J.J. Quantz (1697-1773) was a flute player, flute maker (and innovater) and composer who spent most of his professional life in the court of Frederick the Great of Prussia. All told, he wrote about 300 flute concertos and over 200 flute sonatas, but may be best remembered for his exhaustive 1752 treatise "On Playing the Flute," which is one of our best sources on 18th century performance practice. As is obvious from his dates, he straddled the late baroque and early classical styles.
This recording is of six flute sonatas, probably written around 1750-1760. They're unusual for Quantz sonatas, insofar as they're structured fast-slow-fast (usually he favored the slow-fast-fast pattern of his patron). The texture of these is strictly baroque: soprano solo instrument, with a supporting bass line, and improvised keyboard continuo filling in the holes from a figured bass. But the musical content is purely preclassical, with rudimentary motivic development, even phrase lengths and simpler harmonies.
The ensemble of Verena Fischer (baroque flute), Klaus-Dieter Brandt (baroque cello) and Léon Berben (harpsichord) play these sonatas with commendable verve and attention to the practices espoused in "On Playing the Flute." Fischer must be playing a Quantz flute (with the extra key he pioneered): her intonation is so precise. The harpsichord realizations are particularly well thought out: all Quantz left was the bass line plus some numbers indicating the harmony. The easy way to realize these is to just play the chords represented by the notes — dry and pedantic. At the other end of the spectrum would be an elaborate working out of an independent keyboard accompaniment — obtrusive and not at all what Quantz intended. Berben hits a perfect middle ground, with just enough elaboration and echoing of the flute's motifs. My only quibble — and it is minor — is that some of the fast movements are a smidge too fast. They need to slow down to smell the roses. The recorded sound is excellent, with just the right amount of "room" for my taste.
Altogether, this is an outstanding CD of undeservedly neglected late baroque music that's right on the cusp of becoming classical. Highly recommended.