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George Onslow

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String Quintet No.2 in E flat Major, Op.1 No.2

For 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello or 2 Violins Viola & 2 Cellos

Schumann and Mendelssohn ranked Onslow's chamber music with that of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. As such, George Onslow (1784-1853), certainly illustrates the fickleness of fame. During his lifetime, Onslow, above all, was known as the composer of string quintets for 2 violins, viola and 2 cellos. With the exception of Boccherini, all of the other major composers before him, including Mozart and Beethoven, wrote string quintets for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello. (Schubert's great work remained undiscovered until 1850 and unknown for another decade after that.)

He was born 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.  As tastes changed 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.

Writing in his Chamber Music Handbook, Wilhelm Altmann has this to say about the work:

"Though this is an early work, it is already in every sense a mature work which makes a strong impression. A short Largo introduction leads to the main movement. It gives little indication of what is to come, namely a very powerful main theme. The second movement, Andante con variazione, makes good use of all five voices with a set of very clever and well done variations, based on a simple but warm theme. A Menuetto allegro comes next. The main section combines grace with power while the trio, by use of changes in dynamics is both charming and effective. A fine finale tops off the work.”

This quintet is a fine example of Onslow's early period and is without doubt one of the very best string quintets to be written up to this time (1806). We have created a new type set edition. Of particular importance is the fact that it does not use the "false treble clef" in the first cello part which appears extensively in all of the other previous editions and which has always been a problem for cellists. Instead, we have substituted the bass and tenor clefs which greatly improves the readability.

(A) 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello-Parts $29.95
(B) 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello-Parts & Score $36.95
(C) 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos-Parts $29.95
(D 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos-Parts & Score $36.95
(E) All Six Parts $36.95
(F) All Six Parts & Score $39.95

 

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