Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quantz: Flute Sonatas Nos. 272 - 277 (Verena Fischer)

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) 是長笛版的韋瓦第,在長笛上寫了三百多首協奏曲,四十首多首三重奏鳴曲,以及兩百多首奏鳴曲等,是極量產的作曲家。除了是十八世紀歐洲最優秀的長笛手以外,他最重要的著作為1752所寫的On Playing the Flute,清楚記載當時十八世紀的長笛吹奏技巧和表演方法。這和C.P.E. Bach(大巴哈的兒子)為鍵盤以及Leopold Mozart(莫札特的爸爸)為小提琴所寫的論文並稱十八世紀最重要的音樂教科書。

Quantz出生於靠近Göttingen的小鎮Oberschden。他的爸爸是鐵匠,也希望兒子從事同樣的工作。在十歲的時候,他父親和繼母同時過逝(他媽媽在他更年輕,五歲的時候,就死了),之後被別的親戚撫養。他自幼就有接觸低音大提琴,從小時便立志成為音樂家。他的音樂家叔叔原本答應收他當學生,不料三個月後也過逝了。這樣看來,Quantz身邊的親人還真是夭壽。好在,他音樂教育的責任落到了Johann Fleischhack上。從他身上,Quantz學會了小鎮音樂家們都該會的樂器,包括小提琴和雙簧管等。他還和隔壁村的風琴師學習過鍵盤。

他當完學徒之後,決定要到柏林(Berlin)或是德勒斯登(Dresden)兩個音樂文化深厚的都市。他不僅在1728年成為Dresden宮廷教堂的樂手,途中放棄了先前的樂器,決定專攻長笛。是年,他認識了Frederick the Great(腓特烈大帝)。當Frederick登基成國王之後,Quantz到了柏林,成為他的長笛老師,天天授課,作曲,指揮音樂會,自己製作笛子。Quantz也在長笛上有幾個有創意的發明,在長笛的發展史也是個重要的人物。Quantz在Frederick the Great的宮廷裡一直待到他過逝。

Quantz屬於晚期巴洛克的作曲家,許多曲子的風格是所謂的galant style,是巴洛克過渡到古典時期的風格。這是簡化巴洛克時期的對位藝術,使得音樂成為是旋律主導,有明確的主奏和伴奏。Quantz這時期的音樂,主旋律漂亮而鮮明,裝飾音優雅,伴奏的低音線也很清楚。這是自然且直接的音樂,是最容易被眾人接受和欣賞的音樂。常常許多人對於巴洛克音樂的華麗高貴的印象,多是從時期的音樂來的。雖然這時期的音樂容易使人有這樣的聯想,但這僅是今天歸類的「巴洛克」音樂的一部份而已。因此,這種以偏概全的形容,是不盡然正確或恰當的。

Quantz在Frederick the Great的宮廷時所寫的音樂大部份並沒有被出版,大部份都是手稿。當時Frederick the Great編了兩本曲目,是收錄Quantz和自己的曲子(Frederick還算是有才華的業餘作曲家)。今天Quantz的音樂大多從這兩冊而來。

這張CD上收錄了Quantz的六首長笛奏鳴曲,是Frederick the Great編號裡第272到第277首。這些奏鳴曲都是三樂章,採 快 - 慢 - 快  形式,不同於他大部份奏鳴曲的  慢 - 快 - 快 形式。這些奏鳴曲正是Quantz的galant style風最好的見證。奏鳴曲第一、三樂章神彩奕奕,第二樂章中的慢歌則是吹出動容的旋律。

用巴洛克長笛演奏的Verena Fischer,我之前不曉得她,她師承Wilbert Hazelzet以及Barthold Kuijken二名師。她的音色清晰而均勻,裝飾音也很乾淨。快樂章對她來說,也如吃飯喝水一樣輕鬆。而伴奏的Klaus-Dieter Brandt(大提琴)以及Leon Berben(大鍵琴),也給予活力充沛的輔助,使得音樂生氣勃勃。我唯一稍微有點小意見的點,是長笛的大小聲變化不夠。這有可能是Fischer表演上的決定,也有可能是麥克風收音的位置太靠近。這使得有些可以表達得更有音樂性的地方,太過直接就帶過去了。除此之外,這張CD長笛奏鳴曲的演奏非常有生命力,傳達了Quantz音樂該有的歡樂的氣氛。

Johann Joachim Quantz was the Vivaldi of the flute, a prolific composer who wrote more than 300 concertos, 40 trio sonatas,  and 200 sonatas for the flute.  Besides being one of the finest flautist of 18th century Europe, his treatise On Playing the Flute was one of the most important textbooks of the 18th century, documenting the techniques and performance practices of the century.  For period instrument performers, the treatise provides much insight how to play the music as "authentically" as possible.    

Quantz was born in the small village of Oberschden, near Göttingen.  His father was a blacksmith and wanted his son to pursue the same path.  In 1707, his father and stepmother died (his mother died 5 years prior to that), and his brother and he were put under the care of other relatives.  Early exposure to music made him decide to become a musician, and his town musician uncle agreed to take him as an apprentice.  Unfortunately, he died just three months after.  Seems like the Quantz family around young Johann are cursed in some way.  Fortunately, he was taken under the wing of Johann Fleischhack, the other town musician.  Quantz quickly learned all the trades of a town musician, even taking keyboard lessons from the organist of a nearby town.

After he finished his apprenticeship, he had his eyes set on either Berlin or Dresden, two larger cities that had significantly larger music scenes.  Eventually, he did become a musician in the Dresden court chapel in 1728.  During this time, he also gave up the violin and oboe in favor of the flute.  During this year, he also met Frederick the Great, who at the time was still the crown prince.  When Frederick became king of Prussia, Quantz was appointed to the court in Berlin, where he would remain there for the rest of his life.  He taught the king daily, composed music, directed concerts, and even made flutes of his own (the Quantz flutes).  He died in Potsdam at the age of 76.

Quantz represents one of the figures during the transition between the late Baroque and early Classical eras of Western classical music.  Quantz quickly adopted the so-called galant style, where complex and artificial counterpoint was dropped in favor of a simple melodic line, with a clear accompanying bass line.  This movement gained popularity in order to create a kind of music writing that was natural, and audiences listening would have an easier time understanding and appreciating it.   Many stereotypical notions of Baroque music being grand and pompous probably stem from music of this period.  Although this description is fair accurate, it represents only one small portion of what we label as "Baroque" music, and that itself means that it is not an accurate portrayal by a long shot.  

This recording contains 6 flute sonatas, numbered 272-277 in a collection Frederick the Great himself compiled.  Most of Quantz's works were never published, and Frederick's collections contain both Quantz and his own compositions.  (Frederick the Great was a competent amateur composer).  I can imagine the initial cataloging of his works was a bit tricky....

Anyways, these sonatas are all 3 movements that follow the fast - slow - fast scheme.  This arrangement may not be surprising to most people, but in fact, most of Quantz's three-movement sonatas are actually in the slow - fast - fast form.  The outer movements are cheerful and upbeat, while the slow movement consists of a sweeter cantabile melody.

The flautist here is Verena Fischer, who has studied with Wilbert Hazelzet and Barthold Kuijken.  She also has a distinction of playing with the Musica Antiqua Köln in their release of a collection of Telemann's Flute Quartets.  Her intonations are clear and even, she plays the fast movements with ease, and her ornamentations are done gracefully.   She also gets very good support from Klaus-Dieter Brandt on the cello and Leon Berben on the harpsichord, who provide a very lively bassline to compliment the flute part.  This should be a most enjoyable recording, if it weren't the fact that it suffers slightly from a relative lack of dynamic range on the flute.  I'm not sure if this is an artistic choice or simply a close mic.  The downside is that some passages where more expressive playing could come from a change in dynamics is instead overlooked.  On the other hand, if you prefer a period performance where the intensity is close to max most of the time, then Fischer's recording of these sonatas are extremely vibrant and charged, as Quantz probably intended them to be.  This is not the usual "stroll in the park" Baroque flute playing, and therefore welcomed on many accounts.  





2 comments:

John Hendron said...

I believe she also plays in one of the Bachiana recordings with the later Bachs. The samples here are very crunchy. I think that's due to compression; this is fine playing - very technically well done... but I agree the balance is off - perhaps not deliberately so, but I would have placed her a little more forward than the two gents. And a ceiling treatment might have directed the sound back down to the floor for her.

Reminds me of Holloway's discussion of standing on a platform under an archway to record Biber's Rosary sonatas... to capture what he thought was the ideal sound.

I found this on iTunes - but am not sure Quantz ever comes across as my favorite composer. He's not light on good ideas, but the style is in that transition period and I'm sad to admit I prefer the counterpoint and broken chords despite his melodies.

Deadlockcp said...

Neither is he my favorite composer, although I do come back to him every once in a while. My flautist chamber partner commented that his sonatas start to sound like etudes after a while, so we never really worked on any Quantz.

Although, composers later down this transition period appeal to me even less for some reason. I think the early classical composers just don't do it for me. Quantz probably draws the line for me really..

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