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8.557805 - QUANTZ, J.J.: Flute Sonatas Nos. 272-277 (V. Fischer, Brandt, Berben)
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Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773)
Flute Sonatas Nos. 272–277


Johann Joachim Quantz was born on 30 January 1697 in Oberscheden near Göttingen. He was the fifth of six children from the marriage between the blacksmith Andreas Quantz and his wife Elisabeth. His mother died in 1702 and his father remarried a year later. His father wanted him to become a blacksmith, like himself, but his stepmother and his father both died in 1707, whereupon several of his relatives offered to bring up the boy. For some time past Johann Joachim had accompanied his eldest brother Jost Matthies on the double-bass when he played dance music at village festivals and for that reason he really wanted to become a musician. In August 1708 his uncle Justus Quantz, a town musician in Merseburg, took on the upbringing and education of the eleven-year old, but his uncle died after only three months and Johann Adolf Fleischhack assumed responsibility for the boy. Quantz stayed with him for five years as an apprentice and two years as a journeyman. He learned all the usual instruments on which town musicians were trained, as well as keyboard playing with the Merseburg organist Johann Friedrich Kiesewetter. In his autobiography Quantz said: ‘It is in Dresden or Berlin that, in time, I would like to take up residence because I think I would hear more beautiful music there and be able to learn more than in Merseburg.’ After completing his apprenticeship Quantz did actually take up a position in Dresden in 1716 with the town musician there, Gottfried Heyne. Two years later he became oboist of the Polish chapel of Augustus the Strong. Quantz had lessons in playing the transverse flute from the flautist Pierre Gabriel Buffardin, who was very famous at that time, and he also began to compose. Between 1724 and 1727 Quantz undertook research trips which took him via Italy to France and England. In 1728 he became flautist of the Dresden court chapel. In the same year he met Frederick the Great, who at that time was the crown prince, and to whom he gave flute lessons. In 1737 Quantz married a widow, Anna Rosina Carolina Schindler, but their marriage was childless. After Frederick II became king, he invited Quantz to Berlin and in December 1741 he took up the appointment. Quantz taught the king daily, composed, directed the private evening concerts and made his own flutes. Quantz was also busy as a writer: in 1752 he dedicated to Frederick the Great his flute treatise Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen (Essay on Instruction for Playing the Transverse Flute), a compendium of performance practice and musical aesthetics in the eighteenth century. After Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments) of 1753 and Leopold Mozart’s Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin-Playing) of 1756 Quantz’s Versuch is the third great textbook of the eighteenth century. Quantz remained at the court of Frederick the Great for over thirty years and died, after a short illness, on 12 July 1773 in Potsdam at the age of 76.

Quantz composed around three hundred flute concertos, over forty trio sonatas, almost two hundred solo sonatas, flute solos, duets and trios as well as some vocal pieces. These works reflect the transition from the late Baroque to the early classical period. During a stay in Vienna in 1717 Quantz had taken composition lessons from Jan Dismas Zelenka. Around 1720 he was encouraged to take up composition by a later concert-master in Dresden, Johann Georg Pisendel, with whom he was friendly. The model for his concertos was Antonio Vivaldi, whose concerto form he adopted at first and later expanded. Most of Quantz’s concertos follow the three-movement Vivaldi model with its fast-slow-fast sequence of movements. Most of Quantz’s trio sonatas, which come mainly from his period in Dresden are, like the early solo sonatas, in four movements—slow-fast-slow-fast—in the manner of the sonata da chiesa (church sonata). Quantz’s preference for the ‘mixed taste’ can be seen in his use of French next to Italian elements, as for example with French dance forms. Most of his solo sonatas follow the slow-fast-fast sequence of movements.

Only a few of Quantz’s compositions are available to the musician of today, since the majority of his works are still in manuscript. Most of these are housed in the State Library in Berlin, as well as in several other European and American archives. As a rule these are manuscripts of copies made for the works’ first performances. During Quantz’s lifetime only a few of his compositions appeared in print and even today most of his output is neither published nor dated.

Frederick the Great put together for his own private use two identical thematic catalogues (Catalogue of Solos for Sans Souci and Catalogue of Solos for the New Palace), which contained works by himself and by Quantz. From this collection 152 sonatas by Quantz have come down to us (Nos. 88–105, 142, 203, 219, 220, 222–254, 265–361). In addition there are about thirty sonatas which are not contained in this catalogue, among them all the four-movement sonatas. The sonatas Nos. 272–277 on this recording occupy a special place in Quantz’s output, since they follow the fast-slow-fast movement scheme, while all the other sonatas in Frederick’s catalogue adhere to a slow-fast-fast scheme. Only one further sonata, which is not in Frederick’s catalogue, has the same sequence of movements as that in the sonatas performed here.

In his Katalog der Musiksammlung auf der Königlichen Hausbibliothek im Schlosse zu Berlin (Catalogue of the Music Collection of the Private Royal Library in the Castle at Berlin) (S. 186) Georg Thouret writes about these six sonatas: ‘The sonatas 272–277 […] are distinguished by their verve and fire; they must belong to the best that Quantz has written.’ From No. 248 in Frederick’s catalogue the sonatas are arranged almost according to keys, with the sequence F major-G major-A major-B flat major-C minor- D major, which is also the case here. It is almost certain therefore that these sonatas were composed one after the other; so Quantz wrote the pieces in Potsdam between 1741 and 1773. If one assumes a fairly regular sequence of sonata writing, these six sonatas date from about 1750.

The solo sonatas are distinguished by thematic variety, a singing melodic line, graceful ornamentation and melodic bass lines. They show Quantz’s mastery of the galant style and come over as charming and easily comprehensible to music-lovers. In his treatise Essay on Instruction for Playing the Transverse Flute Quantz writes the following (in Chapter 18 § 50) about one of the solo sonatas: ‘If a solo is to please everyone it must be arranged so that the inclinations 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 moving.’

Meike ten Brink
English translation by David Stevens

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