James Oswald

About James Oswald

Though little is known of Oswald's early life he was quite active in Scotland before moving to London in 1741. As a violinist he published two sets of compositions in 1736 and 1740 respectively. The first was a "Collection of Minuets" and the latter was a "Curious Collection of Scots Tunes." By this time he was also active as a singer. In London Oswald was paired with the publisher John Simpson. When Simpson died, Oswald ventured on his own and set-up a publishing shop for popular music. "The Caledonian Pocket Companion," in fifteen volumes, was a collection of Scottish folk tunes, a most excellent publication. Because he helped to found a secret musical society, The Temple of Apollo, with Burney and Reid who edited each other's works, it is difficult to assess some of the music that should or should not be attributed to Oswald. He may have contributed to stage productions of Alfred, Harlequin Ranger, and The Genii. In 1761 he was appointed as the chamber composer to George III who had just ascended the thrown. Oswald set "God save the King" for the bells of Windsor Church and may have composed the melody. "Airs for the Four Seasons" were trio sonatas sparked with original structures. Oswald's short works are noteworthy but his technical skills were never tested through extended formal structures. ~ Keith Johnson