A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Quantz, Johann Joachim

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QUANTZ, Johann Joachim, celebrated flute player and composer, born, according to his autobiography in Marpurg's 'Beiträge zur Aufnahme der Musik,' Jan. 30, 1697, at Oberscheden, a village between Göttingen and Münden. His father, a blacksmith, urged him on his death-bed (1707) to follow the same calling, but, in his own words, 'Providence, who disposes all for the best, soon pointed out a different path for my future.' From the age of 8 he had been in the habit of playing the double-bass with his elder brother at village fêtes, and judging from this that he had a talent for music, his uncle Justus Quantz, Stadtmusikus of Merseburg, offered to bring him up as a musician. He went to Merseburg in August 1708,[1] but his uncle did not long survive his father, and Quantz passed under the care of the new Stadtmusikus, Fleischhack, who had married his predecessor's daughter. For the next 5½ years he studied various instruments, Kiesewetter being his master for the pianoforte. In Dec. 1713 he was released from his apprenticeship, and soon after became assistant, first to Knoll, Stadtmusikus of Radeberg, and then to Schalle of Pirna near Dresden. Here he studied Vivaldi's violin-concertos, and made the acquaintance of Heine, a musician in Dresden, with whom he went to live in March 1716. He now had opportunities of hearing great artists, such as Pisendel, Veracini, Sylvius Weiss, Richter and Buffardin, the flute-player. In 1717 he went, during his three months' leave, to Vienna, and studied counterpoint in the octave with Zerlenka, a pupil of Fux. In 1718 he entered the chapel of the King of Poland, which consisted of 12 players, and was stationed alternately in Warsaw and Dresden. His salary was 150 thalers, with free quarters in Warsaw, but finding no opportunity of distinguishing himself either on the oboe, the instrument for which he was engaged, or the violin, he took up the flute, studying it with Buffardin. In 1723 he went with Weiss to Prague, and the two played in Fux's opera 'Costanza e Fortezza' performed in honour of the coronation of Charles VI. Here also he heard Tartini. In 1724 Quantz accompanied Count Lagnasco to Italy, arriving in Rome on July 11, and going at once for lessons in counterpoint to Gasparini, whom he describes as a 'goodnatured and honourable man.' In 1725 he went on to Naples, and there made the acquaintance of Scarlatti, Hasse, Mancini, Leo, Feo, and other musicians of a similar stamp. In May 1726 we find him in Reggio and Parma, whence he travelled by Milan, Turin, Geneva, and Lyons to Paris, arriving on Aug. 15. In Paris where his name was remembered[2] as 'Quouance'—he remained seven months, and occupied himself with contriving improvements in the flute, the most important being the addition of a second key, as described by himself in his 'Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte zu spielen,' vol. iii. chap. 58 (Berlin, 1752). He was at length recalled to Dresden, but first visited London for three months. He arrived there on March 20, 1727, when Handel was at the very summit of his operatic career, with Faustina, Cuzzoni, Castrucci, Senesino, Attilio, and Tosi in his train. He returned to Dresden on July 23, 1727, and in the following March re-entered the chapel, and again devoted himself to the flute. During a visit to Berlin in 1728 the Crown Prince, afterwards Frederic the Great, was so charmed with his playing, that he determined to learn the flute, and in future Quantz went twice a year to give him instruction. In 1741 his pupil, having succeeded to the throne, made him liberal offers if he would settle in Berlin, which he did, remaining till his death on July 12, 1773. He was Kammermusicus and court-composer, with a salary of 2000 thalers, an additional payment for each composition, and 100 ducats for each flute which he supplied. His chief duties were to conduct the private concerts at the Palace, in which the king played the flute, and to compose pieces for his royal pupil. He left in MS. 300 concertos for one and two flutes—of which 277 are preserved in the Neue Palais at Potsdam—and 200 other pieces; flute solos, and dozens of trios and quatuors, of which 37 are to be found at Dresden. His printed works are three—'Sei Senate' dedicated to Augustus III. of Poland, Dresden, 1734; 'Sei duetti,' Berlin, 1759; a method for the flute—'Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen' dedicated to Frederick 'Könige in Preussen,' Berlin, 1752, 4to, with 24 copper-plates. This passed through three (or four) German editions, and was also published in French and Dutch. He left also a serenata, a few songs, music to 22 of Gellert's hymns, 'Neue Kirchenmelodien,' etc. (Berlin, 1760), and an autobiography (in Marpurg's Beiträgen). Three of the Melodien are given by von Winterfeld, 'Evang. Kircheng.' iii. 272. Besides the key which he added to the flute, he invented the sliding top for tuning the instrument. His playing, which was unusually correct for the imperfect instruments of the day, delighted not only Frederic, but Marpurg, a more fastidious critic. He married, not happily, in 1737; and died in easy circumstances and generally respected at Potsdam, July 12, 1773.

All details regarding him may be found in 'Leben und Werken,' etc., by his grandson Albert Quantz (Berlin, 1877).

[ F. G. ]


  1. Not 1707, as Mendel states.
  2. In Boivin's Catalogue.