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From the House of Master Böhm

Otago Daily Times (NZ)
Geoff Adams

Georg Böhm (1661-1733), was a German composer who was organist at Lüneburg’s Johanniskirche for 35 years, regarded as a minor figure with a small output of music until a few years ago. His organ works mainly have been recorded. Now recent research has spotlighted him: J.S. Bach at age 15 was living in Böhm’s house in the year 1700, apprenticed to the keyboard virtuoso to gain his musical education (part of it being copying out his master’s compositions.)

Signs of Böhm’s influence on Bach can be found in this fine recital of harpsichord sound, by John O’Donnell, an Australian early music specialist and first person to perform Bach’s complete keyboard works. He plays a brightly toned 1995 Australian instrument, copy of a Flemish instrument from the mid-1770s.

The recital opens with an exciting Praeludium in G minor, a spirited and original five-part work given an excellent performance. The 80 minute programme also has Böhm’s four Suites in four movements for harpsichord, a brief but popular Menuet in G major and two Partitas. The partita format pioneered by Böhm is a number of variations on a chorale (based on hymn) theme, later keenly developed by Bach. The quality of all these works demonstrate that the young Bach had a superb mentor, whose own works were preserved by the copies made by Bach then distributed among Böhm’s family.

There is a French tinge to harpsichord music of the time, but Böhm also wrote fine melodies, following the German interest in the fugue contrapuntal form. The disc is well packaged with interesting liner notes.

Highlight: Gorgeous harpsichord sounds enchant.