Quintett Momento Musicale

George Onslow: String Quintets, Opp. 38 & 67

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Although born in 1784, French composer George Onslow stands firmly on the early Romantic side of the late Classical/early Romantic divide. Although Onslow's approach to form clearly owes much to Mozart's example, his approach to content is just as clearly early Romantic in its orientation. Indeed, it could fairly be said that when it came to setting episodes from the composer's life in music, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique has nothing on Onslow's String Quintet in C minor, Op. 38. Named "The Bullet" by the composer, it includes several explicitly programmatic movements, one called "Delirium" describing the agony felt by the composer after being shot in a hunting accident in waves of chromatic lines and another called "Convalescenza" describing his recovery to the quietly consoling strains of a lullaby. With instantly attractive melodies and immediately comprehensible structures, the only thing that stands between Onslow's quintets and popularity is the scoring for string quartet plus double bass -- a highly unusual combination (In their quintets, Mozart doubled the violas and Schubert doubled the cellos.) The German Quintett Momento Musicale solved this problem by having that combination as its standard performing ensemble. This 2005 recording of two of Onslow's quintets in C minor is the ripe fruit of their extended collaboration: powerful cogent and strongly expressive performances that make the most of Onslow's Romantic music. As always, Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm's sound is essentially translucent, letting the music through with nothing between the performers and the listeners but clear air.

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