"...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
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
Contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
See also review of the Naxos disc by Brian