String Quartet No.21 in g minor, Op.46 No.3
Onslow's Twenty First String Quartet was composed in 1831, the last of a set of three. The Chamber Music Journal described it as follows:
"The dramatic opening to the first movement, Allegro non troppo vivo, of String Quartet No.21, Op.46 No.3 in g minor immediately grabs the listener’s attention. A series of powerful chords gives way to a low-pitched, soft, sinister, somewhat syncopated theme in the viola and cello. Onslow was particularly proud of the expressive second movement, Adagio religioso. The movement opens with a series of long chords sounding much like an organ. Slowly the music proceed toward several effective dramatic climaxes. Later, the pizzicato triplet accompaniment in the cello against a long-lined melody in the other voices achieves a striking contrast. The sunny, carefree Menuetto allegretto is at times almost Haydnesque and yet there is a certain something to it which places it later than the Vienna Classics. There is a very short trio in which one can hear storm clouds gathering from a distance. The finale, Presto, is characterized by incredible forward drive and excitement. This fine quartet unquestionably belongs in the concert hall"
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.