Georg Böhm

Biography

Born: September 2, 1661; Ohrdruf   Died: May 18, 1733; Lüneburg  
Georg Böhm was one of the leading organists and organ composers in his part of Germany in the years around 1700, and was an important influence on Johann Sebastian Bach. Böhm's father was a schoolmaster and organist who gave Georg his first lessons. It is also possible that the boy was taught by Johann Heinrich Hildebrand, the Kantor in Ohrdruf. When his father died in 1675, Böhm attended Latin School in Goldbach and then at the Gymnasium in Read more Gotha, graduating in 1684. In both towns the local Cantors were students of members of the Bach family, and gave Böhm continued lessons.

In August 1684, Böhm entered the University of Jena. His historical trail disappears until he is known to have been in Hamburg in 1693. Even so, it is not known what he was doing there. It is even possible that whatever main employment he had there was not musical; he was a well-educated man in general and could have pursued a "day job" while continuing to improve his musical skills. If so, Hamburg was a good place to do so, for it had a lively and varied musical life ranging from the presence of fine organists and a major opera house specializing in French and Italian works, and in nearby towns were located the great organists Lübeck and Buxtehude.

In 1697, Christian Flor, organist of the Johanniskirche of Lüneburg, died. Böhm auditioned for the job and was chosen unanimously. He held the post until his death.

Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote that his father "loved and studied the works of the Lüneburg organist Georg Böhm." The influence is most notable in Bach's choral-based works. Böhm was part of a trend of the late part of the seventeenth century in which the church's organ chorale was developed into new forms. One of the primary ones is the "chorale partita." Here the Italian partita, a variation form using a dance song as its basis, is fused with the Lutheran church chorale, where a chorale melody became the basis of a set of variations, creating the form called "chorale partite." Böhm was fond of the new form, and created several of them, most likely intended for home use on pedal clavier. He methods of deriving new melodic forms from the original chorale, and his way of unifying the larger chorale pieces were take up by Bach. In other forms of keyboard music Böhm also introduced significant innovations.

For a long time, speculation was rife as to whether Johann Sebastian Bach had ever studied directly with Georg Böhm. Conformation of this came in 2004 with the discovery of a tablature manuscript in Bach's hand, dating to 1700, containing comments showing that Bach was Böhm's pupil at the time. Read less
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