String Quartet No.20 in F Major, Op.46 No.2
Onslow's String Quartet No.20 in F Major, Op.46 No.2 is the second of a set of three composed in 1831. The main theme of the genial opening movement, Allegro, is given to the cello as a brief solo before the others join in. In the second movement, Andante sostenuto e semplice, Onslow’s use of pizzicato to present the melody against long sustained chords in the other voices is conceived and executed masterfully. First the cello is given the theme against the upper three voices, then the first violin against the lower three voices with the cello playing in its treble register. The Menuetto vivace which follows is certainly nothing that could be danced to, but it is a captivating moto perpetuo. The charming contrasting trio is reminiscent of the hunting theme from Rossini’s William Tell. In the finale, Allegro vivace e scherzo, the drum-like rhythm of the opening theme serves to propel the music forward from start to rousing finish. This is another fine quartet which should be of interest to both amateurs and professionals.---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, during his own lifetime and up to the end of the 19th century, held in the highest regard, particularly in Germany, Austria and England where he was regularly placed in the front rank of composers. 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. Schumann, perhaps the foremost music critic during the first part of the 19th century, regarded Onslow’s chamber music on a par with that of Mozart. Haydn and Beethoven. Mendelssohn was also of this opinion. Publishers such as Breitkopf & Härtel and Kistner were among many which competed to bring out his works. Such was Onslow’s reputation that he was elected to succeed Cherubini as Director of the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts, based on the excellence of his chamber music and this, in an “Opera Mad France”, which had little regard for chamber music. However, after the First World War, his music, along with that of so many other fine composers, fell into oblivion and up until 1984, the bicentennial of his birth, he remained virtually unknown. Since then, his music, to the delight of players and listeners alike, is slowly being rediscovered, played and recorded. Onslow’s writing was unique in that he was successfully able to merge the drama of the opera into the chamber music idiom perfected by the Vienna masters.
Our edition is a reprint of the original Kistner edition, however, we have added rehearsal numbers and corrected the few mistakes which it had.