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Cello Sonata in F major op. 16/1

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Allegro – Andante – Allegretto

As a fine pianist himself, Onslow chose his instrument for the majority of his early works. However, what is more is that he had learnt to play the cello in order to be involved in chamber music-making in the salons of Clermont-Ferrand. When he composed his Op. 16 pieces in 1820 (published the following year), he presented France with its first sonatas for cello and piano – he would never thereafter return to that instrumental grouping. His collection of three sonatas is not possessed of the audacity found in Beethoven’s Op. 102 set (1815), written for the same combination, and its formal structures occasionally show themselves to be a little loose. However, in Onslow’s works can be perceived a formidable melodic imagination, as well as two instruments being treated equally (something he held in common with Beethoven). Such a balance was not obvious at a time when the cello was generally subservient to the keyboard. Dedicated to Charles Baudiot (who taught the cello at the Conservatoire de Paris), the Sonata No. 1 in F major remains committed to the standing division of three movements. Whilst this is a structure followed also by Sonata No. 3, the second is made up of four movements (a minuet preceding the Adagio). From the opening Allegro, the sense of dialogue, which affects even the presentation of the subjects, establishes itself: the ideas are not introduced either by the piano, or by the cello, but shared among the two instruments. Following an ascending introduction, the intention becomes denser during the course of a fairly turbulent development section. Next the Andante in the minor key is striking with its intense melancholy, avoiding lethargy and sentimentality. The light and capriccioso finale clears away the shadows of the central section and, with a final pirouette, vanishes on tip-toe. As Alkan was to do for his own cello sonata, Onslow made an arrangement of his three sonatas for viola and piano.


publication date : 25/09/23

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