Tag Archives: wind Quintets

“Our French Beethoven”

 academie-des-beaux-arts Academie des Beaux-Arts, Paris

Dubbed “Our French Beethoven”, George Onslow’s (1784-1853) musical output was dominated by the stringed instruments (for example:  36 String Quartets and 34 Quintets) According to Robert Schumann, Onslow and Mendelssohn were the only contemporary composers equivalent to Beethoven for the mastery of string quartet form. Onslow was unique in France for concentrating on small ensemble works, at a time and place when grand opera captured the imagination of most composers (and the concert public). But in 1850 Onslow, aged 66,  wrote a single Wind Quintet (F Major, Opus 81) for which he is now remembered.  That Wind Quintet, however, was not Onslow’s sole use of wind instruments.  He wrote several pieces which combined winds and strings, and which immediately preceded his famous Opus 81.  These were:

  • Opus 77a. Nonet for Winds and Strings. 1848

  • Opus 77b. Sextet for Winds and Strings. 1848

  • Opus 79a. Septet for Piano, Winds, and contrabass. 1849

  • Opus 81. Wind Quintet. 1850

Onslow was community-minded and publically active in the first half of the 19th century; he was awarded numerous honours, including:

Anton Reicha (1770 – 1836)

cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3.pngAnton ReichaFriend of Beethoven, teacher of Lizst and Berlioz (among others of note), and childhood runaway: Anton Reicha succeeded in the 18th c music world of Vienna and Paris as prolific composer, music-educator and academic scholar.  Most famously, in Paris he consciously strove to establish the new wind quintet genre—to which end he contributed an astonishing 24 Quintets.   More on Reicha in subsequent posts:   we will be following his music (and that of Franz Danzi, a contemporary) over the next few months.
Image Search:  Anton Reicha.  “Anton Reicha:  Biography-Classic Cat”.  http://www.classicat.net. 5.4.2016