> BOHM Georg: Organ works [KS]: Classical Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Georg BÖHM (1661-1733)
Geistliche Lieder (Sacred Songs) and Organ Works

Trostesvollen Gnaden, Bringet meinen Herrn zu Ruh, Folget Jesu nach zum Graben, Was bringet Jesus aus dem Grabe?, Oft denkí ich, wie ich durch die Welt dem Jammerlaut vollende, Mein Freund is mein, entflieht ihr Sorgen, Die Welt ist recht ein Totengrab.
Partita Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, Praeludium and Fugue in d minor, Chorale Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her, Chorale Vater unser in Himmelreich, Praeludium, Fugue and Postludium in g minor, Chorale, Christ lag in Todesbanden, Partita Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig.
Vocal works: Monique Zanetti, soprano; Jean-Charles Ablitzer, organ; Marianne Muller, viole de gambe. Recorded in the Church of Saint-Pierre, Porrentruy, Jura, Switzerland, 7-8 February, 1993.
Organ Works, Recorded on the historic Arp Schnitger organ of the Sankt Ludgeri Church, Norden, 11-12 November, 1992 DDD.
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Georg Böhm did not achieve much in the way of fame during his lifetime, but he was sufficiently talented to have caught the eye of the young Johann Sebastian Bach, who cited him as an influence and held his music in high regard. For the bulk of his career, he held the position of organist at the St. Johnís church in Lüneburg. He received a brief mention in Waltherís Musikalisches Lexicon of 1732, but the entry speculates on the facts of the composerís life, even to the point of guessing as to whether or not he was still alive. He was. It wasnít until after his death in 1733 that his star began to ascend, and he received a few posthumous positive remarks from organists of the next generation. Regrettably, many of his works are lost, and those that have survived, are more often than not to be found in secondary sources. That we know of him at all today is due in large part to the interest in anything and everything that has to do with J. S. Bach.

This disc gives us a handful of sacred concerti, ably if not blandly performed here by Monique Zanetti. Ms. Zanetti has a lovely lyrical instrument, which never seems to get in the way. All the pieces here are pleasant to listen to, but I never quite moved by any sense of conviction on her part. Missing is any hint of the second and third layers of meaning that are so evident in most sacred texts from the German Lutherans. And while we are on the subject of German, Ms. Zanetti could stand to polish up her diction just a bit, as there are just enough slightly mispronounced words to be annoying. These are frankly, however, only minor flaws. Jean-Charles Ablitzer at the console and Marianne Mullerís gamba playing ably accompany her, although I would have enjoyed a less fluid and more crisp attach from the organ. I was a bit bothered by the rather mushy chord changes.

The glories of this disc are the truly splendid organ works, excellently rendered on an historic Arp Schnitger instrument (Schnitger was commissioned to rebuild the Lüneburg organ during Böhmís tenure, but the job was actually completed by one of the famous builderís students). Now I must confess that I adore North German organ music. The direct clarity of the registrations, the purity of tonal colors in the instruments combined with the sheer rhythmic drive and force of the music has always been appealing to me. This performance gives us these qualities with some to spare. Mr. Ablitzer obviously has a fine hand for this music, and he plays with a simplicity and directness that allows the music to speak for its thrilling self. I found myself repeating tracks for the sheer pleasure of the sound. In particular, the chorale prelude on Vater Unser, which is beautifully solemn and reverent, and the exciting g minor Prelude, Fugue, and Postlude made me halt and take special notice.

The recorded sound is direct and clear, not over-burdened with reverberation, yet allowed to blossom enough to give us a nice sense of the room that houses the instrument. And what a crystalline instrument it is! Originally completed in 1692, the organ contained 46 stops, making it one of the largest of its day. It underwent many changes and alterations throughout the years before Jürgend Arhend using Schnitgerís original plans between 1981 and 1985 restored it.

Readers of my reviews will find a pattern, in that I constantly harp on program books. This one has multitudinous flaws. First of all, the English notes are spotted with long quotes in German, only to be parenthetically translated into English. What a waste of space! This is musicological pretentiousness at its finest. It is assumed that any program annotator worth his salt will have a working knowledge of foreign languages. We donít need to see how well the writers can copy German. Worse yet, the texts of the vocal works are only presented in German and French. Hello! The English speaking market buys lots and lots of CDs. The comments on the music are lengthy, but dull. Do we really need a blow-by-blow description of every bar of every piece? Great music speaks for itself.

Lovers of organ music will certainly want this disc in their collections. Highly recommended for the organ recital, with the vocal works being a pleasant and non-distracting bonus.

Kevin Sutton

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