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Georg BÖHM (1661 - 1733): "Cantatas"

Irmela Brünger, soprano; Inga Schneider, mezzosoprano; Beat Duddeck, alto; Jörn Lindemann, tenor; Markus Flaig, bass
Capella Sancti Georgi; Musica Alta Ripa
Dir: Ralf Popken
rec: January 2 - 4, 2007, Sengwarden (Ger), St. Georgs-Kirche
deutsche harmonia mundi - 88697405442 (© 2008) (53'06")

Jauchzet Gott, alle Land; Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland; Sanctus est Dominus Deus Sabaoth; Satanas und sein Getümmel; Warum toben die Heiden

Georg Böhm is mainly known as composer of organ music. In this capacity he had a strong influence on Johann Sebastian Bach, and the close ties between the two is confirmed by documentary evidence. But as a result of this his capacity as a composer of vocal music has been virtually neglected.

Three years ago CPO released a disc with four cantatas by the same soloists and the same ensembles (777 143-2). This time the other five cantatas are performed. There is, however, little certainty about their authenticity. Most cantatas are preserved in manuscripts of an anonymous copyist. In most manuscripts the composer is referred to as "M.B.", which is interpreted as "Monsieur Böhm". But, as Peter Wollny argues in his liner notes, the French word "monsieur" wasn't often used in North Germany. It is quite possible that the initials refer to another composer. But the questions are unlikely to be solved for the time being.

The cantatas performed here are various in form and style. The disc begins with a setting of Psalm 2, Warum toben die Heiden. It isn't surprising Böhm has included a pair of trumpets and timpani in his scoring. Towards the end Böhm also uses recorders, on the text "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling". The cantata is a mixture of elements of the traditional German sacred concerto of the 17th century and the church cantata which was emerging in the early 18th century. It begins and closes with a chorus, and in between are short arias - without dacapos - and recitatives. The latter are still rudimentary and have little in common with the recitatives Johann Sebastian Bach was going to compose.

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland is a chorale cantata on one of the most popular Advent hymns in Germany. The cantata is introduced by a 'Sonata' which is repeated between the fourth and fifth stanza, dividing the cantata into two halves. In the various verses the cantus firmus is treated in various ways. In most stanzas the melody is easily recognizable but in some Böhm moves rather far away from it.

Satanas und sein Getümmel is on a text from the Apocalypse, about Satan being expelled from heaven. This piece shows clear similarity to compositions by Schütz and Bach on the text 'Und es erhub sich ein Streit'. Like Schütz Böhm includes cornetts in his scoring. This cantata again begins with a 'Sonata' which is followed by four pairs of arias with ritornellos and concluded by a chorus.

Sanctus est Dominus begins like a solo cantata for soprano, with violin, bassoon and bc, but after a short while the scoring is extended to four voices and strings. The text is Isaiah 6,3, and is divided into two arias with a concluding 'Amen'.

In the last cantata, Jauchzet Gott, alle Land, the trumpets show up again, and this cantata could have been written for a special occasion. It is based on verses from Psalm 66 and is divided into three sections in a sequence of chorus, aria, chorus, aria and chorus.

The fact that these cantatas are somewhere between the style of the 17th and that of the 18th century makes them historically very interesting. But these compositions are also musically captivating, showing a strong connection between text and music and the use of various compositional techniques. The soloists, the choir and the instrumental ensemble deliver interpretations which are just as good as on the first disc. There is little to add to that, nor to the remark about the use of a choir.

With these two discs all extant sacred cantatas by Böhm - or attributed to him - are now available on disc. Their recording is a matter of great importance, and we should be grateful to the artists and the respective record companies for bringing them to our attention.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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