During his reign, such an abundance of music was composed for the court of Frederick the Great (and, indeed, by Frederick himself) that the complete body of these works would fill many albums. The composer Quantz alone wrote more than 500 pieces for Frederick. The difficulty becomes selecting just a few of these pieces for a single album. The instrumentation of the Musica Viva Ensemble -- flute, oboe, harpsichord, violin, and cello -- slightly pares down the list of possible pieces, but there are still a great number of pieces from which to choose. The final selection seems to be guided by the desire to include both familiar names -- such as C.P.E. Bach and Quantz -- and a few composers who may be less familiar but equally important to Frederick's court. The liner notes of the album have some problematic grammatical issues in the translation and have the annoying tendency to combine historical information with self-laudatory remarks about the ensemble's performance of them. Nevertheless, these comments are generally accurate. Each member delivers a refined, nimble, well-balanced performance, proving they are well-attuned not only to each other, but also to the intricacies of the music they are playing. The star of this particular album is flutist Renata Penezic, whose playing is sublimely facile and detailed.
Music on the court of Frederick II the Great Review
by Mike D. Brownell