Two things struck me right away when I played this Pavane Records CD for the first time. One was how open, clear and warm the sonics were, with the instruments perfectly balanced and positioned in the sound space, and the other was the beautiful playing of Trio Portici. At some point, both of these impressions simply dissolved into my enjoyment of the music. I was listening to the Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 14 by French composer George Onslow (1784 – 1853).
During his lifetime, Onslow was commonly regarded as a composer of exceptional merit, whose chamber music especially was held in the highest regard. Both Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn considered it to rival that of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Sadly, Onslow’s music was eclipsed by that of these more illustrious composers, and for a very long time, was largely forgotten.
Virtually all of Onslow’s chamber music with piano came from early in his career, and the three works on this CD, the previously mentioned Trio, the Duet for Violin and Piano, Op. 115 and the Sonata for Cello and Piano Op. 16/1 were written in 1818 and 1819. At that time, the French still held to the model that the purpose of string instruments in chamber music was to double and support the top and/or bottom piano line. Onslow wrote for musical partnerships of equals, a model exemplified by Beethoven that was the current practice in Germany. It was there that Onslow’s music had an eager audience while being largely ignored in France.
All three works, while of the classical period in derivation, foreshadow the expressiveness of the romantic era that was about to unfold. I particularly enjoyed the Piano Trio and the Cello Sonata, which deserve a very wide audience. With 36 string quartets, 34 string quintets, 10 piano trios and 6 violin sonatas to his credit, the chamber music of George Onslow offers the adventuresome listener a treasure trove to explore, and this Pavane CD is a perfect place to plunge in.
George Onslow: Chamber Music by G. Onslow / Trio Portici was released Aug 28, 2012 on the Pavane label. Recording information: Palais des Beaux-Arts de Charleroi (06/2011).
Composer: George Onslow
André George Louis Onslow (27 July 1784 – 3 October 1853) was an Anglo-French composer. He was widely recognised as a gifted composer during his lifetime but is virtually forgotten today. … read more
Performers: Trio Portici
Founded in 2004, the Trio Portici named after Aubert’s opera La Muette de Portici, which was performed at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels in 1830 and sparked riots that led to Belgian independence. Stéphane De May is a professor of piano at… read more
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Though not by the Trio Portici, the following does provide a sample of Onslow's beautiful music.
George Onslow: Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 14 - IV. Finale Allegro