George Onslow

George Onslow

Andre George Louis Onslow (July 27 1784 – October 3 1853) was a French composer.

George Onslow was born and lived his entire life in France, the son of an English father, Edward Onslow, and a French mother. He studied piano with Johann Baptist Cramer as a young boy whilst in London. His only composition teacher was Anton Reicha with whom he studied in Paris between 1807–1808.

His 36 string quartets and 34 string quintets were, during his own lifetime and up to the end of the 19th century, held in the highest regard, particularly in Germany, Austria and England where he was regularly placed in the front rank of composers. His work was admired by both Beethoven and Schubert, the latter modeling his own 2 cello quintet (D.956) on those of Onslow and not, as is so often claimed, on those of Boccherini. Robert Schumann, perhaps the foremost music critic during the first part of the 19th century, regarded Onslow’s chamber music on a par with that of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Mendelssohn was also of this opinion. Publishers such as Breitkopf & Härtel and Kistner were among many who competed to bring out his works. Such was Onslow’s reputation that he was elected to succeed Luigi Cherubini as Director of the prestigious Académie des beaux-arts, based on the excellence of his chamber music and this, in an “Opera Mad France”, which had little regard for chamber music. However, after the First World War, his music, along with that of so many other fine composers, fell into oblivion and up until 1984, the bicentennial of his birth, he remained virtually unknown. Onslow’s writing was unique in that he was successfully able to merge the drama of the opera into the chamber music idiom perfected by the Vienna masters.

Besides his string quartets and quintets which were and remain his best known and regarded works, he wrote 10 piano trios, three piano quintets, a quintet for piano and winds, 2 sextets for winds and piano, a septet for winds and piano, a nonet for strings & winds, 6 sonatas for violin and piano, and one for cello and piano.

Beyond his chamber music, he composed four symphonies, four operas (including at least one, "Le Colporteur", themes from which formed the subject of fantasies by other composers, like Friedrich Kuhlau's for flute and piano), several works for piano alone as well as five vocal works. His second symphony (D minor, opus 42) shows some commonality of style with Beethoven, particularly in the dramatic first movement, and with Schubert.


* FRANKS, Richard Nelson. "George Onslow, A Study of His Life and Works". Ph.D. Dissertation, Musicology. University of Texas Press, 1981.
* JAM, Baudime. "George Onslow". Clermont-Ferrand : Les Éditions du Melophile. Septembre 2003. (560 p.) ISBN 2-9520076-0-8.
* NIAUX, Viviane, La musique de chambre avec piano de George Onslow. Maîtrise demusicologie, Paris IV 1986-1987
* —, Catalogue de la Musique imprimée conservée au château d'Aulteribe. Aulteribe C.N.M.H.S. 1993 (non publié mais commandé par la Direction de la Musique et consultable au château d'Aulteribe).
* —, & Sylvia L'ÉCUYER, Biographie musicale : George Onslow par Joseph d'Ortigue. Bulletin de l'Association George Onslow (1) 1994, p. 3-24 (ISSN 1266-7870)
* —, La vie musicale à Clermont-Ferrand au XIXe siècle. Dans «Bulletin historique et scientifique de l'Auvergne» (XCVII, 725) avril-juin 1995, p. 343-362
* —, La Réception des opéras d'Onslow en France à travers la presse quotidienne de l'époque. Dans «Bulletin de l'Association George Onslow» (2) 1995-1996, p. 21-61. (ISSN 1266-7870).
* —, George Onslow et ses éditeurs français et allemands : trente-six lettres présentées et annotées. Dans « Bulletin de l'Association George Onslow» (3) 1998, p. 25-63 (ISSN 1266-7870)
* —, Catalogue général de l'oeuvre d'Onslow. Dans «Bulletin de l'Association George Onslow» (3) 1998, p. 65-76 (ISSN 1266-7870)
* —, Article Onslow dans la The New Grove Dictionary. Macmillan, Londres 2001
* —, Les quatuors a cordes de George Onslow. Dans CROZIER BERNARD (éditeur), Le quatuor à cordes en France de 1750 à nos jours [préface par Duteurtre Benoit] . Biennale de la Musique Francaise de Lyon ; Centre National du Livre ; Association Francaise pour le Patrimoine Musical 1995 [315 p. ; ill. ; bib. ; catalogue des oeuvres ; disco. ; index ; ISBN 2-910995-00-3] pp. 63-74; 1995
* —, George Onslow, gentleman compositeur [préfacé par Joël-Marie Fauquet] . Presses universitaires Blaise-Pascal, Maison de la Recherche, septembre 2003 [435 p. ; annexes ; généalogie du compositeur, publication de 88 lettres inédites et annotées, catalogue complet de l´œuvre, bibliographie et discographie exhaustives ; 28 €.]
* SILVERTRUST, R.H.R. "The String Quartets of George Onslow". Edition Silvertrust. 2005

External links

* [ Association George Onslow]
* [ The George Onslow website]
*IckingArchive|idx=Onslow|name=George Onslow
* [ George Onslow Chamber music] Website with free scores from The Royal Library, Copenhagen
* [ George Onslow String Quartets & Quintets] Website with soundbites from several of his string quartets and quintets.
* [ Onslow's Op.80 String Quintet Parts] From Sibley Music Library Digital Scores Collection

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