Category Archives: Composers

More on George Onslow


Titled “Galerie des compositeurs dramatiques modernes“,  this charming postcard was created by French lithographer Nicolas Eustache Maurin (1799-1850). It depicts the leading composers working in Paris at mid-19th century. Featured, among others, are GEORGE ONSLOW (back row, 3rd from left), HECTOR BERLIOZ (back row, far left), FELIX MENDELSSOHN (back row 2nd from right), and GIOCOMO MEYERBEER (front row, 2nd from left?). It was published in the French music journal, Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris in 1844:  A weekly journal owned and produced by music publisher Maurice Schlesinger.  The journal featured articles about music by such notables as:  Franz Liszt, Georges Sand, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner. In a supplementary issue, the Revue published a collection of hundreds of onslow-signature-revueetgazettemu1844pari_0019signatures of “compositeurs“.  Gorge Onslow’s appears on page 11  (middle – lower page).









Wind Quintet in F Major Opus 81: Background Info on George Onslow

George Onslow’s homes in Clermont-Fernand:

ONSLOW'S HOMES Clermont-Ferrand 1  Chateau de Chalendrat
ONSLOW'S HOMES Clermont-Ferrand 2  Chateau de Bellerive, Perignot
  • Born 1784, Onslow lived comfortably in chateaux around Clermont-Fernand, with regular sojourns to Paris.
  • He composed Wind Quintet Opus 81 late in life, aged 66 (1850).  He wrote only two further compositions before his death in 1853.
  • Opus 81 was one of a very few quintets written in the 19th c after the celebrated quintets of Anton Reicha (Onslow’s composition teacher in 1808).
  • Opus 81 was dedicated to five eminent musicians of the early 19th c, who had each been important in the evolution of their instrument:   Louis Dorus (flute); Stanislas Verroust (oboe); Charles Verroust (bassoon); Adolphe Leroy (clarinet); and Joseph Mengal (horn).
  • Onlsow’s music was widely celebrated during his lifetime yet virtually unknown following WWI until modern times.
    This post based on  Photo by User:Gegeours.  Accessed 22.08.2016

George Onslow (1784-1853)


GEORGE ONSLOW  George Onlsow (1784 – 1853)

George Onslow was dubbed “the French Beethoven”. Descendant of an aristocratic English family he was educated in France as a privileged gentleman, taking up composition in his twenties as an amateur cellist (and pianist who never performed publically).  He studied composition with the famous Anton Reicha in 1808 (before Reicha wrote his own celebrated series of wind quintets).  Onslow went on to become hugely popular, writing 36 string quartets and 34 quintets, with a strong following in Germany and England.  He also wrote a number of piano trios, several operas, and four symphonies .  As for wind quintets, he wrote only one (opus 81), rather late in his career (1850) aged 66.  His music embodied the traditional school, announcing a rich Romanticism in harmony and lyricism.  He received many public honours, and as his portrait above suggests, he was respected and appreciated for his very generous personality.

Post based on website;  Photo credit:

Anton Reicha’s Academic Side

  • Paris conservatory c 1900
Paris Conservatory of Music c 1900.  Site of Reicha’s academic work.; accessed 20.07.16

Reicha moved around Europe during his formative years, spending the period 1801 – 1808 in Vienna.  From 1808 (aged 38) until he died (1836), he lived in Paris and devoted himself to writing and teaching composition.  In 1818 he was appointed Professor of Counterpoint and Fugue at the Paris Conservatoire.  He became an important theorist and pedagogic figure, with pupils including Liszt, Berlioz, Gounod and Cesar Franck.

Reicha was prolific from the start, but his early theoretic ideas (to do with fugal writing and variation theory, with written examples) were radical for the era and not accepted.  Polyrhythms, polytonality and microtonal music (see his Practische Beispiele….1803) were all clearly ahead of his time.  None of these radical ideas appeared in his later, enduring Wind Quintets.

In Paris it was different for Reicha.  As a leading theoretician and pedagogue, he successfully published a string of major academic works:

  • Traite de melodie (1814)
  • Cours de composition musicale…(1818)
  • Triate de haute composition musicale (1824 – 26)
  • L’art du compositeur dramatique (1833)

Minor texts included a system for writing fugues, with examples (1805); a practical treatise on harmony (1814); and numerous other articles (including a poem to Joseph Haydn!)

Reicha’s music was unpublished during his lifetime and fell into complete obscurity after his death.  This was no doubt in part due to his early avoidance of public performance.  He wrote:

  “Many of my works have never been heard because of my aversion to                 seeking performances….I counted the time spent in such efforts as lost, and preferred to remain at my desk.”

This post is a potted version of an extensive, informative article:  “”Anton Reicha” – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Accessed 20.7.2016

Reicha’s Wind Quintet op 91 No 3 in D major

cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3Anton Reicha Anton Reicha (1770- 1836)

Anton Reicha’s 24 wind quintets were composed in Paris between 1811 and 1820.  They were a conscious attempt to fill a void in the repertoire for wind chamber works.  Reicha later wrote  “…there was a dearth not only of good classic music, but of any good music at all for wind instruments….”   In general, the Quintets combined three major elements:  1.  virtuoso display;  2. popular elements (Bohemian folk melodies, marches, etc.); and 3. an academic interest in variation form and counterpoint.

Published by Simrock in 1818-1819.  Opus 91 number 3 (D major) was conceived as a lighthearted composition (with a complicated structure!); highlights from the various movements include:

First movement:  A substantial flute cadenza in the slow introduction (Reicha’s first instrument was the flute); followed by a 6/8 scherzo theme. Overall homophonic tone.  Second movement:  Bel canto feel; operatic ritornello form (2 episodes); Third movement:  Imitative counterpoint in the Trio; Fourth movement:  a rondo with sonata form overlay.

This post is paraphrased from two articles: 1) Anton Reicha, Wikipedia, accessed 19.7.16;  2) Charles-David Lehrer, The Opus 91 wind Quintets of Antoine Reicha;



Danzi Quintet opus 56 no. 1


Franz Danzi, Quintet in B Flat, Op. 56, #1: Mov’t 1: Allegretto played by the Toronto Wind Quintet

Danzi’s first wind quintet from 1821, when he was attempting to storm Paris with the new genre.  He was 58 at the time, and died just five years later.  His wind quintet rival Anton Reicha outlived him by 10 years.