Review: Johann Joachim Quantz: Four Concertos for Flute and Strings

QUANTZ: FOUR CONCERTOS FOR FLUTE AND STRINGS ERIC LAMB, FLUTE

Quantz was a prolific composer of flute works, primarily because of his association with Frederick the Great. He wrote over 200 concertos for the king, which were performed at the court. According to Lamb’s detailed liner notes, three copies of each piece were made and sent to Frederick the Great’s residences in Potsdam, Charlottenburg and Sanssouci. They were therefore preserved, without editorial intervention from publishers, enabling access in modern times to the manuscripts in their original forms.

This CD presents four of the concertos, demonstrating Quantz’s breadth of expression and willingness to write for keys which were relatively challenging for the baroque flute, such as E major and G minor. Quantz was a relatively conservative composer, preferring to write in a baroque style that pleased King Frederick rather than adapting to incorporate modern innovations, such as are associated with CPE Bach who was in the court at the same time. The slow movement of the E major concerto (No. 109) has recitativo-style elements, which gives way to a florid, technically challenging final movement. Quantz’s innovations came in flute design, and it is likely that the technical demands of his works reflect his experiments in improving the instrument.

The opening of the G minor concerto (No. 97) has a clear Vivialdian influence, and strong pounding rhythms. This is a powerful concerto with a distinctive character and a lot of energy. Stylistically contrasting, the suspensions which begin the E minor concerto (No. 95) bring to mind the music of Pergolesi; as a fan of dissonance this has an immediate appeal. The lyrical slow movement is a beautiful moment of repose, before a spirited final movement provides a sense of lightness. The final concerto on this disc, No. 146 in E major shows yet another side of Quantz’s compositional personality, with its stately restraint and poise giving a sense of elegance.

The clarity of this recording is immediately striking, mixed with a carefully considered balance which gives every instrument space to be heard. Although this is a modern instrument recording, Lamb plays on a Sankyo wood flute which approaches a tone quality one might expect from a baroque flute. His playing is musically appealing, phrased with sensitivity and understanding. The intonation from the whole ensemble is flawless, allowing the music to resonate, and the technical passages are played with precision. The strings and harpsichord of the Kölner Akademie under Michael Alexander Willens are compelling throughout, combining with Lamb’s virtuosity to create a recording of the highest order.

CARLA REES

56 PAN | NOVEMBER 2018