Johann Joachim QUANTZ (1697-1773)
Des Königs Flötenmeister: Flute Concertos
Concerto no.262 in G minor, QV 5:196 [16:49]
Concerto no.38 in D minor, QV 5:86 [11:16]
Concerto no.193 in A minor, QV 5:236 [18:25]
Concerto no.29 in G, QV 5:75 [12:12]
Les Buffardins/Frank Theuns (Baroque transverse flute)
rec. AMUZ, Antwerp, Belgium, 17-20 October 2011.
ACCENT ACC24258 [58:42]
Concerto no.123 in A minor, QV 5:238 [20:39]
Concerto no.151 in G, QV 5:165 [16:58]
*Concerto no.300 in C minor, QV 5:38 [19:22]
Concerto no.113 in D minor, QV 5:81 [11:16]
* final movement by King Friedrich II of Prussia (1712-1786)
Mary Oleskiewicz (Baroque transverse flute)
Concerto Armonico Budapest/Miklós Spányi
rec. Phoenix Studio, Diósd, Hungary, 17-21 January 2011.
NAXOS 8.573120 [77:36]
"...If only you had heard the enchanting flute of Quantz, if you had seen how - in accordance with the very nature of the instrument - he aroused enjoyment and gaiety in the most resistant of listeners." Those words come from the journal of the German writer and composer Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814) in the 1770s, but his sentiments were commonly felt for an era, even by the critical Charles Burney, who wrote: "their names [Graun and Quantz] are religion in Berlin and more sworn by than those of Luther and Calvin"!
250 years later, the sheer enormity, both physical and artistic, of Johann Quantz's body of works for his beloved flute is still barely appreciated, despite a growing number of recordings. These are on a par, in many respects, with the violin concertos of Vivaldi. Quantz may not have consistently reached quite the same heights of inspiration - although he frequently did - but whether concertos or sonatas, the fact that he composed well over two hundred of each, not to mention dozens of solo flute works, all beautifully chiselled at the very least, amounts to one of the great artistic achievements of the eighteenth or any century.
Both of these recent releases are more or less random digs into Quantz's concerto corpus, yet both come up with musical nuggets that are supremely lyrical, graceful and imaginative. Curiously, both sets of musicians independently arranged four-concerto programmes almost identical in tonalities, all paired key-for-key except for C minor versus G minor. Yet these are eight differentially characterful works and those who can afford both discs should not hesitate: not only does Quantz not fail to deliver, but the pedigree musicianship of soloists and ensembles alike, and generally first-rate audio quality, make both CDs equally indispensable.
The Naxos disc has one trump - it gives an extra twenty minutes' playing time, and that for a lower retail price. On the other hand, the harpsichord's presence is more balanced on the Accent recording, where the sound is also noticeably warmer. Deliberately or otherwise, Naxos have gone for a drier, brighter audio, but also for a much more forward flute position - to the extent that Mary Oleskiewicz's breaths are easily audible.
It goes almost without saying that musicians on both discs plays period instruments. Les Buffardins are two violins and a viola, plus three continuo instruments - cello, double bass and harpsichord. Concerto Armonico double the violins for two of the concertos. Theuns and Oleskiewicz both play Quantz replicas at low Baroque pitch.
Peter Thalheimer's well-written German-English-French notes for Accent focus exclusively on Quantz's life and flute designs. Oleskiewicz provide her own notes (English-only) for Naxos - these too are clear and informative, with the bonus of some detail on the individual works in her programme. She does however rather daftly refer to herself twice in the third person as "the present flute soloist".
The C minor on the Naxos disc was Quantz's very last flute concerto, left uncompleted on his death. The final movement was supplied by his patron, the 'flute king' Frederick the Great, who came out of compositional retirement especially. The Concerto in G on the Accent disc has been mislabelled: QV 5:173 maps to no.84, whilst no.29 maps to QV 5:75. In the 1990s Rachel Brown recorded this concerto with Roy Harris and the Brandenburg Consort for Hyperion (CDA66927), and there it is labelled simply 'no.29' - Horst Augsbach's thematic 'Quantz-Verzeichnis' (QV) was not published until the following year.
The A minor Concerto on the Naxos disc has only recently been rediscovered, in the Russian National Library in St Petersburg - Augsbach lists it as lost. Many more of Quantz's works remain missing, but posterity can console itself with the fact that so much has survived. With luck, Naxos and Accent will continue to record them with sympathetic flautists and outfits like those heard here, so that Quantz may yet be properly appreciated. If both labels issue only one such disc a year, however, it will still take more than a quarter of a century to record all the concertos between them.
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More or less random digs into Quantz's concertos yet both come up with musical nuggets that are supremely lyrical, graceful and imaginative.
See also review of the Naxos disc by Brian Reinhart
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