George Onslow

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String Quintet No.13 in G Major, Op.35

For Three Separate Combinations: See Below

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 cellos and one viola. Onslow began providing alternative bass parts to all of his subsequent quintets, in lieu of a second cello, after hearing the famous bassist Dragonetti substitute for an absent second cellist during a performance of his tenth string quintet. He also added an an alternate viola part in lieu of the first cello allowing the work to be performed as a viola quintet as well.


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.) Schumann and Mendelssohn ranked Onslow's chamber music with that of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. George Onslow (1784-1853), certainly illustrates the fickleness of fame. 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.

String Quintet No.13, Op.35 dates from the composer's middle period. It was completed in 1829 shortly after his 12th quintet. The huge opening movement, Allegro spirituoso assai, opens with a series of powerful chords which eventually lead to the exciting first theme largely consisting of rising and falling scale passages. The lovely second subject is one of those elegant and grateful melody that Onslow could toss off at a moments notice. The second movement, a fleet Minuetto, allegro moderato, is at once playful and haunting with wonderful exchanges between the highest and lowest voices. The Andante cantabile which follows appears to be based on a beautiful French folk melody. The mood is pastoral and peaceful. But Onslow finally interrupts this bucolic reverie with a brief, but stormy middle section. The finale, a Presto, begins in a light and playful vein and is characterized with the various voices chasing after each other.

This is another of Onslow's fine string quintets. Our edition (the first since the late 19 century) has been edited by Skyler Silvertrust* and has been entirely reset. 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. Like all of our editions, this quartet is printed on top grade paper with an ornate cover with biographical information about the composer.

*Skyler Silvertrust, a violinist, is one of the world's leading Onslow scholars and specialists. He is extremely familiar with the Onslow quartets and quintets, having performed most of them and edited several. He is mentioned by the author of The String Quartets of George Onslow in the acknowledgement section as being one of the performers who helped the author with his work.


(A)   2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos-Parts $29.95
(Aa) 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos-Parts & Score $39.95
(B)   2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello-Parts $29.95
(Bb) 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello-Parts & Score $39.95
(C)   2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass-Parts $29.95
(Cc) 2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass-Parts & Score $39.95
(D)   All Seven Parts $39.95
(Dd) All Seven Parts & Score $49.95



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