CD of QUANTZ FLUTE CONCERTOS (NAXOS) RECEIVES MORE CRITICAL ACCLAIM

“She has excellent breath control, intonation, technique, and sense of period style, making her one of the greatest baroque flutists of our time.” – American Record Guide

Johann Joachim Quantz Flute Concertos, performed by Mary Oleskiewicz, traverso; Concerto Armonico, Miklos Spanyi, director, Naxos 8.573120.

American Record Guide, Jan./Feb. 2014 (pp. 158-159), reviewed by Susan Gorman

“Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) was older than the sons of Bach, which meant he lived during the transition between baroque and classical styles. He spent most of his life a court flutist to Frederick the Great and wrote flute concertos for 50 years.  Four of them are recorded for the first time here.  Since most of Quantz’s voluminous output hasn’t been published, much of it has not been performed or even looked at in modern times.  Everything we have encountered by him has been consistently high in quality, and these concertos are no exception.

The concerto in A minor disappeared from Berlin during World War II, but in her research on Quantz Oleskiewicz found it at the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.  It is thought to be fairly early, from the 1730s.  We find Quantz writing in full sturm und drang mode.  He even borrows motifs from CPE Bach’s flute concertos–or seems to. The writing can have an Italiante feel, too, like Vivaldi, especially in the first movement.  That movement is a study in rhythm:  the strings have repeated 8th and 16th noteswith an intense and driven character, and the flute soloist almost alwasy has triplets that are not intense and feel more galant and less like Vivaldi.

The Concerto in G is as galant as can be, with a slow movement so darkly beautiful it is alone worth acquiring this release to hear.  I immediately fell in love with the quiet tragedy in the writing and played it more than once before going on.  The handwritten copy of this work made for the king has remained safe in Berlin, but another copy in Berlin’s Sing Academy was thought to have been lost in World War II and was rediscovered in 2001.  This copy has cadenzas in two of the movements, which are quite a find, because 18th Century cadenzas were not always written out.  Oleskiewicz was delighted to include them.

The Concerto in D minor is the earliest here, thought to date from Quantz’s time in Dresden before he came to the court of King Frederick the Great.  This would probably place it in the 1730s.  This is the only work of the four that has been published.  Like the A minor, it has a sturm und drang  and Italianate character.  The concerto opens with a powerful unison statement, but the piece is just as much about contrasts. The slow movement uses pizzicato, which Quantz doesn’t employ often.

Frederick the Great also played the flute and composed.  Although he continued to play into his old age, he stopped writing for the flute when he got you have the concept behind older.  Quantz was working on a concerto in C minor when he died in 1773.  Frederick finished the concerto by writing a third movement.  It had to have been a bittersweet collaboration.  The piece, then, was both Quantz’s and Ferderick’s last composition.  It shows how conservative taste at the court had become, yet it is still well worth hearing. [...]

Mary Oleskiewicz is an American flutist who has won the National Flute Association’s Baroque Flute and Doctoral Dissertation competitions.  She plays on an instrument with two keys, one for D-sharp and one for E-flat, modeled on the kind Quantz used.  She has excellent breath control, intonation, technique, and sense of period style, making her one of the greatest baroque flutists of our time.  Concerto Armonico is a period-instrument ensemble based in Budapest that was founded in 1983.  They play very well, though the sound is thin when the writing is thin.  Just as in the release by Rachel Brown on Hyperion, this group uses harpsichord sometimes and fortepiano sometimes (Frederick had several keyboard instruments).  The orchestra used here is 2-2-1-1-1 plus bassoon and keyboard.  Two of the concertos use one player per part because Frederick liked that scoring as he got older.  The ensemble has recorded all of CPE Bach’s keyboard concertos in a 20-disc series for BIS (see Index).  The sound and the balances are excellent.

Some of the Quantzes in the United STates trace their ancestry to the musician.  I know of one, a young adult, who lives in New York and made his living as a freelance musician for many years.  I guess music runs in the family, even 300 years later.”

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

CD of QUANTZ FLUTE CONCERTOS (NAXOS) RECEIVES CRITICAL ACCLAIM

“Oleskiewicz performs the fast passagework of the Allegro movements flawlessly and with a sense of ease, despite arpeggios and brilliant figuration in keys such as C minor…The fine technique and musicality of Oleskiewicz, coupled with the delightful rarity of…these concerti, make this CD one that should be at the top of everyone’s acquisition list.” – Early Music America

Johann Joachim Quantz Flute Concertos, performed by Mary Oleskiewicz, traverso; Concerto Armonico, Miklos Spanyi, director, Naxos 8.573120.

Early Music America, Winter 2013 (pp. 23-24), reviewed by Kelly Roudabush

“Largely known today as a galant composer, Johann Joachim Quantz (1679 [recte: 1697]-1773) was also an expansive and innovative composer with a variety of styles, as Mary Oleskiewicz (a flutist and scholar active in the U.S. and Germany) demonstrates. The best-known concerto by Quantz is his Concerto in G Major, QV 5:174, mostly because of a 19th-century performance by flutist Moritz Fuerstenau tha resurrected the piece; Quantz, however, has much more to offer in the realm of the concerto than this one piece.  This CD includes four concerti: in A minor (QV 5:238), G major (QV 5:165), C minor (QV 5:38), and D minor (QV 5:81).  Only the last of these has been published, while the rest still remain in manuscript form in Berlin.*  It is due to Oleskiewicz’s research and dedication to the music of Quantz and Frederick the Great that we have the privilege of experiencing these concerti, which have been recorded here for the first time.

Quantz’s concerti follow a fast-slow-fast order of movements and mostly utilize a ritornello form, alternating between the ensemble and soloist.  The first concerto on the CD, QV 5:238 in A minor, opens up with a driving line in the orchestra that quickly evolves into a lyric melody and continues to alternate between the driving continuo and the lyrical theme, reminiscent of a compositional style we associate more with Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach than with Quantz.

The musicians of the Hungarian orchestra do an impeccable job of staying light and mirroring the lovely musical nuance of Oleskiewicz throughout the performances of all the concerti, allowing the flute to shine through.  The other three concerti follow in similar fashion with a variety of sentiments and technical passagework that keep the listener consistently engaged.  Oleskiewicz performs the fast passagework of the Allegro movements flawlessly and with a sense of ease, despite arpeggios and brilliant figuration in keys such as C minor, though the tempos are more cautious in this key than in G major.  The fine technique and musicality of Oleskiewicz, coupled with the delightful rarity of hearing these concerti, make this CD one that should be at the top of everyone’s acquisition list.” 

See details of this recording in my discography.

*Factual correction to the review (by M.O.): no copy of QV 5:238 exists in Berlin; it is a lost concerto, removed from Berlin after WWII, that was recently rediscovered by Oleskiewicz in a Russian archive.

Posted in New Releases, News, Reviews | Leave a comment

Oleskiewicz Performs Lecture-Recital, “The Flutist of Sanssouci: Frederick ‘the Great’ as Composer and Performer”

REVIEW of Lecture-Recital on Frederick “the Great,” Las Vegas, National Flute Association

“brilliantly performed…”

By JOHN BARCELLONA
NFA Chronicles (Oct. 2012)

…The culminating Baroque flute event was a fascinating lecture/recital entitled “The Flutist of Sanssouci: Frederick “the Great” as Composer, and Performer,” presented by Mary Oleskiewicz, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and a leading authority on Quantz. Oleskiewicz, who recently received a grant to study and perform at Frederick’s Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany, is a well-researched scholar and delivers her information with great enthusiasm. Her lecture was enhanced by projected slides of Fredrick “the Great,” Quantz, and the palace. She brilliantly performed sonatas by Fredrick on a replica of a Quantz two-keyed traverso (E-flat and D-sharp keys) made by Jean-Francois Beaudin from Montreal, Canada.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FANFARE MAGAZINE REVIEWS SEVEN FLUTE SONATAS by QUANTZ

“The performances by…flutist Oleskiewicz and David Schulenberg on keyboard are finely nuanced…lovers of chamber music with flute will certainly want to get this disc. Highly recommended.”

By BERTIL VAN BOER
for Fanfare Magazine, Mar./Apr. 2012

Today, the music of Quantz is largely relegated to that style we call Empfindsamkeit. Indeed, he is largely known only for his treatise On Playing the Flute published in Berlin in 1752, which contains a wealth of information on the musical life and practices of the period. Particularly his chamber works have often been seen as virtually identical to each other stylistically, predictable, and just the sort of “polite” music that would appeal to and not offend a powerful monarch. This in turn has relegated Quantz to that unenviable position of being a dull and predictable court composer whose works are somewhat static. Of course, in the real world, this reputation is hardly supportable, for the composer expanded the style and technical demands of the instrument tremendously. This recording of a selection of the vast repertoire he wrote for Frederick should underscore this point without question. We are presented here with seven sonatas that depict a wide variety of musical ideals …. In the first sonata in A Major, the chains of virtuoso motives in the first movement flow like a continuous stream, and I find it difficult to imagine where flutist Mary Oleskiewicz was able to breathe. The lilting Siciliano second movement is gentle and emotional, while in the E-Minor sonata’s second movement there is a hint of imitative counterpoint. Oleskiewicz points out that several of these works, most notably those beginning with the lyrical slow movements, predate his association with Frederick, but their style, with elements of emerging Classicism, must have been enjoyed during the soirées for their delicacy. Quantz not only knows how to compose for flute, he is adept at writing for other instruments as well. The trio sonata features a highly virtuoso harpsichord part, with the cello accompaniment banished to the far background as the flute and keyboard perform a complex and highly interactive dance with each other [Note by Mary: the cello does not perform in this work, in keeping with 18th-century practice!]. These sonatas are not just makework for some court, they are most individualistic and innovative (for their age), with special attention paid to the development of flute technique.

The performances by…flutist Oleskiewicz and David Schulenberg on keyboard are finely nuanced. The former performs on a replica of Frederick’s flute, which Quantz himself made for the king, and at a chamber tone pitch of A = 385 Hz. I find that this low center takes the edge off of particularly the technically demanding passages, allowing for better control of their musicality. Indeed, both are in complete harmony with each other…, seeming to
anticipate phrasing and subtle shifts in the rhythm and tempo. Cellist Stephanie Vial, with her rocksolid foundation work as part of the continuo, is the third equal partner in this team. In short, lovers of chamber music with flute will certainly want to get this disc. It will not only reveal Quantz in a new and vibrant light, it will show just how crucial he was to the music of the classical style. Highly recommended.

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

FANFARE MAGAZINE REVIEWS QUANTZ: FLUTE SONATAS (Naxos)

“The sweet-toned copies of the period wooden flutes played by Oleskiewicz and Beaudin weave a captivating spell of tonal beauty that is difficult to resist, even if you are not a devotee of period instruments.”

By MICHAEL CARTER
for Fanfare Magazine (Sept. 2003)

QUANTZ Flute Sonatas: in D, QV 1:42; in g, QV 1:116; in C, QV 1:9; in g, QV 1:128; Trio Sonatas: in D, QV
2:15;1 in E[flat ], QV 2:171 • Mary Oleskiewicz (fi); Jean-François Beaudin (fi);1 Stephanie Vial (vc); David
Schulenberg (hpd, fp) (period instruments) • NAXOS 8555064 (60:19)

The name of flutist and composer Joseph (sic; recte: Johann) Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) has been inextricably linked to that of Frederick II, King of Prussia, also known as ”Frederick the Great” and in less glowing terms as ”The Enlightened Despot.” Quantz was the King’s sole teacher, but only a single cog in the musical machinery that made up the monarch’s musical establishment: It also included–among others–Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, and Carl Heinrich and Johann Gottlieb Graun.

Quantz was the most important and influential composer of flute music during the 18th century, but he is chiefly remembered today as the tutor of Frederick II and for his Essay on Playing the Flute. Quantz’s musical legacy includes over 300 concertos for the instrument, 200-plus solo sonatas, 40 trio sonatas for violin and flute (or two flutes, the option exercised here) with figured bass, and half a dozen quartets for flute, violin, viola, and Generalbass. Quantz’s music was composed expressly for a series of musical events that Frederick II held on a nightly basis. Only the music of Quantz and that of his pupil–a composer of more than meager talent, by the way–was featured in these proceedings and only Quantz was allowed to critique the performances proffered by the monarch.

It is impossible to affix firm dates to any of this material since it was the exclusive property of Frederick II and not as much as a single note of it appeared in print during Quantz’s lifetime. In the annotations, Mary Oleskiewicz writes that the Sonata in G Minor–one of 20 found in a Berlin manuscript–is probably among the earliest. ”Dating from around 1720,” she adds, ”these pieces show the youthful composer testing his abilities by writing in a variety of styles, genres, and keys.” The program recorded here includes works that follow the four-movement blueprint of the sonata da chiesa and the three-movement schematic of the sonata da camera. Further, the music reflects a mixture of the dying Baroque and the emerging galant idioms. The opening Sonata in G is rooted in the latter, while the Trio Sonata in D leaves no doubt as to its Baroque origins. Throughout these works, Quantz employs the expected techniques (parallel thirds, imitation, etc.) but not to the point of tedium. There are also unexpected turns of harmony and even the occasional eyebrow-raising use of chromatics.

The sweet-toned copies of the period wooden flutes played by Oleskiewicz and Beaudin weave a captivating spell of tonal beauty that is difficult to resist, even if you are not a devotee of period instruments. There is an abundance of assurance and conviction to be found here as well. The expected nods to current thinking with regard to Baroque performance practice (improvised ornamentation, figured bass realization, etc.) are prudently employed, but never are they excessive. Apropos the figured bass, the carefully realized and exceptionally executed keyboard parts provide more than mere harmonic filler, with Schulenberg carefully taking his cues from the melody instruments.

This is not repertoire of genius, but its stature is surely elevated above the mean by virtue of unspoiled and exceptional exceution that leaves no stone unturned.

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment