George (or Georges) Onslow (1784-1853) was a French composer born to an immigrant Englishman and a French woman in Clermont-Ferrand. He was wealthy and did not have to concern himself with a need to make a living, and thus was able to concentrate on writing for himself and his friends. He was a talented pianist and much of his music includes a piano, although he also wrote a number of operas and many string quartets and even more string quintets. He wrote ten piano trios of which the two presented here are his fifth (1818) and ninth (1824). The trios are very much in the classic mold and as Viviane Nieux in her Grove Dictionary article says they 'contain pre-Romantic features similar to those found in Hummel, and are of incontestable quality, if formally rather rigid.' They are pleasant, contain memorable melodic material, are harmonically fairly unadventurous, precisely crafted and rarely rise above being pleasant rather than profound. But they make enjoyable Tafelmusik or Hausmusik which is probably exactly what they were intended for. The first trio, Opus 14, No. 2 in E flat, contains an enjoyable set of variations on folk tunes from the Auvergne. The second trio on this CD, the Opus 27 in G, is slightly more advanced harmonically than the first but it rarely ventures further than the music, say, of early Weber.
The Trio Cascades is German. Its members are pianist Thomas Palm, violinist Katrina Schulz and cellist Inka Ehlert. They play with a fine unanimity of style. The piano parts are, like most of Onslow's piano music, quite virtuosic and Palm plays them well with a light and sure touch. Apparently Trio Cascades intend to record all of Onslow's piano trio output as this issue is marked Volume 1. Once again one must compliment the cpo label with its commitment to explore little-known corners of the 19th century repertoire.