Saturday, 2 July 2016


“Everyone who plays the flute should learn singing.” - James Galway

Johann Joachim Quantz (30 January 1697 – 12 July 1773) was a German flautist, flute maker and composer. He composed hundreds of flute sonatas and concertos, and wrote “On Playing the Flute”, a treatise on flute performance.

Quantz was born as Hanß Jochim Quantz in Oberscheden, near Göttingen, in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg. His father was a blacksmith who died when Hans was not yet 11; on his deathbed, he begged his son to follow in his footsteps. Nevertheless, from 1708 to 1713 he began his musical studies as a child with his uncle Justus Quantz, a town musician in Merseburg. From 1714 on, he studied composition extensively and pored over scores of the masters to adopt their style.

In 1716 he joined the town band in Dresden, where in 1717 he studied counterpoint with Jan Dismas Zelenka. In March 1718 he was appointed oboist in the newly formed Dresden Polish Chapel of August II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. As it became clear that he couldn’t advance as an oboist in the Polish Chapel, Quantz decided to pursue the flute, studying briefly in 1719 with Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin, principal flute in the Royal Orchestra. He became good friends with Johann Georg Pisendel, concertmaster of the Royal Orchestra, who greatly influenced his style.

Between 1724 and 1727 Quantz completed his education by doing a “Grand Tour” of Europe as a flautist. He studied counterpoint with Francesco Gasparini in Rome, met Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, befriended the flautist Michel Blavet in Paris, and met Handel in London. In 1728 Quantz accompanied August II on a state visit to Berlin. The Queen of Prussia was impressed and wanted to hire him. Though August II refused, he allowed Quantz to travel to Berlin as often as he was asked to. That year the Crown Prince, Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great), decided to study the flute and Quantz became his teacher for several visits a year.

Until 1741 Quantz remained at the Saxon Court in Dresden. He married Anna Rosina Carolina Schindler in 1737 and from 1739 he started making flutes. When Frederick II became King of Prussia in 1740, Quantz finally accepted a position as flute teacher, flute maker and composer at the court in Berlin. He joined that court in December 1741 and stayed there for the rest of his career.

He was an innovator in flute design, adding a second key (D#, in addition to the standard Eb) to help with intonation, for example. He often criticised Vivaldi for being too wild when he played. Although Quantz wrote many pieces of music, mainly for the flute (including around 300 flute concertos and over 200 sonatas), he is best known today as the author of “Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen” (1752) (titled “On Playing the Flute” in English), a treatise on traverso flute playing. It is a valuable source of reference regarding performance practice and flute technique in the 18th century. Quantz died in 1773 in Potsdam.

The illustration is “Frederick the Great playing a flute concerto in Sanssouci”, C. P. E. Bach is at the piano, while Quantz is leaning on the wall to the right; the painting is by Adolph Menzel, 1852.

Here are four of his Concertos played by the group Les Bouffardins with the solo flute played by Frank Theuns.

Concerto in G minor QV 5:196 - 0:00.
Concerto in D minor QV 5:86  - 16:50.
Concerto in A minor OV 5:236 - 28:07.
Concerto in G major OV 5:173 - 46:33.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone who writes poetry shouod learn to sing as well:)