A portrait of Johann Joachim Quantz
Quantz was born as Hanß Jochim Quantz in Oberscheden, near Göttingen, in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg. His father, Andreas Quantz, was a blacksmith who died when Hans was not yet 11; on his deathbed, he begged his son to follow in his footsteps. Nevertheless, from 1708 to 1713 he began his musical studies as a child with his uncle Justus Quantz, a town musician in Merseburg; he also studied for a time with a cousin's husband, the organist Johann Friedrich Kiesewetter. From 1714 on, Quantz studied composition extensively and pored over scores of the masters to adopt their style.
In 1716 he joined the town band in Dresden, where in 1717 he studied counterpoint with Jan Dismas Zelenka. In March 1718 he was appointed oboist in the newly formed Dresden Polish Chapel of August II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. As it became clear that he couldn't advance as an oboist in the Polish Chapel, Quantz decided to pursue the flute, studying briefly in 1719 with Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin, principal flute in the Royal Orchestra. He became good friends with Johann Georg Pisendel, concertmaster of the Royal Orchestra, who greatly influenced his style.
Between 1724 and 1727 Quantz completed his education by doing a "Grand Tour" of Europe as a flutist. He studied counterpoint with Francesco Gasparini in Rome, met Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, befriended the flutist Michel Blavet in Paris, and in London was encouraged by Handel to remain there. In 1728 Quantz accompanied August II on a state visit to Berlin. The Queen of Prussia was impressed and wanted to hire him. Though August II refused, he allowed Quantz to travel to Berlin as often as he was asked to. That year the Crown Prince, Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great), decided to study the flute and Quantz became his teacher for several visits a year. Quantz later told writer Friedrich Nicolai that he once had to hide in a closet during an outburst of Frederick's domineering father, who disapproved of his son's musical studies. Until 1741 Quantz remained at the Saxon Court in Dresden. He married Anna Rosina Carolina Schindler in 1737; the marriage was not happy, and it was generally known in Berlin that Quantz's wife tyrannized him.
When Frederick II became King of Prussia in 1740, Quantz finally accepted a position as flute teacher, flute maker and composer at the court in Berlin. He joined that court in December 1741 and stayed there for the rest of his career. He made flutes from at least 1739 and was an innovator in flute design, adding a second key (D#, in addition to the standard Eb) to help with intonation, for example.
As well as writing hundreds of sonatas and concertos, mainly for the flute, he is known today as the author of Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752) (titled On Playing the Flute in English), a treatise on traverso flute playing. It is a valuable source of reference regarding performance practice and flute technique in the 18th century.
Quantz remained at Frederick's court at Potsdam until his death in 1773. A biography appeared in 1755 in Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg's Historisch-kritischen Beyträgen zur Aufnahme der Musik; another, in Italian, followed in 1762. His grandnephew, Albert Quantz, published a full-length biography in 1877.
Few of Quantz's works were published during his lifetime. Most of them are for transverse flute, including more than 200 sonatas, around 300 concertos, 45 trio sonatas, and various flute duets, trios, and quartets.