Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Osman [Uthman], Muhammed

(b Cairo, 1855; d Cairo, 19 Dec 1900). Egyptian composer. The son of a teacher in a Cairo mosque, he learnt music with the qānūn player Qustandi Mansy, and then underwent another period of apprenticeship as a singer with the ensemble of El-Rasheedy, thus learning much about modes, Arab rhythms and the vocal repertory. He achieved fame as a singer but lost his voice through illness and turned to composition in the classical monodic style of the period. Soon acknowledged as one of the leading composers of his time, he had his vocal pieces performed by the best singers, in particular Abdo El Hamouly. His most important contribution to the vocal repertory was in the genre of the dawr, an elaborate form for solo singer, small chorus of about four men and takht, a traditional ensemble of ‘ud (lute), qānūn (zither), nay (end-blown flute), violin and percussion. Osman took up the dawr, which originated in Egypt with El-Masloub, and invested it with new life, establishing it as the most important and widely performed type of Egyptian vocal art music. With him the dawr consisted of three (or four) sections with short instrumental interludes, the first solo and the subsequent ones alternating the soloist with the chorus in melodies that soared higher in range. In the middle (hank) section he introduced elaborate melismatic passages, still in antiphony, where the tempo became more lively. The beautifully rounded lines and subtle modulations of his compositions reveal a particular melodic gift.

Osman also taught music and singing. One of his most famous students was the Jewish composer-singer Dawood Hosny. On one occasion he travelled to Istanbul, with a musical delegation, to sing for the sultan, who decorated him. On his return he is said to have introduced certain Turkish modes previously unknown in Egypt. In addition to many dawr pieces (reckoned by recent research to number 68) he composed mūwashshah songs, which are shorter traditional vocal pieces in which the complex irregular rhythmic patterns are preserved. His music was transmitted orally until the early decades of the 20th century, when it was notated in outline, leaving many details to the imagination and skill of the performer. Once neglected, his pieces have returned to full favour. Among his most important disciples were two of his sons, the singers Aziz and Ibrahim. Some later composers revived his music in new forms; Gamal Abdel-Rahim's orchestral-choral work Kadni'l hawa is based on Osman's dawr.


M. Kamel and I. Shafik: Muhammad Osman (Cairo, n.d.)

A. El-Guindy: Ruwwad al-nagham el-Araby [Pioneers of Arab melodies] (Dar Talas, Damascus, 1984)

H.T. Abdel-Latif: Mohammed Osman's Style in Composing the ‘Dawr’ (thesis, Helwan U., 1989)

A. Khairy: Analytical Study of the ‘Hank’ Section in the Form ‘Dawr’ by Mohammad Osman, Abdel-Fattah Qatr and Mohammad Abdel-Wahab (diss., Helwan U., 1993)



City in Lower Saxony, Germany. It was established as an ecclesiastical centre with the foundation of a bishopric by Charlemagne in about 785, and as a result the strong influence of Alcuin was felt in the cathedral school (founded 9th century). For several centuries the Scholaster, and from 1221 the cathedral Kantor, was responsible for training the ‘poor scholars’ who constituted the cathedral choir. In the 13th and 14th centuries there were also musical establishments in the Marienkirche, Johanniskirche and Katharinenkirche. There was a corps of town musicians (Stadtmusikanten) whose history is recorded continuously from 1386 to 1842.

Dramatic presentations of biblical narratives were common in medieval Germany, and a manuscript, dating from the early 16th century, that belonged to the Gertrudenkloster on the outskirts of the town contains an Easter play; the play is in German, but the hymns (which have musical notation) are in the customary Latin. There are also fragments of a processional, a Christmas celebration, and a Bischofsspiel; after the Reformation such dramatic activity was taken over by the students of the town Gymnasium.

During the Reformation the Protestant cause was supported by the citizens of Osnabrück, but the cathedral and the Johanniskirche remained Roman Catholic. Dual loyalties led to the maintenance of both Protestant and Catholic traditions, the latter being strengthened in 1625 with the arrival of the Jesuits, at whose school biblical drama was cultivated. At that time Bishop Franz Wilhelm von Wartenburg, an acquaintance of Carissimi, took a special interest in church music, emphasizing its importance at synods in 1628 and 1651; a German songbook with traditional Catholic liturgical music was issued in 1628, and in 1652 a Directorum chori. After the Peace of Westphalia (signed at Osnabrück in 1648) it was determined that the bishopric of Osnabrück should be held alternately by a Catholic and a Protestant.

During the 16th and 17th centuries many organ builders worked in Osnabrück, among them members of the Berner, Adam and Eberhard families in the town, as well as Reinking of Bielefeld, Vater from Hanover and the Klausings from Herford. In the 17th century the town benefited from the musicians of Duke Philipp Sigesmund of Brunswick-Lüneburg’s coming from his palace at nearby Iburg to assist those of Osnabrück.

Public concerts, held at first in a room in the Wappen von London, were given from 1770 when Graun’s Der Tod Jesu was sung; four years later there were regular weekly concerts. At the end of the 18th century and for the first quarter of the 19th, M.B. Veltmann (organist of the Marienkirche, 1790–1835) was responsible for many musical undertakings. In 1813 a school for singing was instituted, in 1832 the Alte Liedertafel, followed by the Neue Liedertafel in 1835 and the Dom-Gesangverein in 1843.

In 1800 the Theater an der Gildewart was built, and opera performances were given there from 1819 until 1909. Albert Lortzing worked in Osnabrück for six years from 1827. A small theatre built in 1871 was taken over by the city in 1882 and replaced in 1909 with the Grosses Haus on the Domhof. This was destroyed during air raids in 1945 and rebuilt in 1950. In 1920 a conservatory was founded in Osnabrück by F.M. Anton.

The Osnabrücker Symphonieorchester is maintained by the theatre, while concerts are organized by the Musikverein. The conservatory provides chamber music recitals and houses a special studio for the cultivation of ‘new music’. An annual festival, the Osnabrücker Musiktage, is held in June in the nearby spa town of Bad Rothenfelde.


J. Jaeger: Die Schola Carolina osnabrugensis (Osnabrück, 1904)

L. Bäte: Osnabrücker Theater im 18. Jahrhundert (Osnabrück, 1930)

F. Bösken: Musikgeschichte der Stadt Osnabrück (Regensburg, 1937)

H.H. Breuer: Das mittelniederdeutsche Osnabrücker Osterspiel: der Ursprung des Osterspiels und die Prozession (Osnabrück, 1939)


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