String Quartet No.4 in c minor, Op.8 No.1
ďUpon hearing the first few brooding measures of the introductory Largo, one is immediately impressed by the ideas, emotion and tonal resources available to the composer. In both the Largo and the whirling Allegro agitato, itself a tour dí force, the cello is given a very strong, in many cases a leading, but not solo, role. This is an important, forward looking development. Other than Mozartís Prussian Quartets (K.575, 589 & 590), Haydnís Op.20 No.2 and Beethovenís Op.59 Quartets, there were no comparable examples available to Onslow when he wrote this work sometime between 1809 and 1814. The second movement, Adagio, begins as a dreamy pastoral song but the middle section features a stormy interlude, reminiscent of Beethovenís Sixth Symphony. The third movement, Minuetto Allegretto, combines a charming, Haydnesque minuet with a musette trio section. The opening theme to the finale, Presto, is a downward plunging passage of considerable force. The viola then begins a fugal development of the main theme. The second theme clearly conjures up the mood of Marchandís galloping La Chasse. The sound of this quartet is very original, it does not bring to mind the music of anyone else. It can be recommended to amateurs and professionals alike."---The Chamber Music Journal
Perhaps no composer more than George Onslow (1784-1853) illustrates the fickleness of fame. Onslow was born and lived his entire life in France, the son of an English father and French mother. His 36 string quartets and 34 string quintets were a constant feature of concert programs throughout the 19th century, particularly in Germany, Austria and England. where he was regularly placed in the front rank of composers by such experts as Mendelssohn and Schumann. His work was admired by both Beethoven and Schubert, the latter modeling his own 2 cello quintet (D.956) on those of Onslow and not, as is so often claimed, on those of Boccherini. George Onslow's String Quartet No.4 was one of the most popular and frequently performed quartets of its time. Yet, until a few years ago, both he and this quartet were virtually unknown.
This quartet should not be missed by either amateur or professional; it certainly belongs in the repertoire and in the concert hall, and stands in stark contrast to anything being composed at this time. Without doubt, a masterpiece of its kind. We have reprinted a very good exemplar of an early edition however, we have added rehearsal numbers.