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Wind Quintet in F major op.81 (George Onslow)

Date

1850

Description

Allegro non troppo – Scherzo : Energico – Andante sostenuto – Finale : Allegro spirituoso

Text

Onslow composed his only work for wind quintet around 1850, at the end of his life. His only other compositions of the early 1850s are the String Quintet op.82 (1850) and the Piano Trio op.83 (1851). The Quintet op.81 is one of the rare nineteenth-century wind quintets later than those of Reicha. In Onslow’s output, however, it follows two chamber works for large forces that already included the instruments featured in the quintet: the Septet op.79 (1849), which requires a double bass and a piano in addition to the wind instruments, and the Nonet op.77 (1848), in which the string group comprises a violin, a viola, a cello and a double bass. It may be noted that Onslow had already composed a Sextet (op.30) for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, double bass and piano in 1825. His Wind Quintet eschews the experiments and bold harmonic strokes of his works for strings. The four movements, concise, cast in classical forms, favour a fluid, transparent style that spotlights each instrument in turn. We recognise the melodic elegance of their composer, the rhythmic variety he achieves through the use of cross-accents (Scherzo) and syncopations (Finale), his propensity for subdued melancholy (Andante sostenuto). Onslow dedicated the work to Louis Dorus (flute), Stanislas Verroust (oboe), Charles Verroust (bassoon), Adolphe Leroy (clarinet) and Joseph Mengal (horn), all eminent musicians who participated in the evolution of instrument making in the first half of the nineteenth century (Dorus established the Boehm system at the Paris Conservatoire).