String Quintet No.30 in e minor, Op.74
For 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos or Cello & Bass
It is hard to believe that a composer whose chamber music Schumann and Mendelssohn ranked with that of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn could fall into obscurity. 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. 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.
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.
Onslow’s Thirtieth String Quintet was composed in 1847. The work begins with an impressive Allegro grandioso. It is a vast movement containing two widely contrasting subjects. The first theme is hard-driving and dramatic while the second is more lyrical and harmonically rich. The second movement is a poetic Menuetto, characterized by its use of dotted rhythms. Next comes an Andantino grazioso. A joyful and imaginative Finale, Allegro full of dynamism rounds off this fine work, certainly one of Onslow’s best quintets.
|(A) 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos-Parts||$29.95|
|(B) 2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Bass-Parts||$29.95|
|(C) All Six Parts||$36.95|