Onslow’s String Quintets Nos 10 & 22 performed by the Elan Quintet

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COMPOSERS: Onslow
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Onslow
WORKS: String Quintets Nos 10 & 22
PERFORMER: Elan Quintet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573689

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In the early 19th century neither England nor France was particularly renowned for its great composers. Yet Anglo-French George Onslow’s music is finally re-establishing its place in both catalogue and concert hall. He was, Schumann admiringly commented, among the heirs to the chamber music style of Mozart and Haydn – and his music’s atmosphere also seems a refined sibling to Schubert and Weber, oozing geniality and charm. Essentially an amateur composer (he was of the nobility) he wrote most of his numerous string quintets for like-minded amateur players: the format could be the same as Schubert’s string quintet with two cellos or, as in this recording, one cello and bass. 

Receiving their world premiere recordings, the F minor String Quintet No. 10 of 1827 and the E flat major Quintet No. 22 of 1836 are lucky to have the Elan Quintet at their service. Their playing evokes the spirited conversation, lightness of touch and soulful hinted darkness in the Schubertian, early-Romantic E flat Quintet, as well as the vivid interchanges of the more dramatic and Beethovenian-at-a-tangent F minor. The Elan players’ sympathy for the music smiles out of every bar.

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Jessica Duchen