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OPUS 38, 39 AND 40.
This dissertation is my own work
and has not previously been
submitted for assessment at this
or any other institution.
September 2009
1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Chapter I: George Onslow, Beethoven français
Andre George Louis Onslow (1784-1853)
Beethoven Français
4. Chapter II: Quintets Op. 38, 39 and 40
Instrumentation of the Quintets
Dedications and Performances
5. Chapter III: Notation and Performance
Accents >, fp, rf, fz
Articulation - Staccato/Marcato
Tempo Rubato
Metronome Markings
Portamento – fingerings
6. Postscript
7. Bibliography
Fig. 1 George Onslow by P.L. Grévedon 1830
Fig. 2 Compositeurs dramatiques modernes lithograph by N. Maurin,
published by Galerie de la Gazette musicale No.3, 1844
Fig. 3 Performances
Fig. 4 Eight Bows from Fétis’ Antoine Stradivari (Paris, 1856)
Fig. 5 Table of the Principal Accents That Comprise Musical Character
Ex. 1 Op.39 Allegro spiritoso bars 26-32 (Kistner)
Ex. 2 Some examples of syncopation shown with >
Ex. 3 Op. 39 Introduzione bars 13 -15 (Kistner)
Ex. 4 Allegro Spiritoso bars 271-279 (Kistner)
Ex. 5 Op.39 Finale bar 271-274 (Kistner)
Ex. 6 Op.38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo bars 1-5 (Probst)
Ex. 7 Op. 38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo bars 156-164 (Probst)
Ex. 8 Op.39 Allegro Spiritoso Op.39 Allegro Spiritoso bars 1-13 (Probst)
Ex. 9 Op.39 Allegro Spiritoso bar 255-262 (Kistner)
Ex. 10 Op. 38 Finale bars 94-113 (Kistner)
Ex. 11 Op.40 Allegro risoluto bars 69-75 (Kistner)
Ex. 12 Op.38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo bars 214-221 (Kistner)
Ex. 13 Op.38 Finale bars 292-305 (Kistner)
Ex. 14 Op. 39 Adagio grandioso bars 35-37 (Kistner)
Ex. 15 Op. 40 Menuetto bars 260-300 (Kistner)
Ex. 16 Op. 39 Finale bars 152-156 (Kistner)
Ex. 17 Op. 39 bars 108-113 (Kistner).
Ex. 18 Op.39 Menuetto bars 1-13 Violin 1 (Probst)
Ex. 19 Op. 38 Menuetto. Citation by Baillot “With Sorrow”
Ex. 20 Op. 38 examples of different articulation
Ex. 21 Baillot L’Art du Violon p. 238
Ex. 22 Baillot L’Art du Violon p.126
Ex. 23 Spohr Violinschule p.108
Ex. 24 Spohr Violinschule p.207
Ex. 25 Bériot Méthode p.237
Ex. 26 Op.40 Finale bars 1-8 (Kistner)
Ex. 27 Op.39 Finale bars 1-13 (Probst)
The following work examines performing practice and reception of George Onslow’s
Quintets Opuses 38, 39 and 40. Onslow was a highly influential French composer of the
nineteenth century, who wrote a large amount of chamber music, including thirty-six
string quartets and thirty-four string quintets. His string parts are independent and
highly virtuosic, in particular the soloistic treatment of the two cellos in his quintets.
Chapter I examines the composer and his Quintets Op. 38, 39 and 40, in relation to the
accident that influenced Onslow’s work, and the public comparison to Beethoven.
Chapter II considers variables influencing a study of performance practice, including
publishers, instrumentation, treatises, and dedications and performances of the works.
Chapter III is a study of aspects of nineteenth century string performance, referring
closely to treatises and supplying case studies from the score.
Fig. 1 George Onslow by P.L. Grévedon 1830
Nineteenth century performance practice has been a fascinating ‘grey area’ until
relatively recently. Studies previously overlooked this century, despite the wealth of
sources available, including hard evidence of early twentieth century recordings. These
recordings have been disregarded as ‘old fashioned’ rather than evidence of a period
style, perhaps because this style seems to disagree so strongly with our contemporary
tastes. In discovering these differences, not only can the musician get closer to the
intentions of the composer, but also widen the possibilities of expression, opening a
new sound-world.
Together with this discovery of new styles comes the exciting appearance of mostly
forgotten composers. George Onslow was a composer of the highest calibre whose
music has been unfairly neglected, despite being so admired in his own lifetime.
Nicknamed le Beethoven français, Onslow received numerous awards and public praise
for his music by colleagues such as Cherubini, Berlioz, Schumann and Mendelssohn. He
was known for his superb instrumental writing and was particularly famous for the
programmatic Quintet Op.38. This work marks a step in Onslow’s career; finally
receiving recognition in his home country as a heroic ‘romantic’ composer. His
following works, Quintets Op.39 and 40 and his first symphony, were met with huge
success throughout Europe.
Biographical literature on Onslow has been published fairly recently, reviewing and
correcting early unfavourable and biased works published after Onslow’s death. In
2003, works in French by Baudime Jam and Viviane Niaux have scrutinised these early
sources, and the Association George Onslow has been compiling and collecting sources
related to the composer. The only biographical work in English has been a PhD
Dissertation (1981) by Franks, an American musicologist who was the first to discover
the early biographies to be incorrect and historically distorted. Despite new research
into Onslow’s music, only a few works have been published in English, leaving the halfEnglish composer to be still relatively unknown.
Musical style constantly changes, and to study the styles from an entire century would
be impossible. Treatises and elements of performance practice have been selected
below based on relevance to the composer and his works Opuses 38, 39 and 40. Issues
of nineteenth century performance practice that are radically different from what we
generally expect are explored, at the expense of omitting elements that are more
obviously realised. Musical phrasing is directly linked to bowing and articulation which,
as discussed below, were constantly being ‘improved’ - either with the development of
the bow, or the notation. Whilst the musician hopes to realise the composer’s
intentions and play the music as it was originally heard, it is clear through an
investigation into treatises and performances that there was (and is) no ‘correct’
Clive Brown’s book on Classical and Romantic performing practice contains perhaps
the most exhaustive research on the subject, quoting hundreds of treatises and
sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Using this evidence, aspects of
performance practice are applied to Onslow’s music, raising questions of
interpretation rather than trying to answer them. Hopefully, this work will provoke
further philological research of Onslow’s scores, as well as raising philosophical
investigation into practical usage of this evidence for the modern musician.
Thanks to Clive Brown for his inspiring lecture series and comprehensive work. I am
grateful to Viviane Niaux for supplying me with scores, her book and her invaluable
support. Finally, thank you to Rosie Toll, David Grime, Dan Gallagher and Janet Fischer
for the fantastic joint effort on the translation.
CHAPTER I: George Onslow, Beethoven français
Andre George Louis Onslow (1784-1853)
Andre George Louis Onslow was born in Clemont–Ferrand, France, to an English father
and a French mother. Brought up in a wealthy family, Onslow studied music as part of
a well-rounded education. Details of his music teachers are vague; according to Fétis,
Onslow first studied the piano with J.N. Hüllmandel (1756-1823) in London, where he
was sent to visit his English relatives around 1790. During the French Revolution,
Onslow’s father Edward was briefly imprisoned and later forced to flee to Germany. In
1798 Onslow followed his father to Hamburg, where it is believed he met and also
studied piano with J.L. Dussek (1760-1812). After returning to France in 1800, Onslow
became involved in amateur music societies in France, and was invited to take part in
the music-making on the condition that he played the cello. There is no evidence that
Onslow had any formal cello lessons, but he eventually became skilled enough to
perform in chamber groups alongside well-known professional musicians. It is believed
that he went to study piano with J.B. Cramer (1771-1858) in London between 1802 and
1805. Cramer held a fond affection for his young student, dedicating the Grande
Sonata Op.42 (1809) to him, and later by supporting his nomination to the London
Philharmonic Society (1832).
Onlsow always had an interest in composition and was taught the basic elements of
harmony by his friend, Geraud-Antoine-Hippolyte, Count of Murat (1779-1854). He
copied works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and began composing with the genre
of the string quintet. In 1807 Quintets 1-3 were published together by Pleyel (17571831), who became an early admirer of Onslow. Despite positive feedback, Onslow
became aware of his lack of formal training, and so in 1808 went to study with Anton
Reicha (1770-1836) in Paris. By this time he had already successfully completed and
published three string quintets, three piano trios, three string quartets, a short opera
and a piano sonata, all without any formal training. Onslow was committed to
becoming a professional composer, demonstrated by becoming a pupil of Reicha, one
of the most eminent and influential teachers of composition (and close friend to
Beethoven). 1
The String Quintet Op. 38 was composed in 1829, just before his father’s death.
Onslow had previously written an abundance of chamber works for strings and piano,
including fourteen string quintets, eighteen string quartets and three operas. However,
it was the fifteenth quintet that earned him the nickname le Beethoven français and
helped Onslow become a household name. His following quintets Opus 39 and 40
were received with great acclaim, and were published in France, Germany, Austria and
England. He became heavily involved in affairs at the Paris Conservatoire, regularly
supervised the Prix d’Rome, and sat on jury boards – even took part and approved the
use of Adolph Sax’s invention of Saxophone in the army. George Onslow was later
named an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic Society (1836) and the
Academie de Beaux-Arts after Cherubini (1842), and was named a chevalier of the
Légion d’Honneur (1837), among many other awards.
Further details of Onslow’s musical education can be found in Franks 1981, p. 157, and Niaux 2004,
Beethoven Français
Onslow had often complained that his music was misunderstood by his fellow
countrymen. Rochlitz, reviewing his first piano sonata Op. 2 in the Allgemeine
Musikalische Zeitung in 1818 describes Onslow’s music as being German in nature.2
The comparison to Beethoven by the public was first a hindrance and later a boost for
Onslow’s career. When Beethoven’s music was first introduced to France, it did not
receive the acclaim the composer enjoyed across Europe. The two composers received
similar criticism - that their music was too rhythmically and harmonically complex - and
the public viewed Onslow’s music as a representation of that same German tradition.
However, there was some crusading to popularize Beethoven with the French public,
for example François-Antoine Habeneck (1781-1849). As the public appreciation of
Beethoven’s music grew in France, so did Onslow’s popularity, and by the 1830s his
music was performed regularly in concerts themed on Beethoven. That same year
Pleyel published the first collected edition of Onslow’s Quartets and Quintets, and
coined the phrase ‘le Beethoven français’. There are reasons for this comparison other
than the ‘German’ tradition. Both composers were well acquainted with Reicha, who
wrote many influential treatises on composition. In particular, the programmatic and
tragic nature of Onslow’s fifteenth Quintet Op. 38 drew comparisons to Beethoven,
who by then had emerged as a ‘heroic figure of pathos and suffering’.3
In 1829, Onslow had begun writing his fifteenth quintet when he suffered an accident
whilst out hunting. The hunt was held at Saint-Augustin, and Onslow was apparently
more interested in his new composition than tracking the wild boar.
Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, “Grande Sonata pour le pianoforte, comp. par George Onslow, Oeuvr. 2”
under “Recensionen” Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, ser. 1 Vol. 20 no.40 (7 oct. 1818) cols.702-704
cited by Franks 1981, p. 193
Franks 1981, p. 19
We come to wake Onslow well before day-break. The composer, strongly sunk
in his quintet, at first refuses. Meanwhile, as his friend exhibits insistence, and
not wanting to disoblige, he consents to accompany him. They arrive in the
forest. Onslow is posted by his friend to a little rise, next to a tree, not far from
where the boar is supposed to pass. A little while later, the dogs bark, a boar
crosses and Onslow shoots and misses; at the same time a second shot comes
from the direction of his friend, and Onslow receives the bullet in his left jaw.
Onslow falls, having been slightly choked by his own blood, and one of the
hunters arrives quickly to help him up. He is carried back to the castle; he
arrives with his head wrapped up and bloody. It’s the following night that he
composes the piece Délire. This accident caused the deafness in his left ear,
and from then on Onslow could no longer play the cello. The bullet penetrated
both flesh and bone and was never retrieved.4
This account is provided by Joseph d’Ortigue (1802-1866), who interviewed Onslow on
this event. Whilst Onslow refused to give details of the accident as they were “vulgar,
and of interest to nobody”5, in his autobiography Onslow says "the bullet entered by
the left cheek and lodged in the lower part of the neck"6. According to Franks, the
injury caused Onslow to eventually lose hearing in one ear, develop a speech
impediment and suffer from nervous fits. However, there is only one mention of the
composer’s deafness in his correspondence, when Onslow refused to sit on a jury
panel in 1842 for a competition.
I have been afflicted with deafness that I in vain have sought to remedy by
J. d’Ortigue “George Onslow” Revue de Paris, Vol.1 LVI, Nov 1833, p.161 cited by Niaux 2003, p.107108
J. d’Ortigue Letter of 27th Sept 1833 cited by Niaux 2003, p. 108 and 306
P.J.G. Zimmerman Letter of 21 Aug 1829 cited by Niaux 2003, p.108
obsessively accepting several medical treatments. This infirmity (...) has made
impossible clearly hearing what is being said from very short distances.7
It is uncertain whether the composer did suffer from such a disastrous injury for a
musician, or if he was just in need of an excuse. Whatever the case, the visible trauma
on the composer’s face is shown in a portrait published in the Galerie de la Gazette
Musicale. (Fig. 2) In 1831, Op. 38 was simultaneously published by Pleyel in Paris and
Probst in Leipzig, the former containing a comment on the title page;
N.B. following a serious accident the composer has sought to express in the
Minuet, Andante and Finale of this quintet; his suffering, his recuperation and
his return to health.8
The quintet was advertised in France as Quintetto “de la balle” (the bullet), and was
later nicknamed in Germany as the ‘Krankheitsquintett’ (sickness quintet). Onslow set
the quintet from the second movement to be programmatic of his illness and recovery,
naming them Menuetto - Dolore (pain, sorrow), Trio - Febre e deliro (fever and
delirium), Andante sostenuto -Convalescenza (Convalescence, recuperation) and Finale
- Guarigione (Recovery, healing).
Caught up in the craze for Beethoven, Onslow’s musical esteem in France
climbed to heights far exceeding what might have been expected. He was
riding in the wake of a force which had precipitated the major musical
transformation of the nineteenth century, what we have come to define in
oversimplified terms as Romanticism.9
Cited by Niaux 2003, p.109
Ibid p. 110
Franks 1981, p. 19
This boost in Onslow’s career led him to pen his first symphonic work. Symphony No.1
Op.41 (1830) became highly popular. It was publicly admired by Cherubini and
performed abroad in Austria and Germany. Only the first page of the autograph has
survived, and this mystery is explained in an account by Halévy (1799-1862):
It came time for the performance of one of Onslow’s symphonies at the
Conservatoire [the premiere of 10 April 1831]. Cherubini was moved by the
elegance of a particular passage in which the instrumental dialogue flowed with
appropriate and ingenious charm. After the concert, without complimenting
the composer who had delighted him so, Cherubini made his way to the stage,
approached the score, looked for the passage in question, detached the page,
and carried it away with him. Returning home, he completely copied it over and
placed the original in an album, then calling one of his servants, said: ‘Take this
copy to M. Onslow and tell him I have desired his autograph for some time.’10
The approval shown by Cherubini, one of the most loved and influential composers in
Paris, went in Onslow’s favour. The successful attempt by Onslow to “enter the arena
of the grand orchestra where in Paris Beethoven ruled supreme”11, led to Onslow
being given the responsibility of continuing Beethoven’s work by the Parisian public.
One day a French composer, having heard symphonic works by the great man,
struck his forehead and exclaimed: “I too am a musician!” And he bowed
before the statue of the musician-poet and then departed for the solitude of
the Auvergne where he wrote two symphonies. The heads of the Conservatoire
understood national pride. They turned their eyes toward the retreat of the
artist and gave him the sign to approach. He arrived, he remeasured the
Ibid. p. 432-433
Ibid. p. 431
Colossus of Bonn. At the sight of him, he grew pale and let his score fall from
his hands. The Conservatoire gathered it up; the modesty of the author was
unavailing and not able to conceal it from a triumph. That composer was
George Onslow.12
Symphony No.2 Op. 42 (1831) was dedicated to Philharmonic Society of London, and
together with the success of the first symphony led to Onslow becoming the second
honorary member of the society after Mendelssohn. With the success of the quintets
and symphonies, Onslow was considered the most exciting instrumental composer
since Beethoven. He had finally reached recognition in France, as le Beethoven
J. d’Ortigue “Album pour collections” (see clipping entitled “Feuilleton de l’Avenir. Sixième concert du
conservatoire. Symphonie de M. Onslow”) cited by Franks 1981, p. 434
Fig. 2: Compositeurs dramatiques modernes lithograph by N. Maurin, published by
Galerie de la Gazette musicale No.3, 1844
Top: Berlioz, Donizetti, Onslow, Auber, Mendelssohn, Berton
Bottom: Halévy, Meyerbeer, Spontini, Rossini
CHAPTER II: Quintets Op. 38, 39 and 40
In France, Onslow’s works were published by Pleyel (Opus 1-39), followed by
Troupenas (Opuses 40-50). In 1830, Pleyel published a collected edition of Onslow’s
quartets (Op. 4-36) and quintets (Op.1-39) which included a portrait and facsimile of
the Autograph score of the first page of Op.38 Menuetto. The parts of Op.38 and 39
were published the following year (1831). In Germany, Onslow’s music was published
officially by Breitkopf and Härtel until 1829, after which the composer signed a
contract with Probst in Leipzig. After publishing Op. 38 and 39 (1831) Probst retired
and the contract was continued with Kistner. It was Kistner who published the Op. 40
Quintet (1831), and scores of the Quintets Op. 38, 39 and 40 (ca.1840). Niaux writes
that in order to prevent counterfeit, Onslow organised simultaneous release of his
publications, so that they appeared on the same day in both countries.13
These editions are compared to Autograph copies of Op. 38 and 39 (parts), and the
facsimile from Pleyel’s collected edition, the page from the Autograph score of Op.38.
(Title page to the Menuetto)
Onslow must have revised the music before printing, as there are large differences in
content between the Autograph and the first editions parts. For example, the Op.38
Autograph has eight different bars at the end of the first movement. The Op.39
Autograph has even larger differences; twenty-five bars changed in the first movement
(bars 124-149), and sixteen bars cut from the last movement (bar 299). There are also
anomalies between the two Autograph copies of Op.38; in the score the first violin has
Niaux 2003, p.257
added octaves and there is a metronome marking which is not in the parts, which all
have different tempo markings (including Allegro, Presto and Vivace assai).
The issue of anomalies in the Autograph manuscripts raises the problem of the
‘Fassung letzter Hand’, which would ideally be solved if a first edition corrected by the
composer can be studied. As these changes mentioned above are consistent in the
Pleyel and Probst editions, which were both overseen by the composer, one must
assume these were revisions made by the composer himself. Further research into the
publication of these first editions would be beneficial, but unfortunately can not be
included in the current work.
Instrumentation of the Quintets
The Quintets Op. 38, 39 and 40 are written for "deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles", but also contain the part “Alto-Violoncelle”, which can replace the first
cello, if there is none available. This ‘viola-cello’ part was created for purely
commercial reasons, giving musicians the choice to combine either two violas or two
cellos for the performance of the quintets. Onslow first scored quintets for two cellos
in his Quintet Op.1 No.2, (No.1 being for two violas) and continued this
instrumentation up until Op.25. However, there has been some confusion over the
instrumentation of these early works due to the title pages inscribed with “quintettes á
deux violons, alto, violoncelle et basse”. In the tradition of the eighteenth century,
quintets were written with a part named ‘basso’ in order to distinguish from that of
the first cello. This becomes clear in comparison to his later works; Quintet Op. 32
(1827) shows a change in instrumentation, with the direction “quintettes pour deux
violons, alto, violoncelle et contrebasse”. An account of a music soiree describes how
near disaster brought this change about:
After an hour of waiting the second cello did not arrive (…). At last one of the
players hazarded to say ‘but…we have there the famous Dragonetti. Would you
like him to play the second cello part on the double bass?’ ‘No, No, a thousand
times no! My tenth quintet is performed for the first time and although I know
all the talents of Mr Dragonetti, I’m sure that the double bass would make a
detestable affect. It will howl in the middle of the other instruments; and how
would it be able to relax its tremendous sounds?
At last, making the best of a bad situation, and tired of waiting, he had to resign
himself. (…) The celebrated double-bassist had not even played eight bars when
Onslow, filled with wonder, outwardly applauded with the public. From this
moment, the master will arrange his quintets for cello or double bass ‘ad lib’.
Monsieur Gouffe, famous double bassist, arranged the first nine quintets under
the eyes of the composer.14
Opuses 32, 33, 34 and 35 were all published very clearly for double-bass, but again for
commercial reasons, also contained the part “violoncello-basso”, to substitute for the
double-bass. Onslow continued to include these supplementary parts in all of his
quintets, (apart from Opuses 78, 80 and 82 which are written specifically for two
violas) nonetheless the title pages always show which combination of instruments is
first choice. For example, Opuses 43, 44 and 45 are for two cellos, with the inscription
“The part of the first violoncello can in absence be replaced by the part of violavioloncello, and the part of the second violoncello also replaced by the part of the
double-bass.”15 One must assume, therefore, that the first instrumentation mentioned
is the preferred choice by the composer. According to Franks, Onslow also owned and
L. Escudier, notice nécrologique insérée dans La France musicale, 16 oct. 1853 p.335-336 cited by
Niaux 2003, p.103
Onslow Op 43, 44, 45 title pages “La partie de 1er Violoncelle peut au besoin se remplacer par une
partie d’Alto_Violoncelle et cello de 2d Violoncelle par une partie de Contre-Basse”
played the treble viol, violin, viola, and double bass himself, though we know he was
most able on the cello, and thus may have understood the instrument in more detail.
His fondness and understanding of the dark timbres led to his giving the cello a
special place in his compositions. As a result, his string quartets and quintets
feature some of the best, if not the finest passagework afforded the instrument
in French chamber music of the nineteenth century.16
Dedications and Performances
The fifteenth Quintet was dedicated to Louis-Pierre-Martin Norblin (1781-1854), a
soloist, cello professor at the Paris Conservatoire and cellist for the Baillot Quartet. The
cello is given a more melodic, virtuosic role in the Quintet, which is not surprising given
the dedication. Op. 38 was honoured by a citation in Baillot’s famous L’Art du Violon
(1835), as an example “with Sorrow”.17 As discussed above, the work was
programmatic of Onslow’s tragic hunting accident, and was highly popular. It was
praised by reviewers and performed in concerts throughout Europe, which were
apparently filled with emotional outbursts by the audience.18
Onslow’s Quintet Opus 39 was dedicated to Madame Dinet, an amateur violinist and
wife of examiner of the Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Militaire. Intriguingly, it came to
be known as the ‘Quintetto des Dames’, despite there being no inscription in the
score. Niaux, one of the leading researchers on Onslow, cites a quartet of women
performing from around 1810 nicknamed “the ladies quartet”. It is only known that
Franks 1981, p. 200-202
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p. 367-368
Luguet, 1889-1890 p.19 cited by Franks 1981, p. 379
Madame Ladurner19 played first violin, and Madame Pain20 played cello. “In absence of
non precise information, one can imagine that a "ladies' quintet" was able to form
taking from the example left by these quartets and so lead to this becoming the title of
Onslow's piece.”21 The ‘Quintetto des Dames’ became universally popular, and was
performed abroad as far as Prague. A review from a performance of the work nearly
twenty years later describes the ‘Quintetto des Dames as a “work of such an elegant
and gracious style, [it] (…) is a truly ravishing creation.22
The seventeenth Quintet Opus 40 was dedicated to J.F. Eck (1766-ca. 1809), a German
composer, virtuoso and violinist of the Munich Orchestra. The work was published
after the first Symphony, despite the Opus numbering. (The quintet was mistakenly
numbered Op. 41 and Op.42.) The Op. 40 Quintet explores the tonality of B minor,
which had previously not been used by Onslow. As Franks comments, the tonality of B
minor was becoming popular at the time, and composers were exploring the dramatic
nature of this key of ‘passive suffering’.23
These three Quintets became standard repertory in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia,
and Bohemia. Fredrich Pixis (1785-1842), professor of violin and conducting at the
Prague Conservatoire, presented the work in various concerts between 1835 and 1838.
“By this time, according to the critics, Onslow had become as popular in Prague as
?-1823, wife of celebrated pianist Ignaz Ladurner
1773-1859, pupil of Baudiot and wife of librettist Joseph Pain
Niaux 2003, p. 115
A. Dauger, “Chronique musicale”, Feuilleton du Pays, 7 oct. 1850 (Album de collection. Château
d’Alteribe) cited by Niaux 2003, p. 114-115
For example, Bach’s Mass in B minor, Tchaikovsky’s Pathetic, and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.
See further discussion of B minor by Franks 1981, p. 443 - 444
Mozart or Beethoven.”24 Franks has carefully documented performances of the
Quintets with repertoire performed alongside them. (Fig. 3)
Onslow’s music in a way is quite ‘international’; he had strong connections with
England, he was born and lived in France, but his music was seen as ‘Viennese’ and
was more widely accepted in Germany, as well as being performed further abroad in
Europe. In France at the time, Opera was the most popular form of music, and as
Onslow was not an opera composer per se, his music would not have been as popular
in France as it was in Germany. One can infer from the dedications and the
documented performances of the Quintets, that although Onslow was composing
these pieces in France, they were not necessarily performed, or intended in a ‘French’
style. By the end of the eighteenth century, the advent of the railway offered travelling
virtuosi more career options – more tours – and brought about the age of the freelance musician. There began to be less defined national styles and musicians sought for
ways to standardise pitch, instrument making and notation. This is reflected in
Onslow’s scores, as they are heavily ‘marked’ by the composer, to allow for musicians
from different backgrounds performing his music. Therefore, one should not limit
study to treatises only from one country, as the musical world was becoming more
Franks 1981, p. 478
Fig. 3 Performances
Op. 38
 Karl Möser, 1832, Berlin
 Königliche Kapell, Dresden, 1836
Beethoven Razumovsky Quartet Op.59
 Gustave Schmidt, Halle an der Haydn ‘Emperor’ Quartet Op.76 No.3 and
Saale, 1838
a Mozart Quartet
 Zimmermann Quartet, 1841, Berlin Schubert ‘Rosamunde’ Quartet Op.29 and
Beethoven Quartet Op. 18 No.3
 Tilmant
occasions in Paris
 Fredrich Pixis, Advent Concert Quintet in G major by Václav Viet (1806series, Prague, 1834 and 1836
 Zimmermann Quartet, ‘Quartett- Beethoven ‘Archduke’ Trio Op.97 and
Soirée’ by the Congres Musical Mendelssohn Quartet Op. 13
d’Angouleme, 1838
 Gouffe Ensemble, France, 1850
Nonet in E flat Major by Farrenc25
 Fredrich Pixis, Advent concert Mozart Quartet in A major K. 464 and
series, Prague, 1835-1838
Spohr Quintet in G major Op.33 (in 1836)
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was another pupil of Reicha and Professor of piano at the Paris
Conservatoire in 1842. Her Nonet played was premiered by Joseph Joachim. Farrenc also wrote
Variations on the Duet “C’est la fete du villag” from “Le Colporteur” by George Onslow Op.10 which was
premiered in 1827 at the Opera Comique in Paris.
The most widely used and influential violin treatises after the 1830s were Spohr’s
Violinschule (1832), Baillot's L’Art du violon (1835) and Beriot's Méthod de violon
(1858). Due to the virtuosic writing for the cello by Onslow, Méthode de violoncelle
(1840) by Romberg is also considered, as an equally significant work.
Louis Spohr’s (1784-1859) Violinschule was one of the most significant treatises in
Europe. Composer, conductor and virtuoso violinist, Spohr was a close friend of
Beethoven and a renowned pedagogue, his most famous student being Ferdinand
David (1810-1873). His influence on the Violin even extended to developing the
instrument, as he was responsible for introducing the chin-rest in the 1820s. He is said
to be influenced by Pierre Rode (1774-1830), and was considered the authority on
German classical music.
Baillot (1771-1842) was one of the most prominent violinists and pedagogues in Paris,
and his treatise L’Art du Violon was translated into German, Spanish, and English,
influencing musicians for years to come. This text followed the earlier Méthode de
violon, co-written by Baillot, Rode and Kreutzer (1801), which was based on Viotti’s
teachings from the Paris Conservatoire. L’Art du Violon expanded on this brief treatise
to include more bowing techniques and outline the romantic ethos of music. Baillot
was professor of violin at the Paris Conservatoire for over forty-seven years, but was
also a composer and chamber musician, founding the renowned Quatuor Baillot
(1814). Baillot established a series of chamber music concerts between 1814 and 1840
in Paris, centering on his own quartet. Onslow dedicated his Op.8 Quartets (1815) to
Baillot, who probably performed them in these concerts. Baillot was also the one of
the first musicians to perform works by older composers in a style its composer would
have used.
Onslow’s Quintet Op.37 was dedicated to Charles Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870), who
later became the founder of the Franco-Belgian School of playing. In 1821 Bériot
travelled to France and (being unable to have lessons with the over-booked Viotti)
studied briefly with Baillot before returning to Brussels. His tour of Europe was met
with great acclaim, and he was offered the post of professor of violin at the Paris
Conservatoire after Baillot’s death. However, he declined, and accepted a similar post
in the Brussels Conservatory. He was influenced by Paganini and the Parisian school,
and was perhaps in turn an influence for Onslow, who developed a ‘new suppleness of
violin writing encountered in the fourteenth quintet’.26
Bernhard Heinrich Romberg (1767-1841) was a popular virtuoso cellist, touring Europe
and arriving in Paris in 1799. He was Professor of the Paris Conservatoire for two years
in this time, before continuing on to Russia and London. Like Spohr, he had close
contact with Beethoven, and performed the Op.5 cello sonatas with the composer in
Vienna. He made several innovations to the cello construction and technique, including
lengthening and modifying the curvature of the fingerboard, (a modification later
adopted by Spohr) and simplifying cello notation to three clefs (Bass, tenor and treble).
Romberg is also known for performing from memory, and possessing speed and
dexterity in the upper range of the cello due to his technique.
Franks 1981, p. 367
CHAPTER III : Notation and Performance
Accents >, fp, rf, fz
In performance, a competent chamber music group will decide how to execute each
accent and match each other’s playing. In order to make such decisions, it is important
the musicians define their own interpretations of the markings in the score. The
Autographs of Op.38 and 39 show how clearly Onslow marked his scores, and in
comparison to the edition, it is relatively easy to spot mistakes. As Onslow employs a
number of different signs for accents, we can compare and assign a hierarchy to each
accent in the music.
Composers at the time all seemed to have their own uses of the sign >. The use of this
sign for showing diminuendo and crescendo was not regularly used by composers until
after the 1760s, and by the 1780s it was also used as an accent. Some composers only
used it to show diminuendo, while others such as Schubert used it to suggest a rapidly
decaying accent closer to sforzando. Despite this ambiguity, Onslow uses > very clearly
for both accent and diminuendo, penning the latter much longer and below the stave,
and the former short and above the stave. When analysing the difference between the
Autograph of Op.39 and the editions it is obvious that > is quite often mistaken for an
accent when it is meant diminuendo and vice versa. For example, in bar 12 of the first
movement Allegro, the Autograph clearly indicates mf diminuendo, not an accent as
marked in the edition. (Ex. 1)
Ex. 1 Op.39 Allegro spiritoso bars 26-32 (Kistner), showing misprint of accent
> probably indicates an accent of variable strength, from a full-blooded
sforzando to a gentle emphasis, depending on the context and on any other
qualifying expressions. Many composers, (…) regarded > as having a more
restricted meaning in this respect, and quite definitely a level of accent inferior
to sf. The largest body of opinion in the first half of the nineteenth century
regarded it as indicating one of the slightest degrees of accent.27
As Onslow uses a wide range of accents – fp, rinf, and fz, - we must assume the sign >
is used as the lesser accent, or rather a melodic stress. In fact, Onslow generally uses
this sign to emphasise syncopation within a phrase. (Ex. 2) Baillot gives this method of
executing a syncopation in his L’Art du Violon as “The second way: Attacking the note
sf or >.”28 For example, in bar 13 of the first cello part the accent is on the second beat,
which then ‘sets up’ the rf in the third beat. (Ex. 3) Another example is shown later in
this movement in bar 232. The cello has the melody but misplaced one beat, therefore
Onslow uses > rather than rf, to signify the stress that falls in the melody. (Ex. 4)
Brown 1999, p. 112
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.236
Ex. 2 Examples of syncopation shown with >
a. Op.40 Menuetto first violin bars 289-317 (Kistner)
b. Op. 40 Allegro Risoluto first violin bars 18-25 (Kistner)
Ex. 3 Op. 39 Introduzione bars 13 -15 (Kistner)
Ex. 4 Allegro Spiritoso bars 271-279 (Kistner)
Fortepiano (fp) was also interpreted and used in many different ways in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. Some composers used the fp as a sharp accent, but this is
generally dependant of the other accent markings within the piece, for example
composers who did not employ sf or fz implicated fp as the strongest accent. In
context of music that has the stronger accents present, the fortepiano should be
interpreted in its literal sense – subito forte followed by subito piano – without too
much attack on the beginning of the note. In a given rhythm composers often clarify
this interpretation by marking the f over a different note to the p. For example, In the
Finale of Op.39, fp is indicated for long sustained notes in all parts except the first
violin, which has semiquavers. (Ex. 5) In order for the fp to feel together, the quintet
must follow the first violin, which would no doubt play the first semiquaver forte, and
the second piano. In other instances where the fp is not dictated by the rhythm, it is
practical for performers to decide a vague length of the forte in order to play with the
same intent. For example, the opening theme of the Op.38 Quintet starts fp on a
minim note, tied to a quaver over the bar. The intent of this could be to draw attention
to the syncopation of the melody (starting in the weak part of the bar) and the bar line
in the decay of the fp. (Ex. 6)
Ex. 5 Op.39 Finale bar 271-274 (Kistner)
Ex. 6 Op.38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo Violoncello 2 bars 1-5 (Probst)
Rinforzando (rf), literally meaning reinforced, or strengthened, was a performance
direction that caused a great deal of confusion. In Schilling’s Encylcopädie (ca. 1835) rf
is defined as crescendo, a gentle accent, and synonymous with sforzando. Again, one
must read rf in context with other directions given by the composer in order to
ascertain the degree of force needed. For example, Onslow marks rf to draw attention
to the syncopation in the second theme of the first movement of Op.38. (Ex. 7) Why is
it different, and no longer fp as in the first theme? The second theme is much gentler,
and has a more lyric, cantabile quality, therefore rf is an expressive indication to lean
on or strengthen the note. In this case, the rf is marked within piano and the
instructions clearly given dolce con espressione, indicating that the accent is less harsh.
In the opening theme of the Op.39 Allegro the rinforzando is crucial to the
interpretation of the melody. (Ex. 8) He writes rf > (diminuendo) on the first beats of
the bar – in a place where one would perhaps already naturally lean on the first beat
and diminuendo through the bar. To interpret this marking, one must assume the
composer wanted the first beat strengthened beyond the natural ‘lean’, and in order
to accentuate this, more diminuendo. In fact, he also writes in the first violin rf and
then p with no diminuendo. Although the marking suggests a similar rendition to that
of the first cello, perhaps the p is to remind to performer to stay within the ensemble
piano dynamic. Onslow very particularly writes this rf every time the melody returns,
apart from two occasions; the penultimate version in piano, and the previous phrase
marked forte and using the sign > rather than rf. As discussed above, this sign is used
to show the stress in the melody, and a weaker accent than the rinforzando. In this
instance, the violins should play the melody without phrasing off at the end of the bar
(pointing out the absent piano or diminuendo) and merely play the first beats
expressively, to highlight the chromatic line. (Ex. 9)
Ex. 7 Op. 38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo Violin 1 bars 156-164 (Probst)
Ex. 8a Op.39 Allegro Spiritoso bars 1-7 Violoncello 1 (Probst)
Ex. 8b Op.39 Allegro Spiritoso bars 1-13 Violin 1 (Probst)29
Ex. 9 Op.39 Allegro Spiritoso bar 255-262 (Kistner)
NB see Ex. 1 showing misprint of accent
The abbreviations sf, sfz, and fz standing for ‘sforzando’, ‘sforzato’ and ‘forzando’ or
‘forzato’, were overwhelmingly regarded as synonymous, and most composers
habitually employed only one or the other.’30 Onslow uses only fz, which should be
played as the Italian suggests, with force. This marking is used vary sparingly by
Onslow, thus the performer can infer that this is a special type of accent, probably the
most forceful, and therefore execute the previously mentioned accents more carefully.
The forzando is used as a feature in the Finale of Op.38 (Ex. 10) to outline a syncopated
variation. Because of the speed of the movement, this accent has to be executed very
sharp and sudden, and as Onslow directs the following passages leggiero, not too
heavily. This variation is not written in the Autograph copy, but as it is printed in both
first editions, one must assume it was approved by the composer. The forzando also
appears in the first movement of Op.40. (Ex. 11) Again, one must assume approval by
the composer as it is marked in both first editions. This passage requires efficient bow
control by the violinist, and the finished result sounds rather ‘seasick’. Onslow did not
merely want the first, second and third beats accented, or he would have written three
slurrings to a bar and added accents. Perhaps the composer wanted this effect, but
with a longer line in mind and a more passionate build to the top of the phrase. This
interpretation is further supported as the passage begins with fp, - therefore the first
forzando would be within piano - the arpeggiated nature of the passage, and the
written crescendo.
Interestingly, Onslow uses a combination of accent markings (>, fz, rf and ff) at the
climax of the first Allegro of Op.38. (Ex. 12) Here, this combination of performance
markings is used to help with issues of balance. The violins are in octaves at the top of
the register, therefore only a regular accent is required – too much would be
overpowering. The first and second cello play the same material, but their registers are
Brown 1999, p.75
very different, and the quality of this difference has prompted for the rinforzando in
the first cello, and the sharper forzato in the second cello. This climax would perhaps
benefit from a ‘Beethovian’ crescendo – each accent needs to build up the tension
reinforce the volume, acting as an aural crescendo.
Ex. 10 Op. 38 Finale bars 94-113 (Kistner)
Ex. 11 Op.40 Allegro risoluto bars 69-75 Violin 1 (Kistner)
Ex. 12 Op.38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo bars 214-221 (Kistner)
Described often as the soul of the violin, the bow was considered the main means of
expression during the nineteenth century. The development of the bow was a gradual
process, culminating in the Tourte model in the 1780s. Despite the superiority of the
Tourte model, there is no doubt that many transitional and older bows would still have
been in use at the turn of the century. (Fig.4) To a certain extent, bowstrokes are
dependent on the bow used, and so realistically there would have been different bows
capable of different articulations. The Tourte bow made possible longer, sustained
cantabile lines, stronger attack, and gave the player more power and volume. New
techniques developed by virtuosi such as Paganini included the ‘springing’ bowstroke,
ricochet, and the staccato in a single bowstroke – despite divisions of opinion on what
constituted as good style. The springing bowstroke was considered by many to be oldfashioned and frivolous, and was not included in string treatises until Baillot’s L’Art du
Violon, not even by Baillot himself in the earlier Méthode, co-written by Rode and
Kreutzer in 1803. Spohr was known to show distaste for any violinist who used the
springing bow, and completely omitted the technique from his Violinschule. Romberg
also disapproved of the stroke, and in this Méthode writes that it is “quite
incompatible with a fine style of playing”31 Although Baillot describes a much larger
variety of bowstrokes, he still delivers a stern warning;
Diversity is interesting only because of what it contributes to the accent [this
use of accent is discussed under Articulation] appropriate to the character of a
particular passage. This character reveals in a general way the composer’s style,
and contains one of the principal secrets of the genius that distinguishes him.
The violinist must therefore try to perform the passage with all the composer’s
intentions down to the smallest detail.32
L’Art du Violon includes bowstrokes such as martelé, le grand détaché, staccato,
spiccato, perlé, and ricochet, describes how to execute each bowstroke, and helpfully
marks all off-the-string strokes with daggers or strokes. The springing stroke is used
rather sparingly, and only seems to be suitable for cadenza or scherzo passages – in
fact under “Musical Character” it only appears under “merry”.33 Spohr apparently
shared the view that the springing stroke was acceptable for the scherzo, although
according to Malibran, only a few by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Onslow, who
Romberg 1840, p.109
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.192-193
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.359
reportedly said “Ah! The miserable creatures! They bounce me too much, much too
much; I almost talk myself to death with the frequent repetition of this exhortation
and they always do it again and again! It is a foregone conclusion, a nail in my coffin.”34
Contrasting to today’s musician, the more commonly accepted bowstrokes were onthe-string, and in the middle to upper half of the bow. Spohr describes the détaché
and martelé as being executed “with the upper part of the bow”, and advises that in
order to separate the notes, the bow must “stand still upon the string for a moment
after each note.”35 Baillot shows the détaché in the middle of the bow, but comments
that this will “depend on the tempo.”36 The martelé is shown, like Spohr, in the tip of
the bow, and the violinist is advised to leave the bow on the string and “bite” each
note.37 The word staccato was only used to describe staccato in one bow, which was
also played on-the-string. Studies of bowed editions by Ferdinand David, analysed in
depth by Clive Brown38, show passages that would now be played off-the-string were
actually played in the upper half with the staccato, détaché, or martelé. As discussed
above, the springing bowstroke was not rejected by all, but was at least not as
commonly used as it is today.
Malibran, Louis Spohr, p. 208
Spohr trans Bishop, 1843, p.124
Baillot trans Goldberg 1991, p.173
Ibid p. 174
See Brown, 1999 chapter “String Bowing” p.259 and Stowell 1994, p.121
Fig. 4 Eight Bows from Fétis’ Antoine Stradivari (Paris, 1856)
Articulation - Staccato/Marcato
Since the late nineteenth century editors and scholars have devoted much
thought to the sorts of theoretical distinctions that were historically made
between various forms of articulation marks, illuminating a host of individual
views, which, though fairly clear and straightforward in themselves, are
frequently incompatible with one another.39
In the eighteenth century, authorities such as C.P.E. Bach and L. Mozart used a single
mark to show unslurred notes, and this was echoed by later composers such as Spohr.
Brown 1999, p. 200
However Baillot’s treatise condones the use of two signs – the dot for martelé and the
stroke for spiccato or off-the-string bowings like perlé or ricochet.
Context was very important in relation to articulation during the eighteenth century.
Articulation was less notated as it was generally included in the style of the piece, and
this depended on a number of variables. For example, church music would not be
performed in the same style as a solo piece; opera would be different to chamber
music. An Adagio would be more sustained than an Allegro, and the nationality of a
piece and/or performer would greatly have effected the execution of the music. The
development of the Tourte bow significantly influenced a change in style that was
more sustained, and had a wider range of tonal variation. (This was also reflected in
the development of the piano around the same time) As Brown comments; “In the
Méthode, [Baillot, Rode and Kreutzer’s treatise of 1803] the basically legato treatment
of the bowstroke required for an adagio is extended to allegro and even presto. (…)
This is quite clearly the style of playing adopted by the Viotti School and its followers,
whose supremacy in the first decades of the nineteenth century was virtually
unchallenged.”40 Composers faced the difficulty of having limited signs to notate
articulation, as well as these signs having different meanings, and this led to
composers providing further written instructions to clarify articulation.
This trend is shown at the Autograph manuscript for Onslow’s Op.39. One can see
clearly he consistently marks dots rather than strokes above the notes, and adds
further directions to clarify the bowing and articulation. He uses dots together with
directions such as staccato (Ex. 13), marcato (Ex. 14), staccato e leggiero assai (Ex. 15)
and con delicatezza, (Ex. 16). (In comparing the autograph to the edition, one can spot
an error caused by misreading the score in the passage just mentioned. (Ex. 17) In the
Brown 1999, p.221
editions staccato e marcato is marked in bar 111 – an obvious misunderstanding of the
direction marcato written the line below for the passage after the double bar.)
Ex. 13 Op.38 Finale bars 292-305 (Kistner)
Ex. 14 Op. 39 Adagio grandioso bars 35-37 (Kistner)
Ex. 15 Op. 40 Menuetto bars 260-300 Violin 2 (Kistner)
Ex. 16 Op. 39 Finale bars 152-156 (Kistner)
Ex. 17 Op. 39 bars 108-113 (Kistner). In the Autograph, it is clearly indicated staccato in
bar 111, and marcato later in bar 119.
Examples 15 and 16 are interesting in comparison to Baillot’s example of a “Light and
Delicate Passage”41 which is marked with strokes, indicating a springing bowstroke.
One must therefore assume that the dot in itself does not always mean staccato, as is
the modern translation, but separate or detached. Observe that Onslow does not mark
a dot where it would obviously be a separated note, only where the musician may
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.200
misinterpret. For example, the opening of the Menuetto of Op. 39 has dots marked on
quavers that are step-wise and traditionally played more legato, and not on quavers
followed by a rest or a leap, which would be impractical to play legato on the violin.
(Ex. 18)
Ex. 18 Op. 39 Menuetto bars 1-13 Violin 1 (Probst)
In contrast, bar 58 of Op. 39 Menuetto is marked fieramente, and has no articulation
markings. Baillot indicates that when there is no marking, the notes should be played
in the grand détaché, indicating a bowing on-the-string, executed in the middle of the
bow. Spohr is in agreement with this, as although he writes strokes over each note
that is separated, he explains, “This method of bowing is always understood, when no
bowings are indicated.”42 Baillot gives further examples in “Characteristic Passages”,
including examples of energetic passages, some parts of which have no dots or strokes,
with the direction “In the middle of the bow, firmly and with good tone.”43
It would be a vast error to generalise the use of the dot (or stroke) and to thus always
execute the indicated notes the same length. (For example, always playing notes with
dots on- or off-the-string.) Note the direction at the beginning of the Menuetto Op. 39;
con espressione e un accento di melinconia. (Ex. 18) Baillot explains;
Spohr trans. Bishop 1843, p.118
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.193
The character is thus traced by the composer, and the accent is rendered by
the performer. This accent is the means he uses, means which are often not
indicated or are indicated only imperfectly. Indicating the means would be in
vain, even if all the signs possible were used, if the performer did not bring to
these means the faculties of his soul along with the resources of technique.44
Baillot’s use of the word ‘accent’ is slightly different from the standard, modern usage.
He writes “Accent is in the manner of playing the note”45, and includes in his definition
of the word all means of expression – nuances, bowings, dots, rests, fingerings, port de
voix etc. He outlines two different types of accent; the specific accent – incorporating
signs and accents on one note at a time, and the general accent, which incorporates
the whole piece. This description is reminiscent of the theory of the doctrine of
affections from the Baroque period, which describes each piece (or movement) as
being in one basic mood or affect. Baillot outlines these affects or accents with the
“Table of the Principal Accents that Comprise Musical Character”46 (Fig. 5), and goes on
to give excerpts of pieces in a particular accent with corresponding indications,
including tempo and character. Onslow is quoted twice in this chapter, to show an
example of “Merry” (Op. 18 String Quintet)47 and “With Sorrow”.48 (Ex. 19)
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.352
Ibid p.355
Ibid p.359
Ibid p.367
Ex. 19 Op. 38 Menuetto. Citation by Baillot “With Sorrow”
The most useful marking of articulation is thus in fact Onslow’s indications of character
and interpreting the dots within this character. Applying Baillot’s table to Op.38, the
second and third movement fall under the third character – Passionate/Dramatic,
(Menuetto Dolore is No.18 and Andante marked Convalescenza con sordini e sempre
sotto voce is No.19) whilst the last movement falls under the first and/or second
character. (Finale Allegro=No. 6 Merry, spiritoso=No.10 animated.)
Whilst in the Autograph of Op.39 Onslow clearly uses dots rather than strokes, this
distinction is less clear in the Autograph of Op.38. The quality of the latter Autograph is
far worse than the former, and is harder to decipher in some areas. It does seem that
Onslow sometimes uses the stroke/dagger, although it is hard to tell if this is a
mistake, a blot from the pen, or intended. It seems the only instance that the dagger is
occasionally marked is on the first separate note in a group of semiquavers, where the
rest are slurred. Perhaps in conjunction with the use of the more consistent dot, the
stroke means a fast, sharp down-bow in preparation for the rest of the bar on an upbow. (Ex. 20b) However, Onslow also marks this separate note with a dot. Looking at
the editions, the confusion seems worse, with a jumble of dots and strokes in the same
passages. (Ex. 20) In comparison to the consistency of the Autograph of Op.39 and
other discrepancies found in the Opus 38 Autograph, one is inclined to disregard the
stroke as a mistake, or slip of the pen. However, it can not be for certain, until a
further detailed philological study has been made on Onslow’s scores.
Ex. 20 Op. 38 examples of different articulation
Ex.20a Op.38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo bars 104- 105 (Probst)
And the same passage, bars 103-105 (Pleyel)
Ex.20b Op.38 Allegro moderato ed espressivo bars 146-148 (Probst)
And the same passage (Pleyel)
Fig. 5 Table of the Principal Accents That Comprise Musical Character
Corresponding Indications:
Nuances of a
naïve character
Allegro, Gaio, Scherzo
Lively and light
Vivace, Leggiere
Singing and Graceful
Dolce, Grazioso
Tender and affectionate
Tendre, Affettuoso
10. Vague
Mosso, Vivace, Brioso, Spiritoso
11. Animated
12. Agitated
Fantastico, Capricioso
Agitato, Flebile
Ritenuto, Rallentando
13. Holding Back
14. Passionate
Appassionato, Furioso, Disperato
15. With melancholy
16. With sadness
17. Moving
Espressivo, Con imtimissimo sentimento
18. With sorrow
Con dolore
19. Veiled, Concentrated
Con sordini, Sotto voce, Che a pena si sente
20. Brilliant
21. Energetic
22. Violent
23. Dramatic
24. Martial
Militare, Tempo di marcia
25. Resolute, Proud
Risoluto, Imperioso
26. Noble, Grandiose
Nobile, Grandioso
27. Calm
Moderato, Tranquillo
28. Majestic
Maestoso, Grande
29. Religious
30. Enthusiastic, Sublime
Con fuoco
Tempo rubato
There is a manner of altering or interrupting the beat which is a kind of
syncopation called tempo rubato or disturbato, temps derobe or trouble. The
tempo rubato makes a grand effect, but by its very nature it would become
tiring and intolerable if used often. It tends to express uneasiness and agitation,
and few composers have notated or indicated it; the character of the passage is
generally enough to lead the performer to improvise it according to the
inspiration of the moment. (…) He only appears to lose the beat; that is to say,
he must have a kind of steadiness which keeps him within the limits of
harmony in the passage and brings him back at the proper time to the exact
beat. It is a case here of applying the following observation: A confusion well
presented is often an artistic effect.49 (Ex. 21)
Tempo rubato was a common performance technique since the eighteenth century,
although it has very rarely been notated. In C.P.E. Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art
das Clavier zu spielen (1753), he describes rubato wonderfully as to “intentionally
commit the most beautiful offences against the beat”.50 From early recordings one can
hear the legacy of this rubato, which shows a style much less strictly ‘in time’ than
today. Tempo rubato differs from the other type of rubato, defined by Busby in 1801
as “time alternately accelerated and retarded for the purpose of enforcing the
expression”.51 The technique of tempo rubato was to keep the pulse steady, whist the
rhythm of the melody was distorted. Rubato was a topic of much debate at the
beginning of the nineteenth century; some writers cautioned restraint, while others
complained of feeling inhibited and not able to express their emotions freely without
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.237
Bach i. III, 8 cited by Brown 1999, p.377
Busby A Complete Dictionary of Music 1801 cited by Brown 1999, p. 377
it. After being criticised of self-indulgence in a performance in Berlin, Spohr became a
powerful opponent of too much rubato. However, he describes how to use tempo
rubato clearly in his Violinschule;
The Accompanist must be careful not to hurry or retard the Solo-player, though
he must instantly follow the latter, whenever he slightly deviates from the time.
This, however, does not apply to the tempo rubato of the Soloist, during which,
the accompanist must continue its steady, measured course.52
And he later gives an example from Rode’s Seventh Concerto Op.9;
The second half of the 28th and 30th bar must be so played as slightly to
augment the duration of the first notes beyond their exact value compensating
for the time thus lost, by a quicker performance of the following notes. (This
style of playing is called tempo rubato)53
Considering Onslow’s quintets are dramatic works, there is no doubt tempo rubato
would have been performance practice until it began to go out of fashion at the
beginning of the twentieth century. Of course, ensemble playing is different to solo
playing, (as it is also different to orchestral playing,) therefore if tempo rubato is to be
successful in the quintet, the players must know their roles. As Spohr defined the roles
of the soloist and the accompanist (above), he also defines quartet playing as a
separate style of performance. He comments that means of expression available to the
soloist must only be used when one instrument has a certain solo against
accompaniment from the other players.54
Spohr trans Bishop 1843, p.234
Ibid p.185
Spohr trans Bishop 1843, p.232-233
Ex. 21 Baillot L’Art du Violon p. 238
Viotti, Violin Concerto No.19 in G minor. 1st movement, bar 384-99
Passage as notated by the composer:
Metronome markings
The problem of rubato was directly related to the growing confusion over tempo
markings. At the turn of the century, drastic social and cultural change caused the
gradual disappearance of the courtly dances, and the rise of the middle class. The
eighteenth century tempo guisto became less relevant, and tempo directions began to
encompass a wider range of possibilities. The need for the metronome was strong.
Composers used pendulums to measure time before Maelzel’s (1772-1883) first
metronome, developed in 1815. Spohr and Weber were some who used the pendulum
method, which they later replaced with metronome markings around 1820. As Spohr
comments in his Violinschule, tempo was “guessed at from the character of this work”
and was often wrong. He writes;
This evil is now completely removed by the invention of the Metronome, by
which utmost precision can be attained (…). That of Maelzel has met with the
greatest approbation; hence, for the last 12 or 15 years, compositions, besides
retaining the before mentioned Italian words, have also been generally marked
according to it.55
Baillot had even stronger affection for Maelzel’s metronome:
An admirable instrument, music’s clock! It is a perfected chronometer, which,
by fixing forever the tempo given by the impulse of genius, makes understood
the divisions of the beat with a perfect equality, based on one of the great laws
of nature. A sublime regulator, it always yields to intelligence and to feeling,
which can follow it or depart from it as needed. (…) The metronome is meant
to give to performance a positive character that it could not have, or at least
keep, in the vagueness of tempi indicated by irrelevant words.56
Although there are no metronome markings in the Autograph parts of Op.38 or 39, the
surviving page of the Autograph score of Op.38 contains a marking for the Menuetto.
The first editions are also consistent with their tempo directions, giving the impression
that Onslow had previously approved them. (There is a small error in the first
movement of the Op.39 Pleyel edition of crotchet, rather than quaver, equals 100. The
Ibid p.28
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.459
only other difference is in the following Allegro; the Pleyel edition citing dotted
crotchet equals 101, while the Probst edition equals 104.) Franks displays a
photograph of Onslow’s metronome, and it is dated 1815, the year they were first
manufactured in Paris.57 Comparing composer’s metronome marks with those they
themselves performed in early recordings shows how much performance can differ
from conception of a work. (For example, Elgar’s recordings of the Enigma Variations,
studied by Robert Philip.58) As Baillot says above, the metronome marking should be
followed or departed from “as needed”, and should really only be taken to show the
starting tempo of a movement. He advises to use it for practice, but to keep
performance less mathematical.
The heart, whose beats are so varied even in their constancy, could not be in
harmony with insensitivity. Self-assurance, that results of self-will and of a
movement of the soul, is free like the soul even within its captivity. It cannot
depend on a material object that would constrain its progress or give it an
inflexible stiffness and (…) a character of fatality not compatible with its principle.59
Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, various terms were used to
describe the wavering of pitch now called vibrato. L. Mozart used the terms tremolo
and bebung, Baillot used the term undulation and in England tremolo was used
alongside close shake. These terms also meant many different techniques, including
Franks 1981, plate XXVIII p.299
See Robert Philip “The recordings of Edward Elgar” in Early Music Nov. 1984
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.460
vibrato, portato (or bow vibrato) or our modern meaning for tremolo (fast repetition of
a single or alternating notes). It wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that the
term vibrato came to be used in its present meaning, but even then it was used in
conjunction with other techniques. Vibrato in the current sense was linked closely to
accents, as remarked upon by Spohr, “it is employed only in an impassioned style of
playing and in strongly accenting notes marked with fz or >”.60 It was also regarded as
purely ornamental, and definitely not used continuously as it is today. Listening to old
recordings, one can hear that artists still used vibrato sparingly, and with different
speeds and intensities. However, a passage in Romberg’s Violoncell-Schule suggests
that continuous vibrato was actually an old-fashioned technique.
Formerly, the close shake was in such repute, that it was applied
indiscriminately to every note of whatever duration. This produced a most
disagreeable and whining effect, and we cannot be too thankful that an
improved taste has (…) exploded the abuse of this embellishment.61
Another cellist, J.J.F. Dotzauer (1783-1860) also stated “To shake or tremble the finger
on a long note is indeed an old ornament.”62 Whatever the case, musicians from all
schools disliked continuous vibrato, perhaps the strongest disapproval coming from
This habit, involuntarily acquired, degenerates into a bad shake or nervous
trembling which cannot afterwards be overcome and which produces a fatiguing
monotony. (…) The evil is more dangerous from the fact that it is increased by the
natural emotion which takes possession of the performer when he appears in
Spohr trans Bishop 1843, p.163
Romberg 1840, p.87
Dotzauer c.1825, p.28
public. (…) Whether he be singer or violinist, (…) vibrato is nothing but a convulsive
movement which destroys strict intonation, and thus becomes a ridiculous
exaggeration. We must, then, employ vibrato only when the dramatic action
compels it: but the artist should not become fond of having this dangerous quality,
which he must only use with the greatest moderation.63
Vibrato was sometimes notated by composer, marked by a wavy line
, but this
sign was usually used as a teaching method. The wavy line was also used indicate bow
vibrato, which is advised to intensify a mezza di voce (<>). While vibrato with the left
hand is not mentioned in the early Paris Conservatoire treatise, it is described by
Baillot in his later work.
So that the ear does not suffer, (…) the violinist must begin and end by
producing a tone with pure intonation. Used with discretion, vibrato gives to
the sound of the instrument a similarity to a voice strongly affected by
Baillot gives examples of vibrato, indicated by
and by the mezza di voce sign (<>).
under a slur is later notated for bow vibrato) He advises vibrato should be
“rejected in a succession of notes; it has a good effect only on a long note or when the
same note is repeated.”65 Spohr outlines a similar opinion, but also takes the use of
vibrato in the mezza di voce further, inviting players to match their vibrato to an
increase or decrease of volume.
Beriot c. 1880, p.242
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p. 240
Ibid p.243
Long sustained notes may likewise be animated and reinforced by it: and
should a swell from p to f be introduced on such a note, a beautiful effect is
produced by commencing the tremolo slowly and gradually accelerating the
vibrations, in proportion to the increase of power. If a diminuendo occur on a
sustained note, it likewise produces a good effect to begin the tremolo quick
and gently decrease in velocity.66
Spohr notates four types of vibrato;
1. Quick, for accented notes,
2. Slow, for sustained notes,
3. Slow and accelerating for crescendo,
4. The fast and getting slower for diminuendo.
Onslow did not mark vibrato in his Autograph manuscripts, nor are there any such
performance directions in the editions. However he does mark the mezza di voce,
although it is usually notated over fast-moving notes. Baillot and Spohr accept vibrato
on long notes, thus as Onslow’s music is quite fast moving, one may suggest to take
vibrato out altogether, and only add it to slow movements. Vibrato was a technique
essentially for the soloist, and as Spohr insists that in ensemble playing, vibrato is only
allowed when the player “has a decided solo part, and the other instruments merely
an accompaniment”.67
Spohr trans Bishop 1843, p.163
Ibid p.233
The term portamento di voce, (or in French port de voix) means “carriage of the voice”
or passing from one note to another in a smooth progression. Portamento originated
in the seventeenth century as a purely vocal technique, and was described by Giovanni
Battista Doni, (1585-1647) author of Trattato primo sopra il genere enarmonico of
1635, as “dragging the voice little by little, almost imperceptibly, from the low to the
high, or the reverse”68 Around the same time, the French term port de voix was used
differently; as an appoggiatura, usually resolving upwards. This ornament became part
of the French Baroque style, but by the nineteenth century, port de voix also came to
be synonymous as portamento, which evolved to incorporating an audible slide.
Domenico Corri described the technique in The Singer’s Perceptor (1810) as “the
swelling and dying of the voice, the sliding and bending one note into another with
delicacy and expression”.69 Certainly, there is much evidence to suggest that
portamento was already a common vocal technique by the beginning of the
nineteenth century, and would have surely been used as an artistic effect for the string
player ever since shifting became a common occurrence.70 Baillot describes port de
voix as a melodic ornament, and gives two ways to execute the technique; the first is
simply legato, and the second connecting notes with “a light joining [made by the
finger of the left hand] which moves from the very end of the first note to the next,
anticipating it.”71 From this distinction and the examples Baillot gives, one can
determine that while the most important aspect is the legato, the earlier ornamental
Doni 1635, cited by Grove Music Online
Corri The Singer’s Perceptor p.3 cited by Brown 1999, p.559
See Brown 1999, chapters 12 and 15
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p. 126
definition of the term still applies. The notated examples clearly show an anticipation
of the arrival note, rather like an appoggiatura. (Ex. 22)
Ex. 22 Baillot L’Art du Violon p.126
Examples of the Port de Voix
He also demonstrates portamento on the same finger, but advises against using it for a
‘wide skip’. His general rule is to make a crescendo when shifting up, and a diminuendo
when shifting down. Baillot comments:
Since the port de voix is a means of tender expression, it would lose its
effectiveness if used too often. The violinist should avoid at all costs slides or
glissandi that let the intermediate notes be heard72
Spohr also warns the student against over-use of the portamento shift.
When two notes lying at a distance from each other have to be played in one
stroke of the bow, (…) it is impossible to avoid the sliding of the hand from
being heard in skipping from one to the other of them. In order (…) that this
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.128
may not degenerate into a disagreeable whining, it must be accomplished in
the following manner.73
Ex. 23 Spohr Violinschule p.108
Spohr’s method is slightly different to Baillot’s in that he recommends shifting on the
‘old finger’ until it is place for the ‘new finger’ to be placed. (Ex. 22) He does not
mention shifting on the same finger, although fingerings in his ninth concerto show
this type of portamento; the entire passage below to be played with the second finger.
(Ex. 24) Baillot’s seventh means of expression from his chapter entitled “Expression
through Fingering” is “Sliding on one finger through a whole melody”. 74 It seems
apparent that port de voix was a common means of expression, and that the use of it
was up to a sense of taste.
Ex. 24 Spohr Violinschule p.207
Spohr trans Bishop 1843, p.108
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.275
Bériot’s Méthode shows three signs to indicate portamento, and the different speeds
of execution. (Ex. 25) Bériot’s signs show us a clear connection between expression
and portamento, in a similar way as discussed above with Baillot’s accents. Baillot
demonstrates three types of fingerings in L’Art du Violon, the most secure, the easiest,
and the expressive fingerings. He comments on his colleagues; Viotti avoided changing
position “this style obliged him to cross strings”, Kreutzer “shifted frequently on all
strings; this style is appropriate for brilliant melodies and bold passage-work”, and
Rode – “shifted on the same string; this style favours port de voix in graceful melodies,
and gives these melodies a certain unity of expression which comes from the
homogeneity of sound of the single string”.75
Ex. 25 Bériot Méthode p.237
Baillot trans. Goldberg 1991, p.261 - 263
Although port de voix is a technique founded on the expression of the voice, there is
less obvious indication in vocal writing than there is in string music, the most common
indication in the score being, of course, the fingerings. Whilst Onslow does not mark
many fingerings, there are some very clear examples of portamento. The main
expression of the theme of the Finale of Opus 40 is dependent of the port de voix
fingering in bar 2 – a slide from the 3rd finger D to F sharp. (Ex. 26) This fingering is
added consistently throughout the movement, (also to the cello) and indicative of this
port de voix is the written <fz leading up to the shift. However, we cannot say for
certain this was written by Onslow himself, due to the absence of the Autograph. As
the editor has not printed many (if any) fingerings, one would be inclined to believe
this must have been approved by the composer. Comparing this to Autograph
manuscript of Op.39, one can see a resemblance to fingerings in bar 6-8 of the Finale.
(Ex. 27)The first violin is instructed to slide on the 2nd finger G sharp to B, and a bar
later the crescendo diminuendo surely indicates a portamento shift on the fourth finger
up to the A, down to a 3rd finger on the D sharp.76
Ex. 26 Op.40 Finale bars 1-8 Violin 1 (Kistner)
In the Probst edition, this A is notated as a harmonic. Spohr seems to use a lot of harmonics in
melodic material in his Violinschule, and gives an example of portamento up to a harmonic such as this
on page 109
Ex. 27 Op.39 Finale bars 1-13 Violin 1 (Probst)
In Spohr’s Violinschule, he defines the difference between a “correct style”- a literal
reading of the notes and music, and a “fine style, in which correctness, feeling and
elegance, are equally united.” This “fine style” involves; 1. Management of the bow
and tone, accentuation and separation of phrases, 2. Artificial positions and expressive
fingering, “to which may be added, the gliding from one note to another”, 3. The
“tremolo in its four degrees” and 4. “The accelerating of time in furious, impetuous
and passionate passages, as well as the slackening of it in such as are of a tender,
doleful or melancholy cast.”77
This work has tried to pinpoint some of these characteristics of a nineteenth century
“fine style”, and apply them to Onslow’s quintets. This style greatly differs from
modern taste; the use of the bow was more on-the-string and vibrato was minimal,
while other aspects like portamento and tempo rubato were much freer than today.
Aural confirmation of this style is manifest in early twentieth century recordings, which
give an insight into how different this sound world was. By studying the notation and
treatises of the time, one can better interpret the score in a language and style known
to the composer.
Baillot was one of the first musicians to discuss the composer’s intentions. He writes,
Spohr trans Bishop 1843, p.182
It is genius of performance that allows the artist to (…) identify himself with the
genius of the composer, follow him in all his intentions, and interpret these
intentions with bold facility and precision. (…) It is genius of performance (…) to
transmit to the soul of the listener the feeling that the composer had in his
One can never really know what “feeling the composer had in his soul”. It is only
possible to try to understand what was intended by the score, and how it was intended
to sound to the audience. A study of context and public reception of Onslow’s Quintets
Op. 38, 39 and 40 show what affect this music had on its audience - an audience which
was enshrouded in ‘romantic’ aesthetics of the time. To achieve this affect in a modern
audience, it is often essential to use different techniques. One can not listen with
‘period ears’, and something that was once shocking, for example dissonant
harmonies, does not have the same effect on modern ears.
Despite historical research, there is no ‘correct’ interpretation, nor was there in the
nineteenth century; when performers certainly had the freedom to express their own
personality. Two recordings highlight a difference in performance aesthetics; the
L’Archibudelli and Smithsonian Chamber Players recording (Onslow Op. 38, 39 and 40)
is in nineteenth century style, performed on gut strings and definitely within this other
‘sound-world’. In contrast, a recording by Quintett Momento Musicale (Op.38 and 67)
portrays the musical intent, in a more ‘modern’ style. Whatever the personal
preference of the performer, awareness of nineteenth century style widens
possibilities of expression and creativity, and knowledge of the context heightens
communication with the audience. It is hoped that this research in Onslow’s Quintets
Op. 38, 39 and 40 and nineteenth century string performance practice will urge further
investigations and performances of this fantastic music.
Baillot trans Goldberg 1991, p.479
Onslow, George
Quinzième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles, Dédié à Monsieur Norblin Professeur à
l’Ecole Royale Musique Op. 38 [Photocopy of composer’s
Autograph ms] Bibliothèque nationale de France,
département de la musique (fonds du conservatoire) FPc/ Ms 10027
Quinzième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles (ou deux Altos et un Violoncelle) Dédié à
Monsieur Norblin Professeur à l’Ecole Royale de Musique
à Paris Op.38 Leipzig: H.A. Probst, 1830
Quinzième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles, Dédié à Monsieur Norblin Professeur à
l’Ecole Royale Musique Opéra 38, Paris: Pleyel, 1830
Quintetto No.15 Partition Oevre 38 (full title page
missing) Leipzig: Fr. Kistner, ca. 1836
Seizième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles dédié Madame Dinet, née de Lasplanes
Op.39 [Photocopy of composer’s Autograph ms]
Bibliothèque nationale de France, département de la
musique (fonds du conservatoire) F-Pc/ Ms 9844
Seizième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles dédié Madame Dinet, née de Lasplanes
Op.39 Paris: Pleyel, 1830
Seizième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles (ou deux Altos et un Violoncelle) Dédié à
Madame Dinet Op.39 Leipzig: H.A. Probst, 1831
Quintetto No.16 pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles ou pour deux Violons, deux Altos et
Violoncelle Partition Ouvre 39 Leipzig: Fr. Kistner, ca.
Dix septième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles, dédié à Monsieur Eck Op.42, Paris:
Troupenas, 1831
Dix septième Quintetto pour deux Violons, Alto et deux
Violoncelles compose et dédié à Monsieur Eck Op.40
Leipzig: Fr. Kistner, ca.1840
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