ONSLOW: String Quintets Nos. 28 & 29 / Elan Quintet / Naxos 8.573887
George Onslow (1784-1853) was described as a “gentleman” musician who was independently wealthy and thus not dependent on making an income from his products. He wrote 34 string quartets, 36 quintets, 10 piano trios, four symphonies and various other works. This is Vol. 3 in an ongoing series of Onslow’s quintets for Naxos.
The music presented herein is actually quite good for its time and place, solidly written and engaging without being saccharine or maudlin. Although tonal, he introduced several little key changes within each movement of his works that add piquancy and interest, and it is to the Elan Quintet’s credit that they play with energy and commitment.
Onslow used the string quartet like a small orchestra rather than having individual lines for each instrument work with or against one another, even in the slow movements. The “Menuet” of the Quintet No. 28 is sprightly and very cleverly written.
Quintet No. 29 is an even sprightlier affair from the very first note, and wends its way along through its four movements. One of the more interesting things about these works is that they use a double bass and not a second cello, although the description “version for double bass” suggests to me that there are alternate scores requesting two celli. The second movement of this quintet is also very well-written music, with very dramatic interludes that wake the listener up and, in the Scherzo, a slow middle section with some interesting harmonic changes. The finale is also quite good.
These, then, are fairly interesting and solidly-written Romantic-era, fare, played well by the Elan Quintet and recorded with a good, clear, forward sound.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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