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Johann Joachim QUANTZ (1697-1773)
Four Concertos for Flute and Strings
Concerto No. 109 in E flat major, QV 5:89 [15:24]
Concerto No. 97 in G minor, QV 5:206 [16:50]
Concerto No. 95 in E minot, QV 5:124 [16:26]
Concerto No. 146 in E major, QV 5:108 [14:54]
Eric Lamb (flute)
Die Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
rec. 2017, Immanuelskirche, Wuppertal, Germany

Quantz remains best-known – perhaps even notorious – for his three hundred or so flute concertos, alongside his treatise on playing that instrument. Eric Lamb and the Kölner Akademie select four of those concertos for this recording. Although, like all such works by the composer, they date from the later part of his career (after 1741, when he was employed by the flute-loving King of Prussia, Frederick the Great), the concertos bear the structural hallmarks of the form as Vivaldi crystallised it in the earlier decades of the 18th century.

Certainly these performances, under the direction of Michael Alexander Willens, often demonstrate a suitably Vivaldian energy in some of the ritornello sections of the concertos. There are the vigorous repeated notes of the accompaniments, impulsively underlined by Andreas Gilger on the resonant-sounding harpsichord. The nervous twitching figure featuring triplet quavers at the opening of the Concerto in E flat major is redolent of the more up to date empfindsamer style of C.P.E. Bach, also in the employ of Frederick the Great during the 1740s.

But on the whole these performances are otherwise informed by the courtly politeness of the emerging galant style in that period, not only on account of the Kölner Akademie’s fairly lithe articulation, but especially on Lamb’s part in the solo role. His light, airy and unflustered tone often has the effect of calming down the more boisterous ritornelli. To that extent, although the solo part is usually quite virtuosic, the effect is notably un-Vivaldian: tension and energy across the solo episodes tend to be smoothed out rather than increased, as it would be with more striking, flashy passages for maximum contrast.

If the avoidance of more overt contrast is deliberate and justified in these respects, Lamb’s playing could be more expressive elsewhere, to stand up a touch more to the orchestral ensemble. In particular, he could have brought out the unusual ‘Amorevole’ marking of the G minor Concerto’s second movement, although its palpable triple time with the orchestra’s emphasis on the first beat, like a slow dance, partly makes up for that. Lamb does demonstrate his understanding of the music’s rhetorical possibilities in the E flat’s second movement, structured like a vocal recitative and aria; the phrases of the former section are uttered like questions, before giving way to the gracious execution of the principal ‘arioso’ section.

Even if it could do with a little more panache and some more specific remarks about each composition in the liner notes - to compete better with Greg Dikman’s set on Resonus Classics (review) - this disc stands as a useful introduction to Quantz’s extensive repertoire. Less innovative and colourful than Vivaldi’s similar body of work for his own instrument, the violin, Quantz’s output may not merit anything like the same level of scrutiny. But this selection of concertos provides an undemanding hour of pleasure, and it would be curmudgeonly not to welcome this handful of works to the catalogue where so few are represented at present.

Curtis Rogers

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