George Onslow

George Onslow (1784-1853)

Nationality: French | English
Born: July 27, 1784, Clermont-Ferrand Died: October 3, 1853, Clermont-Ferrand (age 69)

String Quintet No. 10 in f minor, Op. 32

(for 2 violins, viola, cello and bass)
8:54 I. Largo - Allegro
7:58 II. Andante
5:33 III. Menuetto. Allegro impetuoso
7:23 IV. Finale. Allegro agitato
Duration: 30 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1826 (age 41-42)
Published: c. 1826, Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel (age 41-42)
Dedication: Friedrich Wilhelm Kalkbrenner
1 recording, 4 videos
autoopen autoplay
Elan Quintet
I. Largo - Allegro
Elan Quintet
II. Andante
Elan Quintet
III. Menuetto. Allegro impetuoso
Elan Quintet
IV. Finale. Allegro agitato
From Edition Silvertrust

George Onslow 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. At the premiere performance of String Quintet No.10, which took place in London, the second cellist failed to show up. The audience grew restless waiting and begged Onslow, who was sitting with them, to take the part of cello II. Though he was an excellent cellist, he felt unprepared and did not wish to ruin the maiden performance. The famous bass virtuoso Dragonetti was also in the audience and people began shouting, let Dragonetti take the part. At first, Onslow refused, saying the bass would make it too heavy and ruin the effect. However, he eventually gave in and allowed Dragonetti, who sightread the part, to play. To his surprise, he was delighted with the effect and thereafter always included an alternate bass part in lieu of cello II. 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.10 in f minor, Op.32 dates from 1827. The work begins with a substantial Largo introduction which at first creates a sense of foreboding and tension but then turns more lyrical and romantic. The main section, Allegro, is restrained but has the unmistakable Onslow forward drive and excitement. The Andante which follows is mostly calm and singing, but there are several turbulent interruptions. Third is one Onslow’s hard driving scherzos which Onslow titles Menuetto, allegro impetuoso. A minuet it is not, impetuous it certainly is, full of energy and excitement. The finale, Allegro agitato, bursts forth, racing at high speed, with hardly a moment for a breath.

This is another of Onslow's fine string quintets.

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Related Composers

1800 Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) Jan Dussek (1760-1812) Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) Anton Reicha (1770-1836) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Johann Baptist Cramer (1771-1858) Johann Hummel (1778-1837) George Onslow (1784-1853) Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Johann Baptist Cramer (1771-1858)
Nationality: English | German
Born: February 24, 1771, Mannheim Died: April 16, 1858, London (age 87)
Jan Dussek (1760-1812)
Nationality: Czech
Born: February 12, 1760, Čáslav, Czech Republic Died: March 20, 1812, Saint Germain-en-Laye or Paris, France (age 52)
Anton Reicha (1770-1836)
Nationality: Czech | French
Born: February 26, 1770, Prague Died: May 28, 1836, Paris (age 66)