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CD Review

Georg Böhm

Harpsichord Music

  • Prelude, Fugue & Postlude in G minor
  • Suite #4 in D minor
  • Suite #10 in G Major
  • Suite #6 in E Flat Major
  • Suite #8 in F minor
  • Suite #7 in F Major
  • Suite #1 in C minor
  • Suite #5 in E Flat Major
  • Suite #9 in F minor
  • Suite #3 in D minor
  • Suite #11 in A minor
  • Suite #2 in D Major
Mitzi Meyerson, harpsichord
Glossa GCD921801 2CDs 96 mins
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A favourite composer of J.S. Bach's, the harpsichord oeuvre of Georg Böhm (1661-1733), dating most probably from the last years of the 17th century, remains little known and this is the first complete recording of his suites. There is variety and individuality and the exhumation is amply warranted.

The Prelude, Fugue & Postlude is an arresting starter; the Prelude unique and hypnotic, with a single bass note mercilessly repeated under changing harmony, the whole work finishing with a grand Adagio - "the poet speaks, the moral of the story", says Mitzi Meyerson in an illuminating interview. A magnum opus, 8 mins duration; a precursor of Franck's triptychs, one might think.

The suites mostly have four short movements, a prelude or allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue, with some variants. They encompass a range of national styles, a prelude like Froberger's, suites indistinguishable from Buxtehude's, a large suite in the French style with Ouverture and a Chaconne to end. On the two discs the suites are organised for listening pleasure, with "neighbour keys you could listen to without being shocked". Mitzi Meyerson is particularly taken with some elusive pieces which are "more descriptions of harmony as opposed to melody with accompaniment", seemingly improvisational music with a "dreamy stream-of-consciousness" feeling, but actually notated strictly.

Mitzi Meyerson displays an extraordinary sensitivity to the nuances possible from a fine harpsichord (a Keith Hill copy of a Taskin instrument in Edinburgh) and she explains the many things involved in achieving colour and dynamic variety from plucked strings.

Sympathetically recorded in Berlin, March 2003, the production is lavish, with a second booklet containing notes on Georg Böhm's life and works, and full track listing to help radio programmers! Recommended.

Copyright © 2004, Peter Grahame Woolf