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.

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