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O saviour of the world

author of text
Order of the 'Visitation of the Sick'

Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825–1889) is one of the most neglected, but most fascinating characters in nineteenth-century church music. As a child, his musical precocity was said to be rivalled only by that of Mozart. ‘Only think,’ he exclaimed as a child of five, ‘papa blows his nose in G!’ At the age of eight he is supposed to have written his opera L’Isola disabitata. His father was ambassador to Persia and Russia and was made a baronet in 1808. Frederick took his names from his father (Gore) and his godfathers, Frederick, Duke of York, and Arthur, Duke of Wellington. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1843, the year before he succeeded to the baronetcy. He was ordained in 1849 and received the DMus in 1854. Ouseley became a curate at St Barnabas, Pimlico, where he presented the organ and paid for the choir’s costs. As a man of considerable wealth, Ouseley was able to found St Michael’s College, Tenbury in Worcestershire (completed in 1856) and became its first Warden. There, influenced by the Oxford Movement, he developed his notions of the cathedral service which, as Nicholas Temperely has observed, became the model over its rivals to become the standard form of cathedral service.

Ouseley became Professor of Music at Oxford University in 1855 and was a considerable scholar in his day, editing the sacred works of Gibbons and making a study of Spanish musical treatises. As a composer he wrote relatively little, although several of his anthems are still regularly performed today. He eschewed secular influences in music at a time when organists ‘inflict upon the congregation long voluntaries, interludes, &c. which consist either of his own vulgar imagination, or selections from the last new opera’. Ouseley commented on the use of secular melodies in hymn tunes as follows: ‘How can they result in aught but the disgust and discouragement of all musical churchmen, the misleading of the unlearned, the abasement of sacred song, the falsification of public taste, and (last, but not least) the dishonour of our God and his worship?’ Ouseley influenced many of the subsequent Victorian church musicians through his musical style and his influence both at Oxford and at St Michael’s College Tenbury—including Stainer, who was invited by Ouseley to become organist there in 1857.

The anthem O Saviour of the World is a short and unpretentious essay for double choir, in what might be termed Ouseley’s self-imposed ecclesiastical compositional idiom. The anthem is appealing in its relative simplicity, in which the words speak clearly to the listener.

from notes by William McVicker ©


The English Anthem, Vol. 2
CDA66519Archive Service


Track 8 on CDA66519 [2'44] Archive Service

Track-specific metadata for CDA66519 track 8

Recording date
4 July 1991
Recording venue
St Paul's Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. The English Anthem, Vol. 2 (CDA66519)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: February 1992
    Deletion date: April 2016
    Archive Service
  2. The St Paul's Cathedral Choir Playlist (CDPL0108)
    Disc 1 Track 23
    Release date: September 2017
    Download only
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