Monday Musical Moment: Böhme

Justin Langham   -  
Happy Monday to all!
Today is our fourth installment in the series on German-born cornetist and composer Oskar Böhme. Last week we talked about his early performing life as a soloist that took him across Europe, and his close relationship with his brother Willi, also a cornetist, which led Oskar to settle down briefly in Budapest. The following years were a turning point in his career and was perhaps his most consequential in his life.
While in Budapest, Oskar not only performed with Willi in the Royal Opera Orchestra, but also began formally studying theory and composition with various teachers. Oskar had already been composing pieces for himself to play for years, most likely being taught by his father, but eventually, he decided to formalize his study, and entered the conservatory in Leipzig, Germany as a composition student in 1896. Many who have written about or studied Böhme’s life mistakenly assume that he went to Leipzig to study trumpet, which given his success is a somewhat natural conclusion.
During the two-year study at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” in Leipzig, the oldest music school in Germany, Böhme was an active composer for his friends and colleagues there. Although it was published later, Oskar likely composed his most well-known piece, the Concerto for Trumpet, Op. 19, around this time, which was dedicated to Leipzig trumpeter, Ferdinand Weinschenk, who taught at the conservatory. Although less is known about his time in Leipzig, existing recital programs and other documents that Böhme also composed several other works that have been discovered in the last 30 years, like his two Prelude & Fugues for brass trio, as well as two art songs, of which only one survives. In 1898, Böhme decided to emigrate to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, where he worked for a few years as a choir director, believe it or not! Many German artists of different disciplines relocated to Russian cities during that time, but that decision would turn out to be the best decision for Böhme’s career but would also seal his fate. Next week we’ll travel to early 20th century Russia, and if you know your history, you have a sense of the bad timing for Oskar’s move…
Some of you may remember that the Mendelssohn conservatory was where I was an exchange student in early 2020 when COVID hit, and since Oskar Böhme was also a choir director and composed for choirs in Russia, you might say that I was destined to study him for my thesis!
For this week’s music, I want to share with you Im süßen Zauber, or “In Sweet Magic,” one of the two art songs that are known to have been composed by Böhme while studying in Leipzig. This recently discovered art song was originally dedicated to Lisbeth Heffheiser, most likely one of Böhme’s classmates, and was first recorded as recently as July of 2020 as part of a project celebrating the 150th anniversary of Böhme’s birth. I hope you enjoy this performance of a recently revived musical gem.
Have a great week!