Quantz Flute Concertos CD (Naxos) Receives 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.”

See details of this recording in my discography.

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