Georges ONSLOW (1784-1853)
Cello sonata in F, Op. 16 No. 1 [22:03]
Cello sonata in C minor, Op. 16 No. 2 [31:06]
Cello sonata in A, Op. 16 No. 3 [17:20]
Maria Kliegel (cello); Nina Tichman (piano)
rec. 28-30 November and 1 December 2011, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusicksaal, Cologne, Germany
NAXOS 8.572830 [70:29]
Georges Onslow was born into scandal, as the essay to this CD explains with glee. His father had been booted from the U.K. Parliament for a gay affair, fled to France, and there married a rich heiress and proved his ability to procreate. Young Georges came of age in the shadow of Beethoven, publishing these cello sonatas in 1821, when Beethoven’s five sonatas were more or less the only examples of works which put these instruments on an equal footing.
So there’s a really fantastic air to the Onslow cello sonatas: they’re at the start of a new repertoire, with only Beethoven as a guide, and they capture a moment at the dawn of romanticism which also includes the likes of Schubert, young Mendelssohn, and Cherubini. The first, in F, is a charmer with good tunes given to the two instruments in equal measure. I find myself especially attracted to the andante. The third is even more compact, with a slow movement that’s a mere introduction to the finale. This is a work with a very light tone, even some humor, until the finale, which begins with an unexpected minor-key turn - think of Schubert’s last piano sonata.
In between comes the second sonata, an epic work in C minor that spans 31 minutes. It opens with the cello declaring the obligatory troubled main theme, and its ‘menuetto’ is, like many romantic minuets, a dramatic scherzo in disguise. There is a very graceful secondary theme, however, and a trio the delicacy and romanticism of which took me by surprise. Will the troubled finale’s coda, with its growling low cello notes, come around in the end to a cheery C major conclusion? Well, actually, no, it won’t.
Maria Kliegel’s playing seems to have become fairly controversial of late: her tone is big and fluid with lots of ripples of vibrato. These are very romantic accounts of the sonatas. Nina Tichman is an excellent pianist and consistently a pleasure to hear; the recorded sound is faultless and balances the two parties very well. All told, this is a first class production which sheds light on music I am very glad to have in my collection.
Onslow’s cello sonatas were more or less the first after Beethoven’s, but they are Onslow’s own, and a great pleasure to hear.
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