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Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)

Flutist, composer, flute maker, teacher of Frederick the Great of Prussia, author of an influential method book on musical performance (1752).

Click here to order a copy of Quantz's On Playing the Flute.

Portrait of a flutist, possibly Quantz, by Jean Chrétien de la Fontaine (1751) (private collection, Washington DC)


Works list




Links to other Quantz pages


Quantz was one of the first professional flute players in 18th-century Europe. He began as a town musician, trained to play all instruments, but after gaining a post as an oboist in the presitgious Dresden court ensemble, he began to specialise in the flute in 1719. he traveled to Italy, France, and England to broaden his musical education, then returned to Dresden. In 1741 he entered the service of Frederick the Great of Prussia, where he remained until his death, composing, performing, and making flutes for the king. His Essay on flute-playing (1752) made his famous throughout Europe and attracted pupils who formed a "school" of flute-playing which remained influential for another hundred years.

Works list

The Essay

Quantz's Essay of 1752 is less a tutor for the flute than a compendium covering musical taste and execution on all sorts of instruments. Because of this broad scope it became and has remained the most widely-known instrumental method of the 18th century, except perhaps for C.P.E. Bach's keyboard treatise. But compared with the work of later writers such as Tromlitz, its instructions on how to play the flute itself are tantalisingly brief: only 50 pages of the original 334 are devoted to flute-playing. But in contrast to other superficial methods that promised effortless and speedy mastery of an instrument, Quantz designed his Essay 'to train a skilled and intelligent musician, and not just a mechanical flute-player'.

The tutor was written for the two-keyed flute that Quantz favored and built, using separate fingerings for sharps and flats, but he gave only brief hints on how to use these keys as he was well aware that most of his readers used one-keyed flutes.

His instructions on tonguing were by far the most sophisticated to date, including the technique of double-tonguing, which he was the first to mention in writing.

Musical compositions

Quantz wrote over 300 concertos and many sonatas, most of which have never been published. They are listed in two catalogs by Horst Augsbach, Johann Joachim Quantz: Thematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke, Wekgruppen QV 2 und QV3 (Dresden: Sächsische Landesbibliothek, 1984) and Johann Joachim Quantz: Thematisch-systematisches Werkverzeichnis (QV) (Stuttgart: Carus-Verlag, 1997)


Quantz-type flute from Castillon's article in Diderot's Encyclopedie
Quantz-type flute from Castillon's article in Diderot's Encyclopedie

Quantz began making flutes in 1739, and built as many as eighteen instruments for Frederick the Great during his employment. Due to Frederick's habit of giving these flutes away as a mark of special favor, many of them survived as heirlooms in Prussian noble families, and are today preserved in museums in Germany, the US, and Japan.

Quantz's flutes are unlike other baroque flutes in a number of interesting ways. In 1726 he invented a second key, for D#, to the one for Eb already present on all flutes. Making a distinction between these and other enharmonic pairs was important to Quantz's idea of playing in tune.

For more on intonation, see Tuning and Intonation

Despite its excellence the Quantz flute had a very limited influence in 18th-century Europe. It was well known in Berlin Enlightenment circles, but as Quantz was not a commercial instrument-maker few people had the opportunity to own or even play one. The tuning slide was taken up by a few instrument-makers at the end of the 18th century, but was not a generally popular device. Serious flutists such as Friedrich Ludwig Dülon (1769-1826) and Johann George Tromlitz (1735-1805) used flutes with both D# and Eb keys, but again they were in a minority.

Ouantz's ideas about music remained influential until the end of the 18th century due to the wide distribution of his book. His name, at least, was not forgotten in the 19th century because of his association with Frederick the Great of Prussia, considered by many at that time as the founder of the German state.

Extant Quantz flutes

Quantz III (D-Karlsruhe: private collection )
Serial no. Location

D-Karlsruhe: private collection


D-Leipzig: Musikinstrumenten Museum


US-DC-Washington, LOC: Miller 916


J-Hamamatsu: City Museum


D-Berlin: Kunstgewerbe Museum Hz 1289


D-Potsdam: Schloß Sanssouci V18


D-Berlin: Staatliches Institut 5076


D-Hechingen: Burg Hohenzollern

Details in Eberhard Dehne-Niemann, 'The Quantz Flute', TRAVERSO 9.4 (Oct 1997), 1-3 Another article, Mary Oleskiewicz, 'A Museum, a World War, and a Rediscovery: Flutes by Quantz and others from the Hohenzolern Museum' (Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society XXIV (1998), 107-45), has interesting details about some of these instruments.


Quantz, attrib. Friedrich Gerhard, c1741 (Schloss Ermitage, Bayreuth)
Medium Artist Location

Oil on canvas

? May


Oil on canvas

? Bea[bru]n

Schloss Fasanerie, Fulda

Oil on canvas

attrib. Friedrich Gerhard, c1741

Schloss Ermitage, Bayreuth

Oil on canvas

? c1740?

London: Tony Bingham


Johann Gottlieb Glume, post 1741

Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett; Dresden, Kupferstichkabinett, and other collections

Pastels on vellum or parchment

Jean Chrétien de la Fontaine, 1751

private collection, Washington DC

Charcoal and ink on paper

Johann Heinrich Christoph Franke, c1767

Berlin, Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Musikabteilung


? Johann Friedrich Schleuen, 1767

numerous copies

Sources: Charles Walthall, 'Portraits of Johann Joachim Quantz', Early Music XIV (1986), 501-18
Tony Bingham's portrait is reproduced in Early Music 23.1 (February 1995), 3.


Johann Joachim Quantz, trans. and ed. Edward R. Reilly, On Playing the Flute, 2nd edition, (Northeastern University Press, 2001)

Mary Oleskiewicz, 'A Museum, a World War, and a Rediscovery: Flutes by Quantz and others from the Hohenzolern Museum' (Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society XXIV (1998), 107-45)

Charles Walthall, 'Portraits of Johann Joachim Quantz', Early Music XIV (1986), 501-18

Chapter 5, 'Quantz and the operatic style", in Ardal Powell, The Flute (Yale University Press, 2002)

Links to other Quantz related pages

Vaucanson's mechanical flute player

© 2000, Ardal Powell
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