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Masterpieces to Discover 1


George Onslow (1784-1853), was born in Clermont-Ferrand, an died in Clermont-Ferrand. he is inspite of what it could first seem, an "Auvergnat". But his father was an Enlish Lord, who came in France after a scandal in England… and then married a French girl from the high noblety.

George spent all his life then, in Clermont-Ferrand, except few years when is parents went back with him to England, during the hottest days of the French révolution, just by precaution to avoid becoming… let say cold-headed…

It's about since 10 or 15 years that one talks again from Onslow, but inspite of that, he still is very much unknown by most peoples, but especially in France, where the ideas, once they have been written by some "who-knows", in an encyclopaedia or something, are then taken again from there and transmitted to some other "who-knows-to-be", and further expanded as personal data without even any of the slightest verification, and all of them being more happy to err with Gallien than be true with Harvey!

It is certain that, in this first half of the 19th in France, the chamber music was surely not considered as anything worth the trouble to listen to. What had the support of the croud was in fact the opera, preferably Italian, and if possible their least good productions… let say it: their worse stuff, or of course the numerous copies of it.

The critics then, were judging with disdain the ones silly enough to spend their time writing or trying to play pieces only written for a string quartet or quintet (what a misery!)… Think! not even a text to what one could hold on, not even the contra C of a soprano to waken up, in a piece that finally having no word, has nothing to say!

Then, the critics classified him among the gentle amateurs. Well, he tried to pass through that barrier in composing some operas (2 or 3), but they where not written with easy melodies accompanied by "plom-ploms" in the orchestra… He wanted after all to do music, with real melodies, and an orchestra fully written, rich playing polyphonically (he wanted to be admitted by the public, but not at the cost of concessions concerning music and art). So, once again, they didn't understand his art and quality, and the critics refused to him once more the right to be a genius.

Inspite of that, outside France, the publics, a bit more evolved, were recognizing in him the proper value of a master… It seems that Schubert was influenced by him, and some others too (one also has mentionned much later, César Franck). Later, England admitted him in the "Philharmonic society", and that incited the France to retaliate in admitting him in the "Académie"…

Well, that never had been a proof of genius, but even if it seems to be nothing more than a cupboard on which one puts busts in plaster, some among those have really been geniuses… Look Marcel Pagnol for instance, to only quote him.

That chair by the way, was supposed to be for Berlioz, but that didn't even affect him nor his admiration for Onslow. He even prononced that phrase : "Since the death of Beethoven, Monsieur Onslow holds the sceptre of symphonic music in Europe", what surely is an appreciation, especially coming from Berlioz!

Onslow composed much, during his all life, since around 1810 till shortly before his death in 1853. He produced 36 string quartets, and the same amount of string quintets (sometime with 2 celli, or two violas, or cello and double-bass), and of course, the operas I mentionned earlier, but also 4 symphonies, 2 piano sextet , 2 piano septets, a nonet, 6 piano trios, 6 sonata (called duetts) for piano and violin, 3 others for piano and cello (or viola), piano pieces, etc…



Ignace Pleyel (1757-1831), See about him, the notes HERE.



Bernhard Molique (1802-1869) German composer (born in Nürenberg, he died near Stuttgart), was first a violinist, pupil of Spohr, made numerous tours in the world, lived few years in London, before to come back to Germany.

When I was student at Bruxelles, someone having given to me a pile of old musics, I remarked among them, inside a cheap quality album (not for its content, but for the quality of its paper already fallen into dust), two short pieces, minor works from Molique, two melodies, which had struck me by their quality.

Much later (1992), that name being still in my memory, I did some researches at the Bibliothèque Nationale, and found 3 quartets from Molique, who, had also produced 2 masses, 1 oratorio, 1 symphony, 6 violin concertos, 8 string quartets, 2 piano trios, various duets, etc…


Pierre Rode (1774-1830), from Bordeaux , violinist and composer with great talent (Beethoven admired him and, when Rode visited him in Wien, even if he dedicated the work to someone else, finished for him his last piano & violin sonata). After a carrier which brought him all over Europe, even St Petersburg where he stayed some time, he settled in France where he taught in the newly open Paris Conservatoire. He collaborated there with two other great figures of the violin, Baillot and Kreutzer, to the elaboration of the Violin method of the Paris Conservatoire.

Baillot was the only one left to completely finish it, and he mentionned an interesting fact comparing the two ways to play of Rode and Viotti (Rode's teacher, but also the foundor of the French violin school), Viotti, more contemporary to Mozart:

"When Mr Viotti preffered to go across the string, but keeping the hand in the same position, Mr Rode preffered for the sake of the tone colour and of expression, to stay on the same string, and to go into the positions" (it is: moving the hand toward the bridge)… I'm quoting by memory.

Quartet n° 34, op 65


String quartet


String quartet 2 op 17


String quartet

Jean-Claude Féret




(Eugène Ysaÿe, Guillaume Lekeu, Paolo Litta, Henri Woollett, George Onslow, Pleyel, Molique, Rode )




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