String Quartet No.25 in B flat Major, Op.50
“Onslow’s String Quartet No.25, Op.50 in Bb was composed in 1834 and performed throughout Germany and Austria to great acclaim. Extant concert programs and subsequent newspaper reviews of these concerts showed that it was often presented on the same program with what are still today very well-known works, for example: Beethoven’s Op.74, The Harp, Schubert’s No & 14 Death & the Maiden, and the Mendelssohn Octet. Onslow’s quartet generally received praise at least as great as that of its program mates. The opening theme to the first movement, Allegro moderato, has a concerto-like passage in the first violin. The accompaniment in the other voices is made into another theme. A second subject, staccato e marcato, is a very effective military type march introduced by the cello. A marvelous Scherzo, vivace assai, comes next. The wonderful chromatic opening theme played in unison is deftly passed between the voices . The contrasting trio is a legato horn-like hunt theme, sounded in the distance à la Schubert, to pulsating eighth notes in the back ground. A gentle, graceful and lovely Andante grazioso follows. In the finale, Allegro vivace, Onslow’s sense of the dramatic is at the fore.---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. However, after the First World War, his music, along with that of so many other fine composers, fell into oblivion and has only recently been rediscovered. 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 an early edition, correcting mistakes and adding rehearsal numbers to it.