Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Trios: No. 5 in E?; No. 9 in G
cpo 777 230 (55:45)
Georges Onslow (1784–1853) was born in France, raised in England, studied there and in Hamburg, and spent most of the rest of his life in the Auvergne. Many honors came his way, but though he wrote an opera, two
, and four symphonies, he is almost only known to us today as a composer of chamber music, among which are 34 string quintets, 35 string quartets, and 10
piano trios. In the
, Benedict Sarnaker points out that he was the only French composer of the period to produce a considerable body of chamber music. The trios here are No. 5 in E? and No. 9 in G.
No. 5, from 1818, has echoes of Beethoven in its robustness without the formal journey Beethoven usually takes us on; Onslow is quicker to repeat something already said. Nonetheless, he has a real sense of instrumental interplay. If he has nothing really interesting melodically to propose, there is a sense of general good cheer here. Unfortunately, this makes him sound duller than he actually is. To be sure, heights are not stormed nor depths probed, but this is more than just honest music. The pleasures here are superficial, but they are pleasures. This strikes me as eminently players’ music, the sort of things one runs through with good friends. Indeed, Onslow tried most of them out in that manner (he was apparently a capable cellist) before having them performed publicly.
No. 9 comes from 1824 and is made of sturdier stuff, especially for the piano, which riffs and races along, as the informative (if occasionally oddly translated) notes by Vivianne Niaux tell us, “already evoking the future language of Chopin.” In fact, this is mostly a piano piece with violin/cello accompaniment and Thomas Palm plays it so. It is great fun, even if there are few excursions into unexpected territory.
The Trio Cascades—Thomas Palm, piano; Katrina Schulz, violin; and Inka Ehlert, cello—is something over 10 years old and recorded all the Onslow trios in 2003–04. It is these that are now being released. Though I am less taken with Schulz’s violin sound in No. 9, they all play well together, and make this a project worth trying. There seems to be no competition for these two trios, but the Bamberg Trio has recorded Nos. 7 and 8 on Musicaphon.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
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