“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.