical sense of proportion and an eloquence which always puts the composer first. Two works by the Mexican composer Carlos Jiménez Mabarak have been dedicated to him, and in 1969 he gave the first ever performances in Mexico and Guatemala of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C, k503. He is also an accomplished chamber musician whose partners have included Henryk Szeryng, Mayumi Fujikawa, Richard Markson, the mezzo-soprano Conchita Antuñano, and the Tel-Aviv and Moscow string quartets.



(It.: ‘alternatively’; originally o sia: ‘or be it’).

A word used in musical scores – as also, more rarely, oppure (particularly in Verdi), overo or ovvero (literally ‘or rather’) – to mark an alternative to a passage. This occurs in several different circumstances: (i) simpler versions, particularly in 19th-century piano music; (ii) embellished versions, particularly in bel canto vocal music; (iii) in scholarly texts, readings from other sources or alternative interpretations of the same source; (iv) changes made to accommodate the music to an instrument with a slightly shorter range, whether a piano with a smaller keyboard or an oboe, for instance, playing violin music; (v) alternative orchestration for an orchestra smaller or larger than that originally intended.


Ossian [Oisean, Oisín].

The legendary poet of the Celtic cycle of heroic tales surrounding Fionn mac Cumhaill (Fingal), leader of the Fenian warband, who is said to have lived in Ireland and Scotland before the Christian era. Ossian, the son of Fionn, is traditionally regarded as the author of most narratives concerning the Fenians and is imagined to have survived until the time of St Patrick (d 461), when the saint had the tales written down. The name of Ossian became known throughout Europe with the publication in 1760 of James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and Translated from the Galic or Erse Language, which was followed by Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem together with Several Other Poems Composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal (1761–2), Temora (1763) and The Works of Ossian, the Son of Fingal, Translated from the Gaelic Language (1765); these books contained epic poems in English purportedly translated from ancient Gaelic originals. Although the poetry was partly adapted from Gaelic lays that Macpherson knew from oral tradition and from manuscripts, it was written in a style modelled on Homer, Milton and the King James Bible. Although Hume and Samuel Johnson criticized Macpherson's work, the Ossianic poems were widely praised in Europe and North America, and had an immense influence on the Romantic movement in literature and the arts, inspiring operas, songs, instrumental pieces, verses and artworks.

The basis of Macpherson's poems rests on heroic tales in Irish and Scottish oral and literary traditions, some of which, both prose narratives and sung lays, were recorded in the 20th century, a few of the latter from Ireland but most from Scotland. The Fenian or Ossianic lay (Gaelic dán, duan, laoidh) first appeared as a sung form in Ireland in the 12th century and was very popular from at least the 15th. A version of Fin as Oshin (‘The Burning of Fionn's House’) survives in Manx, the Gaelic of the Isle of Man, in copies made soon after the publication of Macpherson's poems. The earliest notation of music from the oral lay tradition appears in Patrick MacDonald's Highland Vocal Airs of 1784, which includes the melody of Laoidh Mhanuis (‘The Lay of Manus’); a version of this tale as sung by Donald Sinclair of the island of Tiree in the Hebrides was recorded as late as 1968. The third volume of Edward Bunting's A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music (1840) contains the airs of two lays from Irish sources obtained earlier, and in 1870–71 Frances Tolmie noted five lays from a cottar, Margaret MacLeod, on Skye. Walker (1786), O'Curry (1873) and Tolmie (1911) suggested that singing of the lays was confined to a solo voice, although in bardic times a harp would normally have accompanied the singer (see Bard). Tolmie remarks that the lays were ‘sung to the same air with a similar refrain’. The use of repeated couplets found in some lays suggests that a structure of call and response, such as is found in waulking songs, may have applied at one time. In the 20th-century recordings from oral tradition, the melodic line is sometimes freely sung in a chant-like fashion, at other times with a perceptible or even a marked regularity of rhythm.

Several Ossianic lays were recorded in the 20th century, for example, Laoi na mná móire (‘Lay of the Big Woman’) found in County Waterford in Ireland (1936) and documented from elsewhere, including Donegal, where Séamus O híghne of Glencolumbkille was recorded singing a version of the lay in 1945 and again in 1949. Teanntachd mhór na Féine (‘The Great Difficulty of the Fiann’) was recorded on wire in 1953 by Angus MacIsaac of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, for J.L. Campbell. The islanders of the Hebrides have been the most prolific source for lays: in 1953 Duncan MacLeod of South Uist sang a version of Laoidh Fhraoich (‘The Lay of Fraoch’), a tale that has also been recorded in Mull, Skye, South Uist and Tiree. A pair of lays, Duan na Muilgheartaich (‘Song of the Sea Hag’) and Duan na Ceardaich (‘Song of the Smithy’), were recorded from Penny Morrison of South Uist in 1953–4. The latter song, the best known of all the lays in the Uists and Barra, and Laoidh Chaoilte (‘The Lay of Caoilte’) were recorded from Mrs Archie MacDonald of South Uist in 1965. All these songs were learnt from oral tradition and tell of encounters and struggles between the Fenian warriors and hostile forces; two warriors of the cycle, Diarmuid and Fraoch, die tragically.

Although these remarkable fragments show that the Ossianic lays have survived in oral tradition, it is the glosses on Macpherson's poems that marked them for worldwide fame. The ever-popular symphonic work noted for its Ossianic associations, Mendelssohn's overture Die Hebriden (op.26), was inspired by a visit to Scotland in 1829. His publisher, Breitkopf & Härtel, suggested the title Fingals Höhle (‘Fingal's Cave’) for the overture, although Mendelssohn had conceived the main theme before seeing Staffa, the island off the coast of Mull noted for its basalt pillars and cavern, and had originally named the piece Der einsame Insel (‘The Lonely Island’). The popularity of the Ossianiac poems moved other composers to write songs, notably Schubert and Brahms, both of whom completed works for voice. Schubert wrote nine songs on Ossianic poems between 1815 and 1817: Lodas Gespenst (d150), Kolmas Klage (d217), Ossians Lied (d278), Das Mädchen von Inistore (d281), Cronnan (d282), Shilric und Vinvela (d293), Der Tod Oskars (d375), Lorma (d376; and fragment d327) and Die Nacht (d534). Five of the nine are lengthy, taking up to ten minutes to perform, and some, such as the dramatic Der Tod Oskars or Die Nacht with its lyrical dialogue, come close to an operatic conception. Shilric und Vinvela is subtitled a ‘dramatic cantata for three voices and piano’. Brahms wrote a setting from Ossian for chorus with accompaniment, Gesang aus Fingal (op.17 no.4, 1859–60) and the unaccompanied choral piece Darthulas Grabgesang (op.42 no.3, 1861). Bizet also composed an overture (now lost) inspired by the tales of Ossian, La chasse d'Ossian (1860–61).

A string of operas, overtures, tone poems and songs by lesser figures appeared soon after the publication of Macpherson's poems, including F.-H. Barthélemon's Oithona (1768) and F.W. Rust's monodrama Colma (c1780). William Reeve composed the music for the pantomime-ballet Oscar and Malvina, or The Hall of Fingal, which was performed with great success at Covent Garden in 1791. Le Sueur's opera, Ossian, ou Les bardes (1804) greatly pleased Napoleon; and Gade's overture Efterklänge af Ossian (1840) was widely admired. The attraction of Ossian lingered on into the 20th century with Liza Lehmann's cantata Leaves from Ossian (1909), Ippolitov-Ivanov's Iz pesen Ossiana (‘From Ossian's Songs’, 1925) and works by the Scottish composers Ian Whyte, who wrote the opera Comala (1929), and Cedric Thorpe Davie, whose cantata Dirge for Cuchullin (1935) was composed almost 200 years after Macpherson's poems were written.


The Maid of Selma (song), James Oswald, c1765; Oithona (dramatic poem), F.-H. Barthélemon, 1768; Colma (monodrama), F.W. Rust, c1780; Fingal (incid music), Rust, 1782; Sonnengesang Ossians (lyric scene), J.R. Zumsteeg, 1782; Ossian auf Slimora (ballade), Zumsteeg, 1790; Oscar and Malvina, or The Hall of Fingal (pantomime-ballet), William Reeve, collab. William Shield, 1791; Colma (song, trans. J.W. von Goethe), Zumsteeg, 1793; Das Mädchen von Kola; ein Gesang Ossians (aria), C.D. von Dittersdorf, 1795

Ossians Harfe (aria), F.L.A. Kunzen, c1800; Chant gallique (song), J.-F. Le Sueur, 1802; Sulmalle (lyric duet), B.A. Weber, 1802; Comala (dramatic poem), Harriet Wainwright, 1803; Ossian, ou Les bardes (opéra), J.-F. Le Sueur, 1804; Fingallo e Camala (op), Stefano Pavesi, 1805; Ossians Harfe (song), F.L.A. Kunzen, 1806; Uthal [orig. Malvina] (opéra), E.-N. Méhul, 1806; Scène tirée des poésies d'Ossian (scène lyrique), Christian Kalkbrenner, ?1806; Colmal (heroische Oper), Peter Winter, 1809

Kolmas Klage [d217], Ossians Lied nach dem Falle Nathos [d278], Das Mädchen von Inistore [d281], Cronnan [d282], Shilric und Vinvela [d293] (songs), Schubert, 1815; Lodas Gespenst [d150], Der Tod Oskars [d375], Lorma [d376], and frag. [d327] (songs), Schubert, 1816; Die Nacht [d534] (song), Schubert, 1817; Malvina (ballad op), George Macfarren (the elder), 1826; Die Hebriden [Fingal's Cave] op.26 (ov.), Mendelssohn, 1830; Oskars Tod (op), J.-G. Kastner, c1833; Ur Ossians dunkla sagovärld (male vocal qt), O.J. Lindblad, c1835; Efterklänge af Ossian (ov.), Niels Gade, 1840; Comala (cant), Gade, 1846

Ossian, 2 ballades, L.M. Gottschalk, ?1847–9; Danse ossianique, Gottschalk, ?1850; Le lever de la lune (song), Saint-Saëns, 1855; Marche de nuit, Gottschalk, 1855; Comala (ov.), W.H. Glover, c1855; Komala, die Königstochter von Inisthore (op), Eduard Sobolewski, 1857; Gesang aus Fingal op.17 no.4, Brahms, 1859–60; Darthulas Grabesgesang op.42 no.3, Brahms, 1861; Kuwala (cant), J.H. Malling, c1865; Ossian (sym. poem), Arthur Coquard, 1882; Ossian (ov.), Frederick Corder, 1882; Moïna (op), Sylvain Dupuis, 1884

Comala (sym. poem), John McEwen, 1897; Diarmid, (grand op), Hamish MacCunn, 1897; Leaves from Ossian (cant), Liza Lehmann, 1909; Ossian (sym. prelude), Eugène Goossens, 1915 (withdrawn); Iz pesen Ossiana [From Ossian's songs], Ippolitov-Ivanov, 1925; Comala, (op), Ian Whyte, 1929; Dirge for Cuchillin, Cedric Thorpe Davie, 1935


Lost works: Comala (incid music), F.G. Fleischer, ?late 18th century; Comala (ode), Thomas Busby, ?1800; Le chant d'Ossian, E.-N. Méhul, 1811; La chasse d'Ossian (ov.) Bizet, 1860–1; Oithona (op), Edgar Bainton, 1906


editions, sources

J.C. Walker: Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (Dublin, 1786/R, 2/1818)

E. Bunting, ed.: A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland (Dublin, 1796–1840/R)

E. O'Curry, ed.: On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish (Dublin, 1873)

J.G. Herder: ‘Auszug aus einem Briefwechsel über Ossian und die Lieder alter Völker’, Herders sämmtliche Werke, ed. B. Suphan, v (Berlin, 1891), 159–207

J.L. Campbell, ed.: Hebridean Folksongs, ii–iii (Oxford, 1977–81) [incl. transcr. from recordings]

H. Gaskill, ed.: James Macpherson: The Poems of Ossian and Related Works (Edinburgh, 1996) [with introduction by F. Stafford]


S. Hensel: Die Familie Mendelssohn, 1729–1847, nach Briefen und Tagebüchern (Berlin, 1879)

F. Tolmie: ‘One Hundred and Five Songs of Occupation from the Western Isles of Scotland’, JFSS, iv (1910–13), 157–276

M. Kirk: ‘Ossian-ouverturens program’, DMt, xv (1940), 1–5

D.S. Thomson: The Gaelic Sources of Macpherson's ‘Ossian’ (Edinburgh, 1952)

A.S. Garlington: ‘Lesueur, “Ossian” and Berlioz’, JAMS, xvii (1964), 206–08

A. Gillies: A Hebridean in Goethe's Weimar: the Reverend James Macdonald and the Cultural Relations between Scotland and Germany (Oxford, 1969)

F. Matthiassen: ‘“Unsre kunst heisst poesie”: om Niels W. Gades Ossian-ouverture’, STMf, liii (1971), 67–77 [with Ger. summary]

E. Bassin: The Old Songs of Skye: Frances Tolmie and her Circle, ed. D. Bowman (London, 1977)

D. Charlton: ‘Ossian, Le Sueur und Opera’, SMH, xi (1977), 37–52

D. Jenkins and M. Visocchi: Mendelssohn in Scotland (London, 1978)

R. Fiske: Scotland in Music: a European Enthusiasm (Cambridge, 1983)

A. Bruford: ‘The Singing of Fenian and Similar Lays in Scotland’, Ballad Research: Dublin 1985, 55–70

J. MacInnes: ‘Twentieth-Century Recordings of Scottish Gaelic Heroic Ballads’, The Heroic Process: Form, Function and Fantasy in Folk Epic. Proceedings of the International Folk Epic Conference: Dublin 1985, ed. B. Almqvist, S. Ó Catháin and P. Ó Héalái (Dublin, 1987), 101–30

F. Stafford: The Sublime Savage: a Study of James MacPherson and the Poems of Ossian (Edinburgh, 1988)

M. Jahrmärker: Ossian: eine Figur und eine Idee des europäischen Musiktheaters um 1800 (Cologne, 1993)

H. Shields: Narrative Singing in Ireland: Lays, Ballads, Come-all-yes and Other Songs (Dublin, 1993)

C. Smith: ‘Ossian, ou Les Bardes: an Opera by Jean-François Le Sueur’, From Gaelic to Romantic: Ossianic Translations, ed. F. Stafford and H. Gaskill (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA, 1998), 153–62


Scéalamhráin Cheilteacha [Celtic narrative songs] (1985) [Folk Music Society of Ireland cassette; with accompanying book by H. Shields, Dublin, 1985]

Scottish Tradition II: Music from the Western Isles, Greentrax Records CDTRAX 9002 (1992)


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