The Strad Issue: December 2017
Description: A beguiling brace of quintets from the ‘French Beethoven’
Musicians: Elan Quintet
Works: ONSLOW String Quintets: no.10 in F minor op.32, no.22 in E flat major op.57
Catalogue Number: NAXOS 8.573689

This second volume of the Anglo– French aristocrat George Onslow’s string quintets features two works that justify Berlioz’s description of him as the ‘French Beethoven’. The German composer’s shadow looms over the outer movements and the central section of the Andante of op.32, which are infused with Sturm und Drang elements. The Elan Quintet, comprising members of the opera orchestra of Valencia’s Palau de les Arts, performs Onslow’s version for string quartet and double bass with unanimity and well-blended sonority. These players identify well with the orchestral breadth of the Largo introduction, and show poise and grace in the outer sections of the second movement, contributing some crisp conversational interplay. They articulate the contrapuntal complexities of the Menuetto with spontaneity and refined detail, and perform the animated finale with expressive lyricism and exuberant virtuosity.

Onslow’s op.57, enterprisingly performed here in a version for the same instrumentation, combines Beethovenian traits with a Schubertian lyricism. These players strike an appropriate balance between Classical poise and Romantic flexibility, demonstrating musical insight, a sure command of the architecture of each movement and an appropriate fidelity to the expressive sensibility of the period. They excel particularly in its mournful Adagio, energetic scherzo and the finale’s exhilarating denouement. The warm recording has ample presence.