Onslow

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COMPOSERS: Onslow
LABELS: Aparté
ALBUM TITLE: Onslow
WORKS: String Quartets: Op. 8 Nos 1 & 3; Op. 10 No. 3
PERFORMER: Quatuor Ruggieri
CATALOGUE NO: AP 105

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For all the Englishness of his name, George Onslow (1784-1853) was born and brought up in the Auvergne. His aristocratic father, MP for the district of Aldeburgh, had fled to France in the wake of a homosexual scandal. Because of his wealthy family, Onslow has been all too readily called an amateur composer, but his prolific output of chamber music reveals a musician of exceptional talent. The three string quartets recorded here were all composed in 1814. Their skilful part-writing, and their freshness and individuality place them well above the quartets being churned out at the time by minor composers in Vienna. Onslow was certainly no admirer of Beethoven, but the composed major-mode fade-out that ends his C minor Quartet Op. 8 No. 1 clearly echoes the similar conclusion of Beethoven’s string trio in the same key, Op. 9 No. 3.

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Two of these quartets have a slow introduction that lends weight to the opening movement, while Onslow’s contrapuntal skill is demonstrated by the finale of the Quartet Op. 8 No. 3. The through-composed trio in the minuet of Op. 10 No. 3 charmingly quotes a folk song from the Auvergne. All in all, these pieces are a real discovery, and they’re admirably played by the Quatuor Ruggieri, who bring out both the music’s energy and its lyrical qualities. Misha Donat