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Cello Quintet in A major op. 75

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Allegro grazioso – Scherzo: Allegro – Andante sostenuto – Finale: Allegretto

When Onslow composed his Symphony No. 4 in 1846, he wrote: “This work will represent the major achievement of my musical life. Not because of it its merit (one has to do more to write a good quartet or quintet) but because of the impression that it will cause.” This confirms the place that certain chamber groupings had in his hierarchy of genres. He started on his String Quintet in A minor, Op. 75 in 1847, finishing it the following year, and dedicated to his friend Charles Lebouc (1822-1893), then cellist at the Opéra de Paris and very active in the field of chamber music. Starting from 1862, this instrumentalist organized weekly afternoon performances where he regularly programmed pieces by Onslow. The majority of Onslow’s quintets specified the two cellos so dear to Luigi Boccherini. However, since the 1820s the composer had published separate supplementary parts, the purpose being to allow the performance of these works equally with two violas or with a cello and a double bass. In his Op. 75 Quintet, he entrusts many thematic elements to the first cello which often plays in the higher register while the second cello principally takes care of the lower register. The compactness of the writing, the combination of elegant lines and a vigorous rhythmic sense, as well as the expressivity deriving from melodic and harmonic tension (including as a result of his use of chromaticism) are typical of his mature style. This Quintet stands out also for the popular touches in the central section of the Scherzo, and even more so in the Finale, where the main subject appears to be based on some kind of rustic dance.


publication date : 25/09/23

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