Ernest Bohn (1914–2013) — Ricercar nostalgique (2009) for organ
French Alsatian composer Ernest Bohn (1914–2013) was born in Strasbourg and began playing the violin at the age of six. After education at the Ecole Normale d’Obernai, he was appointed organist in Walbourg and then settled in Schirmeck where he was active as an organist, choral director, and teacher. After 18 years in Schirmeck he returned to Strasbourg where for over 40 years he presided over the Steihr-Mockers organ at the Parish of Saint-Louis de la Robertsau. In 1972 he founded the Musical Education and Cultural Center in Strasbourg and contributed greatly to the musical and educational culture of the Alsatian region. Bohn wrote numerous works for Alsatian church choirs and a number of cantatas for children of all ages that were beloved throughout the region. In 2004 he published a memoir, “An Alsatian Teacher-Organist in the 20th Century.” Beginning in the late 1990s, at the very end of his career as an organist, Bohn composed his organ works, commenting that he felt ready to draw on his very long career and experience in writing new music for his instrument.
Bohn’s musical language is entirely modal, employing both the classical Greek modes, the church modes, and Eastern and original modes. He said that “for me, to modulate is not only change the pitch, but also the mode.” Though there is influence from the 20th century French organ tradition (and especially Franck, Langlais, Litaize, and Duruflé), Bohn’s language is personal in its complete devotion to exploring every harmonic possibility within a given mode with clear harmonic and contrapuntal textures.