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George ONSLOW (1784-1853)
String Quintet No. 10 in F minor, op. 32 (1827) [29:41]
String Quintet No. 22 in E flat major, op. 57 (1836) [35:59]
Elan Quintet (Benjamin Scherer, Lelia Iancovici (violins), Julia Chu-Ying Hu (viola), Dmitri Tsirin (cello), Matthew Baker (double bass))
rec. 2016, Auditorio de Rafelbunyol, Valencia, Spain
World premiere recordings
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical
NAXOS 8.573689 [65:48]

The first volume in this series, released last year, was a delightful surprise (review). In that review, I explained that I had chosen it as much for not wanting to see it go unreviewed - it hadn’t been picked up by any of my colleagues – as for any great musical interest. I was certainly glad that I did so. When this second volume appeared, I didn’t wait for it to be offered as a physical CD in the monthly list from Len Mullenger, but rather grabbed it as a download.

For those unfamiliar with the Anglo-French Onslow - Naxos has kept with his first name as Georges when most others go with the more British George - may I refer you to my earlier review for some background information. As you will see from the header, this is a string quintet where the conventional string quartet has been augmented by a double bass, rather than a second viola or cello, as is more common.

It is quite difficult to write this review, as everything I said in the first applies equally here. I was most taken by the drama, melodies and rhythms in the two works in the first volume, and that impression remains here. Given these are first recordings, any judgement about the performance by the Valencia-based Elan Quintet is a little difficult, but I can certainly say that their intonation and ensemble is flawless, and the tempos and dynamics seem, for the most part (see below), to be apposite.

Let me make a few comments about some of the individual movements. The opening movement of each is beautifully crafted and quite memorable, that of No. 10 beginning with a haunting Largo section. The only “dud” movement is the Allegro Agitato that closes No. 10, which is rather repetitive and lacking much in the way of interest. Possibly it might have been improved by a little more agitation in the playing. The same can’t be said for the final movement of No. 22, which is sublime, and probably a good place to start your audition if this is your first experience of the composer.

Because I came to this recording pre-warned by the quality of Volume 1, it wasn’t a surprise, but it still had the power to charm and delight. The suggestion in the booklet is that the Elan Quintet intends to record all 34 quintets, which would be a major undertaking both for them, and for Naxos. It may be that the delights I have found in these four works may wane after twenty or more, but I think I’m willing to take that risk.

David Barker


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