Johann Joachim QUANTZ (1697 - 1773) Flute Sonatas: No.272 in F (QV 1,93) [11:40]; No.273 in G
(QV 1,109) [11:25]; No.274 in A (QV 1,145) [11:27]; No.275 in B
flat (QV 1,161) [10:09]; No.276 in c minor (QV 1,18) [08:17]; No.277
in D (QV 1,42) [10:02]
Verena Fischer (transverse flute); Klaus-Dieter Brandt (cello);
Léon Berben (harpsichord)
rec. 15-17 November 2006, small auditorium, Meistersingerhalle,
Nuremberg, Germany. DDD
NAXOS 8.557805 [63:28]
Johann Joachim Quantz is mainly known as a flautist as well
as being the author of one of the most important treatises of
the 18th century. In fact his accomplishments were much more
extensive than that. He didn’t start out with the flute. One
could compare his musical education with that of a German 'Stadtpfeifer'.
One of the characteristics of the Stadtpfeifer involved learning
to play several instruments. That was also the case with Quantz:
he was proficient on most string instruments as well as the
oboe and the trumpet. He also learnt to play the keyboard. It
was only logical that in 1716 he join the town band in Dresden.
In the earliest stages of his career he played the oboe. Through
various studies he extended his horizon. He studied counterpoint
with Jan Dismas Zelenka, and became acquainted with the concertos
of Vivaldi, which had a considerable influence on his development
as a composer. In 1719 he turned his attention to the transverse
flute and started to study with Pierre Gabriel Buffardin, the
star flautist of the court orchestra in Dresden. It was the
orchestra's violinist Johann Georg Pisendel who had the greatest
influence on Quantz, especially in his advocacy of the 'mixed
taste' of Italian and French elements.
His meeting with the then Crown Prince Frederick II of Prussia
in 1728 was decisive. He made such an impression that he was
asked to educate him in playing the flute. When Frederick succeeded
his father as king of Prussia, Quantz had to provide him with
music for his favoured instrument. The king played frequently,
and his appetite for flute music was insatiable. As a result
Quantz composed a large quantity of music: about 300 flute concertos,
more than 40 trio sonatas, almost 200 solo sonatas as well as
solos, duos and trios for flute without accompaniment.
This disc offers six of the sonatas which have taken a special
place in Quantz's oeuvre. A number of these are in four movements,
modelled after the Italian sonata da camera or sonata
da chiesa. Others are in three movements, with the sequence:
slow-fast-fast. The present sonatas, also in three movements,
follow the order fast-slow-fast. The assumption is that they
were written around 1750.
The programme notes quote a passage from his treatise Versuch
einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen (Essay
on Instruction for Playing the Transverse Flute) in which Quantz
outlines his view on composing: "If a solo is to please
everyone it must be arranged so that the inclination of each
listener can find nourishment in it. It must be neither entirely
cantabile nor entirely lively. Just as each movement must be
quite different from the others, so each must have within itself
a good mixture of pleasing and brilliant ideas. For even the
most beautiful idea can eventually become tiresome if it is
not played differently each time, and although constant liveliness
or sheer difficulty might be admired, neither is especially
In my view these interpretations fail to live up to Quantz's
principles. Yes, the performances are technically brilliant,
and musically they are lively and energetic. That said, they
are short on expression and sensitivity. What I find most disappointing
is the lack of differentiation in dynamics in the playing. Verena
Fischer mostly plays forte, and the only dynamic shading is
between forte and mezzo-forte.
The tempi of the fast movements are mostly very fast, which
in itself is no problem. But here it leads to a performance
which doesn't breathe, and the playing is too straightforward.
The slow movements are the most unsatisfying. Take the middle
movement of Sonata No. 275, which has the character indication
affettuoso. The performance is in fact short on Affekt:
it just goes on and on, without much variety in dynamic. Despite
Quantz’s indications the second movement of the Sonata No. 276
is not very cantabile.
This disc shows that Quantz was a rather good composer; there
is no reason to look down on his oeuvre. In that respect this
disc is a winner, and nice to listen to. Yet I found it difficult
to listen to it at a stretch, as I usually do with review discs.
The style of performance tends to become tiresome after a while.
A more sensitive interpretation would have done Quantz's sonatas
greater justice. My advice is to listen to no more than a couple
of these sonatas at a time.
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