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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



George ONSLOW (1784-1853)
String Quartets Vol. 3

String Quartet No.4 Op.8/1 in C minor (1817) [19.58]
Largo - Allegro agitato; Adagio; Minuetto. Allegretto; Finale. Presto
String Quartet No.25 Op.50 in B flat major (1836) [26.41]
Allegro moderato; Scherzo. Vivace assai; Andante grazioso; Finale. Allegro vivace
String Quartet No.20 Op.46/2 in F major (1834) [26.26]
Allegro; Andante. Sostenuto semplice; Menuetto. Vivace; Allegro vivace e scherzo
Mandelring Quartet
rec Studio Karlsruhe, Germany, 12-15 December 2000
CPO 999 793-2 [73.01]



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Despite the ‘s’ (Georges) on the booklet cover, there are numerous inconsistencies within its pages to emphasise the point that this composer was the son of an English father (the aristocrat Edward Onslow MP, disgraced by sexual scandal and forced into exile) and a French mother. Overshadowed by Beethoven perhaps, but Onslow was a skilled composer as the music here vividly illustrates. He wrote 36 string quartets and almost as many quintets, Schumann was an admirer, and the Royal Philharmonic Society elected him its second honorary member (Mendelssohn had been the first). Although his catalogue of compositions covers most forms, it is his chamber music which produced his best, most inspired work. On this disc it is the striking slow movement of Op.20 which illustrates the point, beautifully crafted with its plangent melodies and sublime Schubertian combination of legato and pizzicato. Vivacious finales characterise all the works (Op.20 once again to the fore), while minuets are brisk and busy scherzi (the French honoured him as ‘our French Beethoven’). Two other volumes have already been issued by CPO, and this one is very fine. The Mandelring Quartet (exponents of the other two volumes) play it all beautifully, with exemplary ensemble, technical fluency, thrilling speeds, and always giving of their best for this revelatory music. George Onslow is not a name known to many apart from aficionados of early 19th century music - if you admire Spohr, then this will appeal - but on the strength of this disc, and apologies for restating the strengths of Op.20 once again but it really is a fine work, we will hopefully get to hear all seventy odd quartets and quintets in due course. CPO are on to a winner.

Christopher Fifield



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