Borsdorf was born in Saxony in 1854. He studied the French horn at the Conservatoire in Dresden and played in a military band. In 1879, he moved to England where he stayed for the rest of his life, becoming the most important horn player in England. The conductor Hans Richter offered him at job in the orchestra at Covent Garden. In 1904, he joined the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra. The four horn players in that orchestra were excellent players and were often called “God’s Own Quartet”.
Borsdorf and his colleague Franz Paersch had learned to play on horns that were made in Germany. These had a wide bore (the hole through the tube). However, both players changed to playing instruments made in France by a horn-maker called Raoux. These instruments had a narrower bore. They were not quite as powerful but gave a particularly clear sound.
Borsdorf became professor at the Royal College of Music when it was founded in 1882. He also taught at the Royal Academy of Music. He soon became the best horn player in London. He was playing principal horn in the orchestra which Henry Wood conducted at the very first Promenade Concert in the Queen’s Hall in 1895 (the fourth horn was A.E.Brain, grandfather of Dennis Brain). He was also in the orchestra when Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel was given its first performance in England in 1896 with the composer conducting.
In 1913, he became ill and had to have teeth removed. There was also another problem for him: World War I broke out in 1914 and there was a lot of anti-German feeling in England. After the war he rarely played in public.
Borsdorf died in 1923. He had done more than anyone else to improve the standard of horn playing in England. He taught many talented pupils, including A.E.Brain Jr., Aubrey Brain, Frank Probyn and his own three sons: Oskar, Francis and Emil who all became professional horn players.
- Oxford Music Online retrieved 21.11.2010
- Pettitt, Stephen. Dennis Brain: A Biography. London: Robert Hale, 1976. ISBN 0-7091-5772-X