Ernest Warburton (10 June 1937 in Irlam – 7 August 2001 in London) was a noted musicologist who specialized in the music of Johann Christian Bach. His efforts resulted in the publication from 1984 to 1999 of The Collected Works of Johann Christian Bach in 48 volumes.
Warburton was also an executive with BBC Radio, serving as Head of Music Programmes (1977–1982) and Editor of Music for BBC Radio 3 (1982–1986) before transferring to the BBC World Service. During this period, he revived many obscure operas, such as Wagner's Die Feen and Rienzi and Puccini's Le Villi.
As general editor of The Collected Works of Johann Christian Bach, Warburton not only edited a share of the music, but wrote out the scores printed in the edition in his own calligraphy.
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After obtaining his BA at Oxford in 1959, Warburton was unable to stay there to complete his DPhil, due to lack of money. He therefore worked as the music teacher at Queen Mary's Grammar School for Boys, Basingstoke, Hants, from 1960 to 1964, completing his DPhil in his own time. This shortage of money explains why such a distinguished musicologist was briefly a teacher at a relatively obscure provincial school. Even then, his behaviour was exactly as later described in one of his obituaries: “Although feared by some for his acerbic tongue - unleashed only on those who fell below the high standards he set himself and required from others - he was a companionable and humorous man, long-suffering and often highly entertaining.” He was wont, for example, to severely admonish his school choir immediately before a concert, likening them to a “bunch of wet cod on a slab”. His greatest achievement at the school was the single-handed direction of the Bach St Matthew Passion at the town Parish Church. This production involved his own school choir, the choir of the Girls’ High School, and some professional soloists. To be known later as “the white tornado” on account of his striking platinum blond hair (he had albinism), the boys’ nickname for him at the school was simply “Omo” (after the contemporary washing powder which was “whiter than white”).
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