Theobald Boehm (1794-1881)
Program note written by Jacob Farmer
Approximate Performance Time:
Advanced – appropriate for college undergraduates and master students
Theobald Boehm was a German musician and inventor, who is credited for perfecting the modern concert flute by improving the fingering system, now known as the “Boehm System.” Munich-born, Boehm was a blacksmith’s son and learned the trade while growing up. He was self-taught in flute and flageolet, and was noticed by Johann Nepomuk Capeller in 1810. Capeller gave Boehm lessons for just two years, citing that there was nothing more he could teach Boehm. The young, budding musician toured for six years before being appointed a court musician. During his touring years, he was constantly making improvements to his instruments. By 1823, he founded a flute manufacturing business, Boehm & Grève of Munich. Boehm traveled across Europe performing some of his original works and demonstrations of his instruments. While his touring was successful, he continued to make revisions to his design while observing other flute successors and incorporating his studies in acoustics. Boehm’s layouts and finger hole designs from 1847 set the standard for the flute and many woodwind instruments for generations to come.
The Grand Polonaise is a Romantic era work composed in the early 1800s. It is reminiscent of the arias which were the foundation for opera, providing expressivity, musicality, and compositional technique. This piece opens with the Introduction in a slower lyrical style with flowing runs of notes, allowing the use of rubato displaying the flutist’s sense of expressivity and freedom. The second section of this work is the Polonaise. A polonaise is a Polish dance in triple meter and is used in this work as a fast movement with sets of variations to demonstrate the virtuosity of the flutist’s technique and flexibility.