Quantz Concertos CD (Naxos) Receives Still More Critical Acclaim

Mary Oleskiewicz has it all: she’s a skilled writer in the booklet, she’s an avid scholar who besides digging up some of this music has published critical editions of Quantz’s chamber music, and her playing on the transverse flute is pretty fantastic, too. —Music Web International

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

Music Web International, reviewed by Brian Reinhart

“Johann Joachim Quantz was the classical era’s leading flute composer and teacher, and he certainly had the era’s most famous student. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, studied flute and composition with Quantz for three decades, employing the not-much-older man as his court composer. Quantz produced dozens of concertos for Frederick – apparently there are 300, counting other instruments – and the king himself played them with an ensemble.

The scholarship and artistry on display here are first-rate. Everyone plays on period instruments; the continuo switches from harpsichord to fortepiano for the later works. Flute soloist Mary Oleskiewicz personally rediscovered one of these concertos (in A minor) after scholars had presumed it lost in World War II. She very modestly describes the finding in her own booklet note. She also stumbled upon written cadenzas to the concerto in G, possibly copied directly from Quantz’s original score. The booklet does not mention the possibility that it was copied down from an actual improvisation by the king.

Make no mistake: the disc makes fascinating, stimulating listening. Quantz was influenced in his youth by Handel and Vivaldi, and in some ways he stayed in Vivaldi’s compositional school; the works here are scored for small ensembles, sometimes one instrument per part, and often use the ritornello structure. He’s his own man: you can hear this especially in the C minor concerto, the last piece Quantz ever wrote, which is haunted by a dark eight-minute slow movement in F minor. Quantz died before composing the finale, which was written by – who else – Frederick the Great. It is thus the final work of two different composers.

Mary Oleskiewicz has it all: she’s a skilled writer in the booklet, she’s an avid scholar who besides digging up some of this music has published critical editions of Quantz’s chamber music, and her playing on the transverse flute is pretty fantastic, too. Miklós Spányi and his Concerto Armonico will be a familiar sign of high quality to lovers of the CPE Bach series on BIS. Actually, if you like CPE Bach, you’re sure to enjoy this; the two composers share a niche as eccentric, colorful bridges between the baroque and classical eras.

We can only hope that this is the beginning of a series, or that some of the other musicological work Oleskiewicz is up to will be committed to disc similarly. She’s already recorded some Quantz and Frederick sonatas for Naxos and Hungaroton, but given that the C minor concerto is notated as “No. 300”, there’s got to be more stuff of this quality. My ears would be happy to hear it. To think: these world premieres may not have been played by any other flautist since Frederick himself.

See details of this recording in my discography.

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One Response to Quantz Concertos CD (Naxos) Receives Still More Critical Acclaim

  1. DBon says:

    For the life of me I don’t get why Naxos isn’t more popular than it is. I think nearly all the “gems” in my collection, the ones that favorite and play the most, especially the Early Music series, are all Naxos artists, and you certainly can’t argue with the price to quality ratio on anything Naxos puts out. Great work!

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