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Onslow: Sextet, Quintet / Luisi, Ensemble Concertant Frankfurt


Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog #: 6031442   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Georges Onslow
Performer:  Timm-Johannes TrappeGianluca LuisiWolfgang TluckPeter Agoston,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Concertant Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



ONSLOW Piano Sextet in E?, op. 30. Piano Quintet in B?, op. 79b Gianluca Luisi (pn); Ens Concertant Frankfurt MDG 6031442-2 (73:02)


This CD was originally reviewed by Tom Godell in Fanfare 31:3. His dictum was that it was third-rate music in which the piano part was predictable and not terribly inventive. He also complained “The performers play as on autopilot. … Read more MDG’s recording is distant, unfocused, and dull … sour string tuning … not enough bass.”


When I first listened to this disc, on my small portable Walkman, I tended to feel the same way about the music but not at all about the performers or the sound. Indeed, I can scarcely think of another chamber-music CD in my collection with more realistic concert-hall sonics: You are there, or at least as close to “there” as a CD can make you feel. A few days later, listening to the disc through my stereo system, I revised my opinion of the music as well.


Perhaps Godell, like me, was at first seeking some undiscovered genius like C. P. E. Bach and was disappointed, but over the decades I’ve learned to accept creativity within certain forms without wanting everything I hear to be innovative in its own time. In short, I found George Onslow’s music to be very much of its own time, similar in construction and harmonic exploration to the early-chamber music of Beethoven or that of Schubert. While it’s true that the piano part, particularly in the sextet, generally runs a “silver thread” through the music, weaving about the string quintet in double time, that was its intended function. It was not meant to be inventive to the point of distraction, but merely a way of binding the various phrases together. Onslow, who tutored with the fairly conservative Anton Reicha, could not really have been expected to compose any other way, but it is to his credit that he was thought of as highly by German musicians as Mozart and Mendelssohn. His music is very much in their vein. Within fairly conventional melodies and variations, there are frequently unusual harmonic changes that continually move the mood from light to dark and back again. Obviously, then, creating a mood was Onslow’s primary aim in this sextet.


The quintet, composed late in Onslow’s life when he was in his 60s, is unquestionably a more vigorous work, and I find the performance by pianist Luisi and the Ensemble Concertant Frankfurt compelling and convincing. Here, Onslow continually engages in downward chromatic harmonic shifts that, combined with more vigorous rhythms, keep the listener’s interest up as the music shifts moods and colors. Luisi responds to the more vigorous piano part beautifully, pulling back when the music is gentle, pressing forward when it becomes more dramatic.


I am not saying that these works are the equal of Mozart or Mendelssohn at their best, but let me say this: I’ve reviewed a great many CDs of music previously unknown to me that others found valid but I thought were pointless and formulaic. Onslow, in his own individual way, occupied a position analogous to another British composer of a century later, York Bowen, who wrote music in a more reactionary style while the world around him was going bitonal and atonal-mad. As Gordon Getty has put it, there’s still a lot to be said in C Major, and Onslow shows us that visionaries like Beethoven and Berlioz weren’t the only ones who had something to say in E? or B?.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sextet for Piano, Flute, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Double Bass no 1 in E flat major, Op. 30 by Georges Onslow
Performer:  Timm-Johannes Trappe (Double Bass), Gianluca Luisi (Piano), Wolfgang Tluck (Viola),
Peter Agoston (Violin), Sabine Krams (Cello), Klaus Schwamm (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Concertant Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1825; France 
Length: 35 Minutes 35 Secs. 
2.
Quintet for Piano and Strings in B flat major, Op. 79bis by Georges Onslow
Performer:  Timm-Johannes Trappe (Double Bass), Gianluca Luisi (Piano), Wolfgang Tluck (Viola),
Peter Agoston (Violin), Sabine Krams (Cello), Klaus Schwamm (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Concertant Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1852; France 
Length: 36 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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