George Onslow

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String Quintet No.8 in d minor, Op.24

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

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.

Although the first 3 of Onslow's string quintets were for the standard 2 violins, 2 violas and cello, thereafter, his quintets, with the exception of his last three, were for 2 violins 1 viola and 2 cellos. However, starting with his fourth quintet, Onslow usually provided alternative viola parts for the first cello and, with his 10th quintet, bass parts to replace the second cello.

String Quintet No.8 in d minor was composed in 1824. At first, little attention was paid to it, however, by 1830, it had entered the standard repertoire and remained a favorite for several decades thereafter. In Germany, musical critics hailed it as “a superior composition by this fine composer”. Until the end of the 19th century, one could find it regularly on programs with such works as quintets by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. The opening movement, Allegro, begins with a haunting melody given out by the first cello. Soon the others join in. The second movement is a turbulent and stormy Menuetto, marked impetuoso. A Theme and lovely set of variations follow. An exciting finale, Allegro vivace, rounds out this first rate work.

Our edition has removed the so-called "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. We have also added rehearsal numbers which no previous edition has had.

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




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