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Hyperion Records

CDA66927 - Quantz: Flute Concertos
CDA66927

Recording details: October 1996
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: June 1997
Total duration: 75 minutes 23 seconds

'Brown's playing makes a highly plausible argument for enjoying the richness and diversity of these pieces' (BBC Record Review)

'This disc is a real knockout. The music is simply marvellous. Warmly recommended' (Soundscapes, Australia)

'Tour à tour joyeuse, volubile, tendre et mélancolique, la flûte de la remarquable Rachel Brown est, tout à la fois, soliste dominateur et partie intégrante du 'corpus' instrumental' (Diapason, France)

Flute Concertos
Allegro di molto  [5'34]
Presto  [4'14]
Larghetto  [4'22]
Allegro  [3'30]
Adagio  [2'45]
Allegro  [3'36]
Allegro  [5'49]
Presto  [3'54]
Allegro assai  [5'09]
Vivace  [3'33]
Allegro di molto  [5'31]
Presto  [3'46]

Quantz owes his current neglect in the concert hall and recording catalogue to a somewhat perverse fact of history: he was by far the most highly paid musician of his day (earning seven times as much as C P E Bach, for example) and yet his patronage from Frederick the Great—he was truly an 'exclusive artist'—meant that none of his works was published, all remaining in the monarch's private collection.

Today his prolific output (there are some 300 flute concertos alone) is gradually being resurrected, these delightful works being recognized for their true worth. Quantz's own virtuosic skills on the flute, coupled with several drastic innovations he made to flute design and construction, make for works which push the Baroque instrument to the very limits of feasibility.


Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773) is usually remembered as the flute teacher of Frederick the Great and author of the extensive treatise Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen. By the time of his entry into service at the Prussian court in 1741 Quantz was well known and respected as an extremely versatile, widely travelled and experienced musician. His autobiography charts his meteoric rise from a non-musical family of humble means to a highly influential position, enjoying probably the highest salary of any musician of his day.

Had he not been orphaned at the age of ten, he would probably have followed his father’s trade as a blacksmith. His uncle, a musician at Merseburg, became the young Quantz’s guardian, and although he unfortunately died a few months later, the course of Quantz’s life was already set. He undertook a five-year apprenticeship with his uncle’s son-in-law Adolf Fleischhack, gaining an extraordinarily broad general musical education. He learnt to play almost every instrument except, strangely, the flute: violin, oboe, trumpet, horn, cornetto, sackbut, recorder, bassoon, cello, viola da gamba, double bass and harpsichord were apparently all part of a band musician’s training. He must have attained a high standard on the violin as we know that he studied works by Biber, Corelli, Telemann and Heinichen.

The ambitious fifteen-year-old Quantz set off for Dresden, famous as a rich cultural centre under Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. From the town band in nearby Pirna he progressed to the Dresden band where he was frequently able to hear inspirational musicians from the court orchestra: violinists Pisendel and Veracini, lutanist Sylvius Leopold Weiss, oboist Richter, the dulcimer player Hebenstreit, and the renowned French flautist Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin. Around this time he discovered some Vivaldi concertos, which made a great impression on him.

At the jubilee celebration of Luther’s reformation Quantz was chosen to play the trumpet, and so impressed was the Dresden Kapellmeister that he urged Augustus to provide Quantz with trumpet tuition. Yet desperate as he was to give up his town band duties playing endless dances on all sorts of instruments, Quantz waited for a more favourable invitation the following year to join the newly formed ‘Polish Chapel’, an ensemble of twelve players needing one more oboist to make up their numbers. Not content with sitting so far down the line, Quantz soon saw he would feel more fulfilled as a flautist. From then on, he strove to improve his flute playing, taking lessons for four months with Buffardin, who taught how to play very fast music.

After a valuable trip to Vienna for composition lessons with Zelenka, one of Quantz’s wealthy patrons requested that he be allowed to visit Italy to study, and finally in 1724 Augustus released him. Quantz could not believe his good fortune—a musician’s dream trip, eventually lasting about three years, encompassing Italy, France, England and Holland, with all expenses paid. He met, among others, Vivaldi, Lotti, Marcello, Albinoni, Sammartini, Vinci, Leclair, Porpora the famous singing teacher, Forqueray, Roland Marais, Guignon and flautist Blavet. Gasparini generously taught him for free, though Quantz considered the traditional study of counterpoint rather outmoded; he called it ‘music for the eyes’. The second movement of the Concerto in B minor (No 5) is a rare example of his use of fugue. Gasparini introduced him to accompanied recitatives, and must have inspired the beautiful slow movement of the Concerto in G major (No 29).

His friendship with Hasse, with whom he stayed in Naples, was of lasting consequence. Hasse was then young and unknown but Quantz was very keen to become acquainted with his host’s teacher, Alessandro Scarlatti, who at first refused: ‘You know how much I detest wind players—they all play out of tune!’ But eventually they played together and Scarlatti, suitably impressed, actually composed some solos for him, recommended him in numerous established households and even procured for him a lucrative position in Portugal, though Quantz declined it. In England, Handel and many others prevailed on him to stay, but eventually loyalty to Augustus who had so generously supported his travels called him back to Dresden. The education and impressions Quantz had gathered abroad were to inspire him for the rest of his life. His own reputation was considerably enhanced: he had made himself well known wherever he went. On his return he was appointed flautist to the court orchestra on a salary of 250 thalers. From this time onwards he gave up the oboe to preserve his embouchure for flute playing.

It was at a performance of one of Hasse’s operas that the young Frederick, heir to the Prussian throne, first heard Quantz play, and there began a lifelong relationship. Though on a state visit with this father, Frederick immersed himself in all the festivities denied him at home by the paternal ban on all things artistic. A few months later Augustus visited Prussia, bringing with him Quantz, Weiss and his Polish Chapel. Frederick’s flute playing until now consisted of ‘hunting trips’, where he and his servant Fredersdorff delved into a thick forest to play duets. Now the Queen tried to procure the services of the much-admired Quantz for her son and, although he declined the offer of 800 thalers annual income, she arranged for him to visit Frederick a few times each year in secret.

A couple of years later, on one of these visits and with Frederick’s friend Lieutenant Katte keeping watch, their clandestine afternoon’s music was suddenly interrupted. Katte rushed in to warn of the king’s imminent approach. Frederick stuffed Quantz, flutes, music, stands and all into a tiny ante-room, ripped off his French clothes to don his military uniform just before his father arrived—though not in time to change his hair-do! Suspicious, his father stayed for a whole hour, making an unsuccessful search of the room. The box-room where Quantz was holding his breath, however, was particularly airless and cramped and so dreadfully hot that it was known as ‘the oven’; the unfortunate musician eventually emerged well and truly roasted!

In time Frederick’s marriage freed him from his father and he was now at liberty to indulge his own interests. Every evening was devoted to music-making with the nucleus of fine musicians he was assembling, and who were later to form the core of the orchestra at Potsdam: brothers C H and J G Graun and Ignaz and Franz Benda (the latter on Quantz’s recommendation), Schaffrath the harpsichordist, Baron the lutanist, and Janitsch, bass violinist. Flute lessons could now continue at leisure, though Frederick was undoubtedly very disappointed when in 1733, on the death of Augustus II, Quantz declined to move to Prussia, preferring to remain in the service of Augustus III, ‘not wishing to change from horse to donkey’ as Frederick put it to his sister Wilhelmina, going on to say: ‘You will find Quantz’s high opinion of himself the more insupportable in that it is really without foundation. The only way to bring his haughtiness to an end is not to treat him too much like a grand gentleman.’

It was not until 1741, a year after Frederick had become king, that Quantz was eventually tempted to move to Potsdam on a staggering salary of 2,000 thalers per year for life plus 100 ducats for every new flute he made and bonus payments for every new composition. Now wonder he composed so much! But at what price? In effect his exclusivity to Frederick ended his public career and almost none of his music was published; rather it became Frederick’s private property. He was absolved of all orchestral duties. Instead his responsibilities were to teach Frederick, provide him with music and instruments whenever required, and to organize the daily chamber concerts which were strictly private, attended by only a few distinguished guests and privileged visitors. He rarely programmed any music other than his own, and a copy of every work was kept in each palace so Frederick could have access to them at any time; hence, for every piece marked ‘pour Potsdam’ there are further manuscripts marked ‘pour le Nouveau Palais’, ‘pour Charlottenburg’, etc. Quantz occasionally performed at these concerts himself, but more often just started the musicians off at the correct tempo.

Strings and continuo were the usual accompaniment, with solo or prominent parts for bassoon in occasional slow movements, such as in the A major and G minor Concertos (Nos 256 and 290). We have followed the instrumentation suggested by Quantz in his treatise of three each of first and second violins, one viola, cello and bass, and have included lute or theorbo on account of his close association with Weiss in Dresden and Baron in Potsdam. Many of the concertos show imaginative scoring of the inner string parts, creating a rich texture and inventive orchestration, for example the viola part of the first movement of the Concerto in A major. Harpsichord accompaniment is used in the obviously earlier works (the Concertos in B minor and G major), but the more Sturm und Drang compositions with many repeated notes in the bass line are well suited to performance with a piano. C P E Bach suggests leaving some notes to the cellist, but Quantz specifically says that all repeated notes should be played. He gives clear instructions to harpsichordists to grade the dynamics by thinning or filling out the right hand, but adds how easily all this can be achieved on a fortepiano.

Always a workaholic, Frederick’s clockwork schedule now started at 4 a.m. (5 a.m. in winter). He would practise diligently three times before warming up in private, with scales and exercises or ‘solfeggi’ based on the most difficult passages of his chosen pieces for the 7 p.m. daily concert. Some of his practice notebooks survive, with Quantz’s detailed instructions. Frederick’s recitals consisted of six concertos plus a sonata played without a break (though in his later years he limited this to three pieces). His flute went everywhere with him, even to war, and whenever possible a small band of accompanying musicians was dragged out for camp concerts.

Quantz’s opinions were institutionalized by Frederick, possibly to the long-term detriment of both men and to their court’s musical development: as their taste became more dogmatic, others’ talents were stifled or went appreciated. It is hard to imagine that his colleagues bore Quantz no resentment. His salary was grossly out of proportion to theirs; C P E Bach (court accompanist for thirty years) received only 300 thalers and 2,000 thalers was the very uppermost limit Frederick put on the hire of any of the great virtuoso singers. Money aside, the compositions of Quantz and Graun were highly prized, to the virtual exclusion of anyone else’s.

Today Quantz’s Versuch is regarded as a standard reference book for all aspects of mid-eighteenth-century music and, although there are some significant differences of opinion with C P E Bach, it has formed the basis of interpretation for this recording, in particular the fascinating chapters on tonguing, nuanced phrasing and florid ornamentation. One of the most charming pieces of advice deals with nerves. Quantz describes the dilemma of trying to play when hot and bothered, the flute slipping down the chin and the lip stuck too far over the embouchure hole:

Quickly to remedy this last evil, let the flautist wipe his mouth and the flute clean, then touch his hair or wig and rub the fine powder clinging to his finger upon his mouth. In this way the pores are stopped and he can continue playing without great hindrance.

As Quantz and Frederick grew old together, their later years were increasingly lonely and isolated. Both of them were unhappily married, Frederick against his will and Quantz tricked into a rushed affair. The English music historian Charles Burney visited Potsdam a year before Quantz died and found him in fine shape, though thoroughly irritating: ‘Mr Quantz is an intelligent man, and talks well concerning music; but talking and com­posing are different things; when he wrote his book more than twenty years ago, his opinions were enlarged and liberal, which is not the case at present.’ This criticism has been held against Quantz ever since. True, he was no Mozart or Haydn, but Burney based his judgment on hearing three concertos, one of which was twenty years old, another forty—playing anything from more than a few years back was regarded as highly unfashionable.

Few of the compositions can be accurately dated, but the works chosen for this recording were all in Frederick’s possession, and his numbering may serve as a guide. Contradicting all the reports of stagnation, these concertos show a noticeable shift from the Handelian and Vivaldian Baroque style to the more galant vocal style of Hasse in the many ariosos, and allegros almost verging on the early Classical. His writing for the flute is virtuosic, demanding passionate expression and enunciation, inspired by the finest singers of his time. Ambitious passage-work includes violinistic traits such as spread chords (Concerto in A major, No 256), undoubtedly derived from his own early training as a violinist and from his admiration for Pisendel and Franz Benda—both of whom, significantly, had been outstanding boy sopranos, trained by famous singing teachers. Unlike many composers who wrote for the Baroque flute in its most comfortable, sharp keys, Quantz frequently composed in flat keys. He gave considerable thought to the problems of intonation (perhaps stimulated by Scarlatti’s generalized rebuke); while in Paris, he added a second key to his flute to make quite separate notes for D sharp and E flat (a ninth of a whole tone apart). He differentiated between other enharmonic notes by using alternative fingerings, or altering the embouchure. Quantz advocated pure major thirds, but in practice this would mean the keyboard being retuned for different tonalities. Quantz’s most helpful advice in his treatise is to ignore the keyboard and play in tune with the violins! This may account for the fact that his compositions rarely modulate very far and tonic major/minor relationships such as in the Concerto in G major (No?29), which requires D sharp and E flat in the same piece, are quite rare.

In the 1750s Quantz incorporated a new device of more lasting value: a tuning-slide in the head-joint, enabling the flute to be lengthened or shortened without recourse to the customary interchangeable centrepieces. The other main feature of the Quantz flute is its enormous bore: wider than any other Baroque flutes over its entire length, but especially in the head-joint. This produces a very sonorous low register; Quantz believed the flute should most closely resemble a contralto voice. Contemporary accounts agree that the wide bore made Quantz flutes extremely difficult to play in the third octave, and the very high notes used in some of the cadenzas and ornamentation on this recording are an attempt to stretch the flute as far as Quantz obviously wanted it to go.

Quantz’s unbending opinions and elevation above his talented colleagues disadvantaged him in the end, and his true worth as a composer is as misjudged today as it was at the end of his life. Though enormously prolific, most of his 300 concertos, more than 350 sonatas, 47 trio sonatas, and handful of other works of real quality remain unpublished. The few compositions available in modern editions are often unrepresentative of his best, and it is to be hoped that this recording will generate new interest in his works.

Rachel Brown © 1997

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