Quatuor Diotima

George Onslow: String Quartets, Opp. 54, 55 & 56

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Fans of the string quartets by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn should by all means try this disc of string quartets by George Onslow. British-born and Bohemian-trained composer spent most of his career in France, and aside from their tonal language and their four-movement structure, his quartets have little in common with his German contemporaries. In fact, they have little in common with the music of his French contemporaries, who concentrated mostly on stage works. But in these overwhelming persuasive performances by the Quatuor Diotima, Onslow's quartets come across as fully formed, wholly confident, and enormously expressive works. There is tremendous power in the fast movements: the rip-roaring Scherzo, from his D minor Quartet, Op. 55; immense pathos in the slow movements: the heartbreaking Andante con variazioni from the E flat Quartet, Op. 54; and awesome intensity in the opening movements: the monumental Allegro maestoso ed espressivo from the C minor Quartet, Op. 56. Like the Quatuor Diotima's earlier recording of Lucien Durosoir's completely different but entirely compelling quartets, this disc will hopefully serve to introduce these splendid works to music lovers who might ordinarily ignore them. Naïve's digital sound is crisp yet evocative.

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