The “Stamitz” caprices for solo flute

By Tom Moore


Unlike much of the flute repertoire of the eighteenth century, of which much has been published in the last forty years in facsimile editions, and more recently shared as pdfs of scans from original editions, the set of eight pieces attributed to Anton Stamitz and published as unaccompanied solos has become part of the core flute repertoire on the strength of two modern editions which say nothing about the sources they draw on. These are the publications by Breitkopf & Härtel titled Rondo capriccioso, G-dur and Capriccio-Sonata, A-dur, für Flöte solo, both issued in 1956, and the 8 Capricen für Flöte (Edition Peters, 8197; H. Litolff 30760 ), issued in 1974. The set of eight has received at least three complete recordings – by Laurel Zucker ( Cantilena, 66042-2, 2008), byPal Nemeth (Hungaroton HCD31924, 2000) and by Zdeněk Bruderhans, Arbitrium (1993), as well as four more recordings of the complete A major sonata, by Mirjam Nastasi (Ars Produktion, ARS38102, date?), by Magda Schwerzmann ( H.-A. Baum, H. Rosenfeld, 2003), by Hansgeorg Schmeiser, (Nimbus NI 5522, 1997) and Hans-Martin Linde, (SCGLX 73 816, 198?), the last on LP, the others all on CD.

To my knowledge, the sole eighteenth century source in which these works are grouped together and attributed to Anton Stamitz is the publication held at the National Library in Paris, France, and now digitized as part of the Library’s Gallica program ( . The catalog record for this item gives Anton Stamitz as author, but in fact the title page does not cite him. The title reads:

Caprices de flute en forme d’étude par les meilleurs maîtres français et étrangers, oeuvre [2e], and the collection is published by M. Baillon, who was active publishing in the mid-1780s, so the date given by the catalog of 1785 seems correct.

Page 1 (the verso of the title page) is the only one on which Stamitz’s name appears, thus: “Caprices de Flutes par Antoine Stamitz ordinaires de la Chapelle du Roy”. Page 4 bears the note “Caprice de Flûte en forme de Sonate”,  page 6 “Caprice de Flutte en forme de Sonnate”, page 8 “Caprice de Flutte”, and page 9 “Caprice de Flutte en forme de Sonate”. Finally pages 10-11 present a “Caprice de Flute par Mr. L***”.

It is not implausible that this collection should be credited to Anton Stamitz, who, although not a flutist himself, produced a flute concerto, flute duets and other chamber music including the flute. However, the haphazard nature of the collection (eight is an unusual number for a set of anything musical in the eighteenth century, and while the three pieces in A make a satisfying sonata, the remaining works (one in D, the rest all in G) clearly do not.

It is satisfying then, to be able to securely situate four of these with another composer, far less well-known today – Joseph Tacet. Tacet was evidently French (he played at the Concerts Spirituel in Paris in 1751), but spent most of his career in London, where he first appeared in 1755, and is documented in England until 1780[i]. Tacet, a flutist, published two collections of “Italian, French and English favorite airs and minuets with variations” arranged for two flute, violins or guitars (self-published, 1762, 1766), a tutor for the flute (Cahusac, 1766), a set of six solos for flute or violin with continuo (self-published, 1767), and a set of six divertimenti (three for two flutes, three for flute and continuo, self-published, 1769). The last two were republished in Paris by Le Sieur le Marchand in the early 1770s.

The table following shows the correspondence between the modern editions, the Baillon edition of 1785, and the Tacet sonatas for flute and continuo ( ark:/12148/btv1b9081583t).

No. 1 = No. 8, Baillon ed.      G major, Allegro moderato
= Tacet, op. 1, Sonata VI, 1

No. 2 = No. 1, Baillon ed.      D major, no tempo indication

No. 3= No. 2, Baillon ed.       G major, Rondeau, no tempo indication

No. 4= No. 5, Baillon ed.       A major, Allegro moderato
= Tacet, op. 1, Sonata IV, 1

No. 5= No. 6, Baillon ed.       A minor, Amoroso
= Tacet, op. 1, Sonata IV, 2

No. 6= No. 7, Baillon ed.       A major, Rondeau
= Tacet, op. 1, Sonata IV, 3
omits 2nde couplet found in Tacet

No. 7= No. 3, Baillon ed.       G major, Allegro Spiritoso

No. 8 = No. 4, Baillon ed.      G major, Allemande


The Baillon edition includes an entire sonata from Tacet’s op. 1 (the no. 4 in A), although without the continuo line, and omitting the second couplet from the final movement. The source of the other four movements remains open to question, though perhaps they might still be found in other contemporary collections of music for flute and continuo. It seems more likely that they would be from another flutist-composer rather than by Anton Stamitz. Tacet’s music is fluent and accomplished. It is not surprising that it has been successful under Stamitz’s name. It is time for flutists to look into the rest of Tacet’s admittedly small production.

Six solos for a German-flute or violin, with a thorough bass for the harpsichord or violoncello. London, Printed and sold by the author. [1767]

Six Sonates pour Flute ou Violon Avec la Basse Chiffrée

Dédiées A sa Majesté la Reine d’Angleterre. Composée par Joseph Tacet.

Oeuvre Ier. Gravée par Mme. Lobray. Paris, Chez le Sieur le Marchand, Cloître St. Thomas du Louvre.  [1771]

BNF, Konink. Bib, The Hague


[i] Highfill, Philip,  A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 360. 

Published on with permission from Prof. Dr. Tom Moore

About Prof. Dr. Tom Moore

Tom Moore holds degrees in music from Harvard and Stanford and studied traverso with Sandra Miller. From 2004 to 2007, he was visiting professor of music at the University of Rio de Janeiro (UniRio), where he co-directed the early music ensemble, Camerata Quantz. He has recorded with Kim Reighley and Mélomanie for Lyrichord (USA) and with Le Triomphe de l’Amour for Lyrichord and A Casa Discos (Brazil). Mr. Moore writes about music for,, 21st Century Music,  Opera Today, Flute Talk, Flutist Quarterly, and other journals. He has also sung professionally with the Symphonic Chorus of Rio de Janeiro and Concert Royal and Pomerium Musices of New York. He is presently head of the Sound and Image Department of the Green Library of Florida International University, Miami, FL. 

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