Notes and Editorial Reviews
Georg Böhm is one of those German Protestant composers who has had the misfortune to have his name inextricably linked with that of J. S. Bach. In the case of Böhm, the link with Bach is especially potent, since there is the liklihood that the two became acquainted during the period Bach attended the Michaelisschule in Lüneburg (1700?c. 1703). More importantly, Böhm has long been acknowledged as an influence on Bach?s organ and keyboard music.
Böhm was born in Hohenkirchen, near Ohrdorf on September 2, 1661. Following matriculation from the university at Jena, he moved to Hamburg in 1693. There is no record of him holding any post in the Hanseatic city, although Peter Wollny?s characteristically informative note for this new disc claims that he was active at the famous Gänsemarkt opera house. In 1698, Böhm rather belatedly found permanent employment as organist of the Johanniskirche in Lüneberg, a post he would retain until his death on May 15, 1733. During his tenure, he oversaw the complete rebuilding of the Johanniskirche organ.
It is as an organ and keyboard composer that Böhm?s tenuous claim on posterity has rested up until now, his sacred vocal music having been completely neglected. That may at least in part be due to the fact that so little of it has survived, only six fully authenticated cantatas being extant. Four of those are now recorded here for the first time. Wollny is rightly at some variance with
, which dismisses the cantatas as ?derivative,? in claiming to find a juxtaposition of the traditional 17th-century German sacred concerto with more modern operatic traits. The latter are perhaps at their strongest in
Ach Herr, komme hinab
, based on the story of Jesus?s healing of the nobleman?s son as related in St. John 4 (not 5, as given in the booklet). The opening tenor aria ?Oh, Lord, come down and help my son? has a dramatic poignancy that for Wollny evokes an operatic scene; more specifically my thoughts went to Carissimi.
A notable feature of the four works is their variety of form. The most obviously traditional is
, based on the parable of the king?s wedding invitation (Matthew 22: 1?14). Böhm sets this in a narrative style that owes a debt to 17th-century German Passion settings, even to the point of introducing three verses of the chorale ?Wachet auf? as commentary on the story. Both
, a setting of Psalm 84 (?How amiable are your dwelling places?), and
Mein Freund ist mein
, which takes its point of departure from the famous words in the Song of Solomon, treat strophic form in differing ways. The latter finds a remarkable degree of variation in its six verses, ranging from the motet-like treatment of the first verse, through operatically inspired solo verses for each of its four soloists to a final madrigalian ensemble setting.
uses an instrumental ritornello as a base to bind together its four verses, the joyous spirit of the psalm reflected in lively dance rhythms.
The performances by a newly formed vocal ensemble under the direction of countertenor Ralf Popken are extremely good. I was especially taken with the lovely pure vocal quality of soprano Irmela Brünger and tenor Jörn Lindemann, who is particularly effective in
. The fact that the instrumental accompaniment is in the hands of the solo strings of the excellent Musica Alta Ripa (supported by a pair of trumpets in
is a guarantee of high quality. My only reservation goes back to the vexed question of the use of a ripieno ?chorus,? albeit a small (and very good) one of two voices to a part. There is no indication that these small-scale works, which are for four or five voices, require such support, and the flexibility of the writing frequently contradicts its use. Still, it is not a major issue here, and certainly does not prevent my recommending a valuable release that fills another gap in our understanding of 17th-century German sacred music.
FANFARE: Brian Robins
Works on This Recording
Das Himmelreich ist gleich by Georg Böhm
Musica Alta Ripa
Ach Herr, komme hinab by Georg Böhm
Musica Alta Ripa
Mein Freund ist mein by Georg Böhm
Musica Alta Ripa
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