George Onslow

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String Quartet No.23 in A Major, Op.48

String Quartet No.23, Op.48 in A Major was completed in the summer of 1834 and published early in 1835. The first theme of the opening movement, Allegro grazioso e moderato, is gentle and genial, The charming second movement, Andante, is full of forward motion and more in the manner of brisk intermezzo. Of the Scherzo presto which comes next,  it would be best to characterize it as “Seldom equalled, never surpassed.” The cello and viola introduce the spooky, lop-sided, off beat opening theme. The trio section, is the slowest music of the quartet, and only a brief 16 measure interlude in this helter-skelter, amazing movement. The modern-sounding tonalities, for that time, clearly indicate Onslow was keeping abreast of, if not pioneering, developments. The finale, Allegro vivace, has a very exciting opening theme which is calmed by the introduction of the second subject, a series of chromatic passages. When the first theme is reintroduced, it is then followed by long running, virtuosic passages in all the voices.


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


We have reprinted the nearly 180 year old original edition, cleaning it of watermarks and other detritus caused by time, but it is impossible to remove all of the tiny specs which occur here and there. But they in no way affect the readability of the parts.

Parts: $22.95




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