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Georg BÖHM (1661-1733) The Complete Organ Works Details after review
Hans Davidsson (organ after designs by Scherer and Schnitger)
Quarter comma meantone temperament (A=465)
rec. 2013, Örgryte Nye Kyrka, Sweden Organ specification and individual registration included in booklet.
[3 CDs: 179:42]
Georg Böhm was one of the most important predecessors of Johann Sebastian
Bach, who was very probably his student at Lüneburg from 1700 to 1702. There
have been earlier releases of his music for harpsichord and organ, but this
is the most complete recording of the latter.
When I recommended a single-CD selection in my
Download Roundup in February 2012,
it was one of only two then available devoted solely to Böhm’s music.
That remains a fine introduction to the music, from Bernard Fouccroulle on
the Van Hagerbeer (1646)/Schnitger (1725) organ at Alkmaar (Ricercar
RIC319). It’s available on CD and can be streamed by subscribers to
Naxos Music Library,
but you should ignore the link to classicsonline.com, sadly no longer
I enjoyed the Ricercar selection, as also Fouccroulle’s recording of the
organ music of an earlier North German master, Matthias Weckmann (Ricercar
DL News 2014/3
– also included in a 5-CD set of Weckmann’s music, RIC369 –
Recording of the Month).
Another single-CD selection, from Christiaan Teeuwsen, appears on a Naxos
CD labelled Volume 1, though no successor ever seems to have appeared.
(8.555857). There are more complete recordings from Friedhelm Flamme
(CPO777501-2, 2 CDs, recorded in 2009) and Simone Stella (OnClassical
OC133SET2, 2 CDs, download only). The most economical way to obtain the
Stella recording is as a 4-CD set, target price £10.50, of all Böhm’s
keyboard music on Brilliant Classics (94612). Those content with mp3
should find that set for around £8.
Both Flamme and Stella give us just over two hours of Böhm’s organ music,
but neither is quite as complete as the new Loft set; this includes several
variants of certain works, bringing almost an hour more of the music. Thus, for
example, we are given three versions of Vater unser im Himmelreich
on CD1 – one for two manuals, one for single manual with pedals and a third
with the cantus firmus, the tune of the underlying Lutheran chorale,
played on the pedals.
Some short works preserved in manuscript form but not available in editions
are also recorded for the first time: they include a manualiter
(manuals only) version of the second half of the organ chorale on Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr – the German Gloria – and a
short Nachspiel (postlude) for the organ chorale Christum wir sollen loben schon.
The other reason for the extended playing time is that Hans Davidsson
generally adopts a slower tempo than other performers. I noted this on an
earlier Loft recording of the organ music of Buxtehude on two 2-CD and one
3-CD sets –
Now, as then, I thought that it made for a more reflective and less
exciting approach to the music. I never found his approach to Buxthude
objectionably heavy, however, and it’s more appropriate to Böhm, whose
music is less dramatic: don’t expect fireworks, though there’s plenty of
power in this music. If it’s Böhm in more unbuttoned form that you are
seeking, there’s an attractive and stylish 1982 Hyperion collection of German Consort Music, 1660-1710, performed by the Parley of
Instruments, directed by Peter Holman and including Böhm’s Ouverture
a5 in C (CDA66074, with sonatas and ouvertures by Rosenmüller,
Schmelzer, Fischer and Telemann: archive service or inexpensive download
with pdf booklet from
One of Böhm’s longest organ works, Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele,
comes in at 15:51 on CPO and 17:46 on the new Loft recording and that’s
slightly less than the average difference between the two recordings. The
Partita Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten is more typical, taking 6:52 on CPO
on Loft. The latter trips along under the hands of Flamme and though his
organ is a slightly less appropriate instrument – the restored organ of St
Servatius Duderstadt – than Davidsson’s, the registration is
Simone Stella sounds markedly slower than Flamme, taking 8:10 overall.
Students may like the way in which his recording is divided into seven
sections, and overall he finds a degree more variety and contrast between
the sections. Though he uses an Italian organ, his chosen registration
(not specified) makes it sound not inappropriate.
Davidsson’s performance is much more contemplative than either Flamme or
Stella to the extent that it seems almost a different piece. All three
performances work well in their own context, but I suggest that prospective
purchasers try them out from Naxos Music Library first.
If I must choose one Desert Island recording of this work, I suppose that
it would have to be Fouccroulle on the single-CD Ricercar selection, who
takes 7:32 and seems to capture both the reflection of Davidsson and
Flamme’s more lively approach.
In Auf meinen lieben Gott, Fouccroulle (10:40) takes considerably
longer than Flamme (8:39) and almost as long as Davidsson (11:11). Yet I
can’t say that Flamme seems rushed in this work – if anything,
Fouccroulle’s account of Versus I sounds lighter than his.
Davidsson, unsurprisingly, sounds more reflective, but ethereal rather than
heavy, and all three have something valuable to say about the music.
The completeness of the programme makes the new release de rigueur
for organ scholars, but the quality of the performances will appeal to
non-specialist lovers of the organ music of the period, too, who need not
trouble about such matters as quarter-comma meantone temperament. Even
non-specialists, however, will appreciate that the performances are on a
modern four-manual organ of similar design to the Schnitger instrument
which Böhm – and the teenage Bach – would have played at Lüneburg.
I liked the sound of this instrument much more than that of the historic
single-manual Morlanda organ on which Davidsson performed Böhm’s Partita Ach wie nichtig, ach wir flüchtig on an earlier recital on Intim
(IMCD073, with Sweelinck, Weckmann, Kerll and Froberger).
Another big plus for scholars: as organ specialists, Loft provide all that
could be wanted in the way of detail – not only the specification of the
instrument but the registration employed for each piece. I always hope for
that, but usually in vain. That’s in addition to detailed notes about
Böhm’s life and music, individual works, and the organ employed for the
I can’t comment on the CPO booklet: eclassical.com don’t offer it with the
Naxos Music Library
have only a truncated version of it. It’s also disappointing that although
the CPO is available on hybrid SACD, there is no 24-bit download from
eclassical.com or any supplier that I can find. Nevertheless, it sounds
well in ordinary 16-bit, as does the new Loft recording.
I’ve already indicated that all three approaches to Böhm’s organ music work
well in their own right. Simone Stella’s 4-CD Brilliant Classics set
offers a huge bargain and buyers should be well satisfied with it.
Friedrich Flamme’s recording also represent a saving, on two CDs, but
scholars of the baroque organ repertoire will want the 3-CD Loft set.
General music lovers may well be content with the single-CD selections on
Naxos and Ricercar. If you are looking for 70 minutes of Böhm’s organ
music, Fouccroulle on RIC319 is probably the better recommendation. Not
the least of the many virtues of this recording is that, like the new Loft
release, it contains both the specification of the 3-manual organ of St
Laurentskerk at Alkmaar and the registration employed for each piece.
Not all UK suppliers stock Loft CDs but Amazon UK list them as imports –
indeed, they offer them for less than their own mp3 download. Presto offer
the download in mp3 and lossless sound, with pdf booklet, and subscribers
Naxos Music Library
can stream the music there, again with the booklet.
If Davidsson’s manner with Böhm appeals, there’s another 3-CD set from him
of the complete organ music of Matthias Weckmann. I’ve already mentioned
the Fouccroulle recording of Weckmann; both are complete, but here again
Davidsson offers a slightly more complete set of works and his tempi are
once more slightly slower: O lux beata Trinitas, for example, 22:35
from Fouccroulle, comes in at 26:52 from Davidsson. (Loft LRCD-1065-67).
It’s very satisfying that we now have so many recordings of Böhm’s organ
music, complete or in selection, to choose from. The new recording from
Hans Davidsson, combining scholarship with generally reflective
performances, is not least among these. Forget the difference thrown up by
detailed comparison and I enjoyed it very much.
Contents CD 1
in d minor [5:46]
Vater unser im Himmelreich: Versus 1 à 2 claviers manualiter [3:22]
Vater unser im Himmelreich: Versus 2 à 1 clavier con pédale [5:10]
Vater unser im Himmelreich: Cantus firmus in Ped [4:37]
Christe der du bist Tag und Licht
Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
in F [3:49]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir
Christum wir sollen loben schon
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend
in C [5:16]
Partita über die Arie: Jesu du bist allzu schöne
Nun bitten wir den heilgen Geist
Auf meinen lieben Gott
in D [6:09]
Christ lag in Todesbanden: auf 2 Clav. con pedale [4:00]
Christ lag in Todesbanden: Fantasia [5:55]
Treuer Gott, ich muß Dich klagen/Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele
Allein gott in der Höh sei Ehr
Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig
A Second Fugue on the Prelude in a minor [6:08]
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten
Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ: Choral and Partita 1-5 [5:57]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ: auf 2. Clav. et Pedale [3:32]
in g minor - Chaconne in G [12:39]