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Anna Magdalena Bach

Anna Magdalena

Phil Kirlin wrote (March 19, 2001):
Does anybody know of any good resources on Bach's second wife, Anna Magdalena? General resources and biographies are great, but anything dealing with her as a singer or composer would be great--I've been hearing things that possibly SHE wrote some of the compositions credited to HIM..

Wouter Verhoog wrote (March 19, 2001):
[To Phil Kirlin] I really don't know any sources for his 2nd wife, Anna M. Bach; but I must tell you; that it is possible she wrote some works; but you must remember:

The works she wrote where probably written:
-for harpsichord;
-with constructions from her husband, J.S. Bach;

And they where small, not great works like concerti or passions. Just a cluw for you, so It will 'shrunk' your searching.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (March 20, 2001):
[To Wouter Verhhog] Why are you always making up things? There is no proof at all whatsoever of your assertion. Please stop telling fairy tales in this group, or chop your thumb of, where these stories all come from.

Wouter Verhoog wrote (March 19, 2001):
[To Wouter Verhoog] Why do you think I tell fairy tales in this group? All answers in this group are nothing more than speculations. No one of us where there. By the way, i got the information from a docu on ZDF.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (March 21, 2001):
< All answers in this group are nothing more than speculations. >
You must be joking or worse. Of course you are well aware a television documentary doesn't want to provide info like 'we don't know for sure, but I might be possible that Anna Magdalena composed music' Maybe they read the book of Esther Meynell of which it is well known the author made almost everything up.

Do you know anything about history and historian's research methods? Do you really think historians make everything up? Do you think I am making up answers?

Do you try to insult me and other people trying to provide serious answers to questions? Yes, you do! The assertion 'all answers in this group are no more than speculations' is what is: plain utter nonsense

I will not hesitate to continue to expose your fairy-tales as fraudulent, you're just asking for it.

Wouter Verhoog wrote (March 19, 2001):
[To Sybrand Bakker] In one thing you're right. Perhaps ZDF has read that book of Meynell. Indeed, almost everything in this book is maked up. BUT this is what I wrote; you just took one piece of the original text:

All answers in this group are nothing more than speculations. No one of us where there.

Where you there? No. Was I there? No. Where the writers of the biographs of Bach there? No. And who says that the first biograph of Bach (written by Forkel) is correct? No! It wasn't. Only Bach himself can tell us.

And I don't say EVERY single word in this group is a speculation. All right, perhaps its was a little stupid to say that ALL answers are speculations, I'm sorry about that, newsgroup; but NO ONE of us where there.

Your attitude looks a little bit (but perhaps that isn't true..) angry; so I'm sorry.

< Do you try to insult me and other people trying to provide serious answers to questions? >
I don't insult any one.

< Do you know anything about history and historian's research methods? >
Yes, I know. Because I'm a historian.

< Do you really think historians make everything up? >
No, I've never say that.

< Do you think I am making up answers? >
Perhaps... Perhaps I'm making answers up. Perhaps we all... Perhaps none of us.

So my dear friend; we'll never know it for sure. Only Bach knows.

 

Anna Magdalena as Copyist

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 22, 2002):
Using the Göttinger Bach-Katalog that I referred to recently, I was able to speed up considerably the time needed to research the question about Anna Magdalena's 'Super Woman' image of woman (married, as she was, to a genius) who not only found time to run the Bach household and raise many children, but also took over the formidable task of copying from the original score many of the parts for the weekly cantata performances (picture her sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by WF, CPE, and JC all helping Papa in this family endeavor)-- at least, so the myth goes that can be found in children's books that treat the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. Of course, scholarly biographies are careful not to conjure up this image because they suspect, as I also do, that this simply is not true. But how should one prove this?

Assuming that the Göttinger Bach-Katalog is complete, accurate, and up to date regarding all of the Bach cantatas, I was able to quickly obtain the results to my query, "In which vocal works did Anna Magdalena participate as a copyist?" The results indicated the BWV # and the NBA KB reference. This saved me from having to look into each KB for the details given about each vocal work from BWV 1 to circa BWV 250. 16 items were returned which I could then look up specifically in the KBs. Of these 16, only 10 could be definitely verified as containing actual copy work done by Anna Magdalena: BWV 9, BWV 13, BWV 14, BWV 32, BWV 41, BWV 58, BWV 72, BWV 124, BWV 226, BWV 244, a very small number indeed!

At the most, Anna Magdalena, in any given BWV #, copied out one, or in a few instances two parts. Her most frequent task was to copy the violin doublets (I assume here, that she would copy this not from the score, but rather from the 1st copy of the violin parts already completed by other copyists. In his discussion of Anna Magdalena's copy work done for BWV 58 (the 1st violin part, mvt. 1 & 5 only), Dürr characterizes the quality of her work as very undependable ("unzuverlässig") with serious errors ("grobe Notentextfehler.")

Considering the monumental task of copying out all the parts in a hurry and yet attempting to keep them as free of errors as possible, Bach needed dependable, accurate, and reasonably readable (even with poor lighting) parts that he would not have to spend an inordinate amount of time correcting and editing. Perhaps Bach called upon her late in the day while he was correcting the parts copied by others, and when he had completed doing this with the 1st and 2nd violin parts, he would then ask her to make a 2nd copy of an already existing, edited part.

Here is what I could find to be verifiably copied by Anna Magdalena Bach:

BWV 9 -- mvt. 4 to 7 of the untransposed continuo part (there was almost always another transposed continuo part for every cantata)
BWV 13 -- both violin 1 & 2 doublets (almost - she did not quite finish them)
BWV 14 -- a continuo doublet
BWV 32 -- 1st violin doublet only
BWV 41 -- 1st violin doublet only
BWV 58 -- 1st violin mvts. 1 & 5 only
BWV 72 -- a part of the continuo doublet
BWV 124 -- 1st & 2 violin doublets
BWV 226 -- (Motet) Soprano 2 only from mm. 146 to the end
BWV 244 -- (SMP) viola doublet for 1st chorus only and both continuo doublets

Perhaps now the myth can finally be laid to rest!

Continue of this discussion, see: Anna Magdalena as Copyist

 

Anna Magdalena as Copyist

Martin Jarvis wrote (January 30, 2004):
I am reseAMB's contribution to the work of JSB. I have read many of the messages from the site. Why is there so much hostility towards AMB and the possibility that she composed?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Martin Jarvis] What an odd question from a researcher! Could you point to some specific examples where ‘hostility’ is clearly apparent as others (including myself) reading this probably have no clear idea why such an accusation is being made? A better approach might be to share a summary of the results of your research and see what comments/opinions on any specific matter will be elicited from other list members who might have a special interest in this subject.

Martin Jarvis wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for the message. There is indeed much hostility to the idea that Anna Magdalena composed in many academic circles, I can assure you of that fact. I am interested in finding people who have an open mind on the subject and who are willing to let go the traditional view. Are you one of those people?

Fumitaka Sato wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Martin Jarvis] I suppose there was a booklet written by AMB, or I might be confused. I hope to find some information of the booklet in a week.

Fumitaka Sato wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Martin Jarvis] After a little search, I have noticed the booklet credited to AMB is a fake. However I am trying to get a copy of it (or translation of it).

Charles Francis wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Martin Jarvis] I wasn't aware of any such hostility in this group. But having said that, the burden of proof is obviously with the one claiming she composed. Certainly, there are several pieces in the "Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach" consisting of only a melody supported by a figured bass. This suggest she was at least able to extemporise the other two parts herself from the figures. Maybe BWV 515a is her harmonic realisation (and transposition) of BWV 515, for example.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Chales Francis] Christoph Wolff, in the New Grove (Oxford University Press, 2003), compiled a list of almost 80 ‘musicians’ in the extended Bach family. AMB is not among them.

He also lists BWV 515 as being by Gottfried Heinich Bach(?) but arranged by J. S. Bach.

Here is an extended section concerning AMB from Wolff’s section on the Cöthen period from the same article:

>>One of Bach’s friends at Cöthen was the goldsmith C.H. Bähr; Bach stood godfather to one of Bähr’s sons in 1721, and deputized for a godfather to another in 1723. About the beginning of August 1721 he gave a performance of some unspecified kind for Count Heinrich XI Reuss of Schleiz; this may have been arranged by J.S. Koch, the Kantor there, who had held a post at Mühlhausen, though possibly not in Bach’s time there. On 15 June 1721 Bach was the 65th communicant at St Agnus; one ‘Mar. Magd. Wilken’ was the 14th. This may well have been Bach’s future wife – the mistake in the first name is an easy one – but Anna Magdalena makes no formal appearance until 25 September, when Bach and she were the first two among the five godparents of a child called Hahn. This baptism is recorded in three registers. In two of them Anna is described as ‘court singer’, in the third, simply as 'chamber Musician’ ('Musicantin'). In September Anna was again a godmother, to a child called Palmarius; again the registers differ in describing her occupation. Her name does not appear in court accounts until summer 1722, when she is referred to as the Kapellmeister’s wife; her salary (half Bach’s) is noted as paid for May and June 1722.
Practically nothing is known of her early years. She was born on 22 September 1701 at Zeitz. Her father, Johann Caspar Wilcke, was a court trumpeter; he worked at Zeitz until about February 1718, when he moved to Weißenfels where he died on 30 November 1731. The surname was variously spelt. Anna’s mother (Margaretha Elisabeth Liebe, d 7 March 1746) was daughter of an organist and sister of J.S. Liebe who, besides being a trumpeter, was organist of two churches at Zeitz from 1694 until his death in 1742. As a trumpeter’s daughter, Anna may well have met the Bachs socially. The stories that she was a public figure, having sung at Cöthen and the other local courts since the age of 15, have been discredited; they are said to have arisen through confusion with her elder brother, a trumpeter. However, she was paid for singing, with her father, in the chapel at Zerbst on some occasion between Easter and midsummer 1721. By September 1721, aged just 20, she was at Cöthen, well acquainted with Bach (aged 36), and ready to marry him on 3 December. The prince saved Bach 10 thaler by giving him permission to be married in his own lodgings. At about this time Bach paid two visits to the city cellars, where he bought first one firkin of Rhine wine, and later two firkins, all at a cut price, 27 instead of 32 groschen per gallon.
On 11 December 1721 the prince married his cousin Friderica, Princess of Anhalt-Bernburg. The marriage was followed by five weeks of illuminations and other entertainments at Cöthen. This was not however an auspicious event for Bach: he was to leave Cöthen partly because the princess was ‘eine Amusa’ (someone not interested in the Muses) and broke up the happy relationship between Bach and her husband. Perhaps her unfortunate influence had made itself felt even before she was married.
A legacy from Tobias Lämmerhirt (Bach’s maternal uncle) had facilitated Bach’s first marriage; Tobias’s widow was buried at Erfurt on 12 September 1721, and Bach received something under her will too, though not in time for his second marriage. On 24 January 1722 Bach’s sister Maria, together with one of the Lämmerhirts, challenged the will, saying that Bach and his brothers Jacob (in Sweden) and Christoph (at Ohrdruf) agreed with them (Christoph had died in 1721). Bach heard of this only by accident; and on 15 March he wrote to the Erfurt council on behalf of Jacob as well as himself. He objected to his sister’s action, and said that he and his absent brother desired no more than was due to them under the will. On 16 April Jacob died; and the matter seems to have been settled on these lines towards the end of the year. Bach’s legacy must have amounted to rather more than a year’s pay.
In summer 1722 there was no Kapellmeister at the court of Anhalt-Zerbst, and Bach was commissioned to write a birthday cantata for the prince; for this he was paid 10 thaler in April and May. The birthday was in August, and payments made during that month presumably refer to the performance. If so, the work, which seems to have disappeared, was scored for two oboes d’amore and ‘other instruments’.
Several didactic works for keyboard belong to the Cöthen period. One is the 'Clavierbüchlein' for Anna Magdalena Bach. 25 leaves are extant, about a third of the original manuscript; there is a kind of title-page, on which Anna Magdalena (probably) wrote the title and the date and Bach (certainly) noted the titles of three theological books. Despite the sceptics, it remains reasonable to suppose that Bach gave the book to his wife early in 1722. It seems to have been filled by 1725. The autograph of 'Das wohltemperirte Clavier' (book 1 of the ‘48’) is dated 1722 on the title-page but 1732 at the end. The writing is uniform in style, and for various reasons it is incredible that he did not finish the manuscript until 1732. This handsome fair copy was preceded by drafts, like those in W.F. Bach’s 'Clavier-Büchlein' (begun in 1720); and some of the movements looearlier than that. Presumably Bach brought them together for convenience, partly to serve as the last step in his keyboard course, partly to exhibit the advantages of equal temperament. As in book 2, no doubt Bach transposed some of the pieces to fill gaps in his key scheme; the odd pairing of the prelude in six flats with the fugue in six sharps suggests that the former was originally in E minor, the latter in D minor.<<

Guido De Winne wrote (January 30, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Met vriendelijke groeten,

 

Bach's biography by Anna Magdalena Bach?

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (January 31, 2004):
I must ask list members to give me their opinion on one book.

Not long ago I acquired a book titled "Little chronic of Anna Magdalena Bach". It is said in it that it was written by AMB several years after Johann Sebasian died, and it is a well written biograpy that describes Bach's life since even before they met. It was a pleasure to read, but I was unable to determin wheteher it was authentic or not. My book was printed in Yugoslavia in march 1990, it is of course a translation, but there is no indication when the original book was published, nor what was it's name, there are simply no clues about what was the model for translation.

Does any list member know anything about one such book? In treatises on BCML no one ever mentioned it as a source, so I have scepticism about it's authenticity, because I have no access to any expert sources on this subject to check it myself.

Rob Potharst wrote (January 31, 2004):
[To Stevan Vasiljevic] This is what the Oxford Composer Companion on J.S.Bach edited by Malcolm Boyd has to say about it:

"In 1925 a book, The Little Chronicle of Magdalena Bach", purporting to be a transcription of Anna Magdalena's own journal, was published anonymously in London. It proved later to be the work of Esther Meynell and was translated and reprinted many times. It paints a highly romanticized picture of the composer, but the facts it presents are (for its time) remarkably accurate".

Later, in 1967, a movie with the same title was made by Jean-Marie Straub, starring Gustav Leonhardt as J.S.Bach; however, the scenario for the movie was not based on Meynell's book.

Unfortunately, I neither read the book, nor saw the film.

Fumitaka Sato wrote (January 31, 2004):
[To Rob Potharst] I am obtaining a copy of the translation of the booklet. Probably it requires a week or so. If I notice something to say, I will post my opinion here.

Nicholas J. Philposian wrote (February 2, 2004):
[To Rob Potharst] There are many biographies on Bach. I have a biography on Bach through letters and other documents. I also have one by Otto Bettmann which I like. Do you know of a good current biography on Bach. I am primarily interested in his years in Leipzig. I beleive his years there were very hard for him and I would like to know more. How are Albert Schweitzers and Malcolm Boyds biographies of Bach? Richter's St. John Passion is magnificant!!

Continue of this discussion, see: Johannes-Passion BWV 245 – conducted by Karl Ricther

Fumitaka Sato wrote (February 8, 2004):
I have read through "The Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" ("Die kleine Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach") as a fiction/novel. It is a very moving story and I love it. I could not find any implication for Anna Magdalena Bach's composing a piece anywhere in the book.

 

AMB

Cara (Piano Pedal) wrote (May 13, 2004):
Right...okiedokie then.
Does anyone know ANYTHING at all about Anna Magdalena Bach? I do seem to know much about her, but there are always things in the world we don't know. My big question: Do we know what happened to the painting that Bach allegedly had painted of her? Painted in Leipzig, I think, though I can't seem to come up with a year.

P.S. Listen to BWV 8 (Liebster Gott...I forgot the rest of the German...)!
It's a great cantata.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 13, 2004):
< Does anyone know ANYTHING at all about Anna Magdalena Bach? I do seem to know much about her, but there are always things in the world we don't know. >
There was some "slice of life" stuff about her in one of my postings last year, from the situation she and her husband moved into when they got to Leipzig: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5157

Cara (Piano Pedal) wrote (May 13, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Ah! Thank you!

Cara (Piano Pedal) wrote (May 13, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Oh right...and where did you learn all that stuff about her?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 19, 2004):
Cara wrote:
< Oh right...and where did you learn all that stuff about her? >
This morning, looking through the old (1966) Bach Reader for some other things, I came across the interesting information that Magdalena's father and brother-in-law were both professional trumpet players.

This gets me thinking about the way JSB had some easy family connections whenever he wanted any technical inside information about the instrument: kind of the same way I can call on my father-in-law and brothers-in-law whenever I need advice on issues of their business expertise. And the way CPE said that JSB's household was like a beehive of activity, interesting people always coming and going through....

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 19, 2004):
>>This morning, looking through the old (1966) Bach Reader for some other things, I came across the interesting information that Magdalena's father and brother-in-law were both professional trumpet players.<<
The Csibas, on p. 21-22 of their book "Die Bleichblasinstrumente in J. S. Bachs Werken" [Merseburger, 1994] indicate that among the most probable trumpeters who could handle Bach's 2nd Brandenburg were 1) Ludwig Schreiber, 1st trumpeter at the court in Köthen, 2) Johann Caspar Wilcke [last name spelled in various ways], Bach's father-in-law, trumpeter at the court of Weißenfels, or a Stadtpfeifer (City Piper) from the surrounding region. These are all conjectures, because there is simply no evidence to back up any of these claims.

Cara (Piano Pedal) wrote (May 19, 2004):
For everyone's rather useless information, not only was Anna Magdalena's father and brother-in-law trumpeters, so were her other two brother-in-laws AND her real brother. Both father and real brothers names were Johann Caspar Wulcken (umlau, I know). Then there was Meisner, J.A. Krebs (not either of the Krebs that learned under Johann Sebastian Bach) and Nicolai. I'm sure AMB felt either a bit left out or a bit of pride in being the only one in the family not married to a trumpeter. (All the mentioned above were professional trumpeters in either Weißenfels or Zerbst, both of Anhalt.)

John Pike wrote (May 19, 2004):
[To Cara] But she was married to one of the greatest geniuses in the history of Art (all media) and she may have realised it.

Cara (Piano Pedal) wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To John Pike] Here here! (I don't think he would have played the trumpet very well-can anyone verify that?)

 

Bach's music

Jane Newble wrote (October 11, 2008):
Has anyone read this?
Bach's wife wrote some of his music: academic (by Pauline Askin) [Reuters]

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 11, 2008):
[To Jane Newble] Part of Jarvis's research is also in this excellent recording from a few years ago:
http://www.move.com.au/disc.cfm/3304
(Anna Magdalena's book played by Elizabeth Anderson).

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (October 11, 2008):
[To Jane Newble] I am VERY puzzled imagining that Bach hasn't composed the Cello Suites...

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (October 11, 2008):
I couldn't get the link provided. I found this on another list. Is this what you are referring to?

Bach's wife wrote some of his music: academic

By Pauline Askin Fri Oct 10, 3:57 AM ET

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An Australian academic claims to have found evidence to suggest that the wife of Johann Sebastian Bach wrote several of the German composer's acclaimed pieces.

With over 30 years of research and applying more recent training from forensic police, Associate Professor Martin Jarvis says he can clearly show that Anna Magdalena Wilcke, Bach's second wife, wrote several of the manuscripts previously credited to her famous husband.

"I don't doubt that the 'cello suites' are not written by Johan Sebastian," Jarvis, who is also conductor of the Darwin Orchestra, told Reuters.

The self-styled music detective became suspicious about Bach's work when he was a teenaged student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. While playing Bach's "cello suites" he became convinced there was something wrong.

"In 2001, I deconstructed the 'cello' pieces and came up with 18 reasons why they weren't written by Bach," Jarvis said.

Over the years, he said he found two famous 1713 Bach manuscripts in Anna Magdalena's handwriting.

"When you consider I found manuscripts that pre-date by seven years when she was supposed to have met him, you have to ask yourself what's going on here," Jarvis told Reuters.

His final breakthrough came when he obtained a copy of a manuscript. Applying forensic analysis, he examined it thoroughly and found the inscription "Ecrite par Madam Bachen" on the manuscript's cover in the handwriting of a musician friend of Bach's. The word means "written by," not "copied by."

"When you are looking for a fingerprint, to put it in a forensic sense, of how you might identify somebody, I found them," Jarvis said.

"So you bring all these bits together and there seems to be overwhelming evidence that she was involved," Jarvis said.

Bach married Anna Magdalena in 1721. He died in 1750.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081010/lf_nm_life/us_music

Julian Mincham wrote (October 11, 2008):
[To Anne Russell] This issue was discussed in some detail on list a year or two ago and should be in the archives. I have heard Professor Jarvis talk about his work in applying forensic methods of handwriting analysis to Bach's scores on more than one occasion the most recent being at a BNUK conference at Oxford earlier this year.

John Pike wrote (October 12, 2008):
< SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An Australian academic claims to have found evidence to suggest that the wife of Johann Sebastian Bach wrote several of the German composer's acclaimed pieces.
With over 30 years of research and applying more recent training from forensic police, Associate Professor Martin Jarvis says he can clearly show that
Anna Magdalena Wilcke, Bach's second wife, wrote several of the manuscripts previously credited to her famous husband.
"I don't doubt that the 'cello suites' are not written by Johan Sebastian," Jarvis, who is also conductor of the Darwin Orchestra, told Reuters >.

I'm not at all convinced by this, despite the evidence he claims to have. I think it is far more likely that there is another explanation for his findings. Maybe they had known each other for much longer than thought. Maybe the inscription is supposed to mean "written down by" rather than "composed", or maybe it was a genuine misunderstanding on the part of the person who added the inscription. It's difficult to know without knowing the full extent of the "forensic" evidence. If the paper dates from 1713, that does not prove that the music was composed then. It could have been composed later on old paper.

I'm not saying that there were not other people capable of writing fine music, and no doubt Anna Magdalena was one of them. Some of my favourite pieces in the AMB notebook are not by Bach, and I have greatly enjoyed listening to Telemann, Graupner and Stölzel recently, but I cannot accept that the Cello Suites are not by Bach. They just feel like Bach to me, and they have so much in common with the violin sonatas. Like much of Bach's music, they come in a group of six. We are not talking about just fine music here, but the almost miraculous/divinely-inspired. I don't believe that his wife-to-be also happened to be a miraculous composer but with only a few works credited to her, before she became incredibly busy and no doubt ill, with numerous pregnancies, childbirthss and tragic infantile deaths. Surely Jarvis is not telling us that the music is actually flawed. Someone capable of writing music like that would surely have produced a large musical output of equally impressive stature. I can't believe that it is all lost. If Jarvis is saying that other miraculous music attributed to Bach is actually by AMB, I am keen to hear which pieces they are and what the evidence is.

Yours not convinced

Uri Golomb wrote (October 12, 2008):
I agree with John that this theory is extremely unlikely (to put it mildly), though I wouldn't necessarily share all of John's specific arguments. It is not self-evident, for instance, that "someone capable of writing music like that would surely have produced a large musical output of equally impressive stature" -- I can think of at least one composer who wrote one stunning work and very little else, or at least very little else that survived. (The example will not be familiar to many -- it is Claudio Pari [not to be confused with Peri, the composer of the first opera], who wrote a set of very fine madrigals on Arianna's lament, and very little else indeed; and whose biography is shrouded in mystery. The Arianna madrigals were published in 1619, and recorded by Anthony Rooley's Consort of Musicke as part of an album devoted to Claudio Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arianna, and works inspired by it).

My main reasons for not believing this theory are:

1) the cello suites are not only up to Bach's very highest standards -- they are also very much in Bach's uniquely individual STYLE. It is unlikely enough that a contemporary of Bach's would have matched him in style alone, or in quality alone; a match in style AND quality is virtually unbelievable.

2) Anna Magdalena was born in 1701. This means that, in 1713, she was 12 years old. Not even Mozart and Mendelssohn -- music history's greatest child prodigies -- wrote anything like their own best music at that age.

I think people might be attracted to this theory as part of a general suspicion of Great Geniuses, and also because of the rising interest in feminism in music. I can relate to this -- Fanny Mendelssohn, for instance, wrote some very fine music indeed. In her case, I suspect that, to the extent that her brother was a better composer, it was because he received better tutoring and much more encouragement as a young age -- not necessarily because of greater talent. It is still too much of a jump, however, to believe that the 12-year-old Anna Magdalena was able to match Johann Sebastian Bach at his very finest. It strikes me as the case of a scholar so overcome by external details (forensic evidence etc.) that he neglects to look at the music itself.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 12, 2008):
< Johann Sebastian Bach at his very finest. It strikes me as the case of a scholar so overcome by external details (forensic evidence etc.) that he neglects to look at the music itself. > (from Uri G)
Not so----Jarvis isolates a number of stylistic and technical ways? in which the cello suites differ from other music by JSB. Whether one accepts them or notis a different matter.

Are not some contributors falling into asimilar trap to that which they accuse Jarvis of falling into? i.e. of making judgments without viewing all the? available evidence, in this case commenting not on the man's work but upon a very scanty and not particularly detailed newspaper clipping.

As it happensI am not convinced by the Anna M theory either but, in talking to Jarvis and having heard him lecture on his work at two different universities i think he might be?cut a little more slack. The forensic analyisis of handwriting is a new and valid method of research and i think it is ultimately likely to throw up some interesting things--such as the (possible) contributions to?of a number of scores by students and family members--did Bach, like Lully,?work as a renaissance craftsman, bringing together and coordinating?the talents of the best people around him?

If so, what evidence I have seen so far suggest that if this was the case then it almost certainly applied to the secular pedogogical pieces and not those written for religious observance.

Uri Golomb wrote (October 12, 2008):
Julian wrote (in response to my message):
< Jarvis isolates a number of stylistic and technical ways in which the cello suites differ from other music by JSB. Whether one accepts them or not is a different matter.
Are not some contributors falling into asimilar trap to that which they accuse Jarvis of falling into -- i.e. of making judgments without viewing all the available evidence, in this case commenting not on the man's work
but upon a very scanty and not particularly detailed newspaper clipping. >
I don't wish to speak for other contributors, but I'm afraid Julian is quite correct in my case -- I've read several reports on Jarvis's work, but have yet ro read his own research. I should have known better. Given my current time constraints, I'm unlikely to make up for this omission any time soon, though at some point I would be interested in examining Jarvis's stylistic arguments for myself.

The general phenomenon I cited -- valuing forensic evidence above musical evidence -- is real enough, and I have come across it in research I've read in its original guise (the vast majority of it not related to Bach). Sometimes, this is justifiable; and certainly analysis of handwriting, manuscript papers and the like offers (ostensibly) more solid factual evidence than more elusive style analysis. At other times, however, it did strike me that the positivist search for hard facts lead musicologists to ignore the music at their own peril.

This doesn't, however, seem to apply to Jarvis, and of course it in no way excuses my own lapse of judgement in this case.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 12, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] The general phenomenon I cited -- valuing forensic evidence above musical evidence -- is real enough, and I have come across it in research I've read in its original guise (the vast majority of it not related to Bach).

John Pike wrote (October 12, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< 2) Anna Magdalena was born in 1701. This means that, in 1713, she was 12 years old. Not even Mozart and Mendelssohn -- music history's greatest child prodigies -- wrote anything like their own best music at that age. >
I take Julian's point about not judging the scholar before reading his research, and on not relying on a news agency story, but in this case I think that what Jarvis has proposed is actually quite preposterous, regardless of what "forensic" and stylistic "evidence" he has found, and I don't think Uri should reprimand himself in the slightest for his initial response to this work. We all have first impressions and there is no harm in airing them on this list.

Not being a scholar, I did not know what Uri had mentioned below. For me, regardless of what date of composition Jarvis is proposing, this is the final nail in the coffin of this theory. Even in 1720, she would still not have been 20. Masterpieces written before then are few and far between. Mendelssohn's octet, Mozart's 5th violin concerto and BWV 106 being exceptions. The idea that an unknown composer could come up with 6 flawless works of genius before even meeting JSB defies belief.

I seem to remember that the International Bach community did not even allow Rifkin to complete his original scholarly presentation on OVPP practice, yet they seem to have afforded this crackpot idea a better reception. I'd be very interested to hear from Julian exactly what the august presence at BNUK made of this theory.

Yours now drunk

Julian Mincham wrote (October 12, 2008):
John Pike wrote:
< I'd be very interested to hear from Julian exactly what the august presence at BNUK made of this theory.
Yours now drunk >
Oh they were not too sympathetic to the AMB theory.? But that wasn't my point. It was, and I think Uri agrees, that it's very easy to rush into such criticisms on the basis of a selective, ill informed popularist and basically scanty newspaper article.

And although I don't buy the basic premise either, I did find some of Jarvis's conclusions quite thought provoking.

But this is just?another example of the simplistic media reaction which relates only to the sound bite headline, obscuring proper scrutiny..

Yours

not yet drunk----- but working on it

Harry W. Crosby wrote (October 12, 2008):
For what it is worth, and in specific reference to Bach manuscripts or copies of the time, I would be particularly cautious in accepting anything noted on same or on cover sheets in another hand.

I have dealt with some of the world's most important historical archives and reviewed thousands, literally, of 18th century manuscripts --- none musical, I admit --- and I have ultimately been able to deduce that such added or appended notes --- whether by family, heirs, scribes, archivists, you name it --- contain a high percentage of errors of every sort imaginable. Their inscriptions are necessarily added later and often by people who are poorly informed and unaware of the potential significance of their additions.

In virtually all cases, deductive analyses of these documents proper have produced more reliable and supportable evidence than the would- be helpful post-it-notes of those who handled them later.

Evan Cortens wrote (October 12, 2008):
For starters, the Reuters piece is simply not detailed enough to really consider this argument. After a little googling, I was able to turn up a few more newspaper articles on this, not that they are much better:
http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2006/s1617989.htm
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2243/forensic-study-casts-doubt-music-bach
http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/arts/the-missus-was-the-maestro/2008/10/04/1223013852492.html

It will be great when we're able to read the actual academic material that Prof. Jarvis has written; a quick search in RILM reveals no listings on this, which doesn't necessarily mean that it hasn't been published, just that it hasn't been abstracted yet.

The issue with this article for me has to do with the word "written." The Reuters article simply says numerous times that AMB "wrote" the music. It has been known and accepted for some time that D-B Mus. ms. Bach P 269, the primary source for the cello suites, is in AMB's hand. However, no one to my knowledge has suggested that this means she composed them. The paper has the watermark Weiß Nr. 122, and though I don't have the watermark catalogue handy, this paper was used in Bach's earlier Leipzig years, as far as I know.

So, with P 269 ruled out, the two pieces of evidence that can help us resolve this authorship question are:
1) The 1713 manuscript.
2) Stylistic criteria.

With regard to (1), I must confess I'm not familiar with this source. Again, the popular press articles simple don't provide enough detail to confor refute this point, and we'll have to wait for more information on this one. I assume that the `Ecrite par Madam Bachen' on "the manuscript's cover" is referring to this 1713 source. First, the French verb écrire (as well as the English 'to write' and the Latin 'scribere', from which écrire is derived) all have the same ambiguity: they can mean both 'to compose' or simply 'to write down/record in written form'. With regard to this second meaning, as I said above, this does not imply authorship in any way. (If it did,
we'd have many more authorship questions about Bach's music!)

As regards (2), stylistic criteria are notoriously difficult, both for proving and disproving authorship. Robert Marshall's article, reprinted in his collection of essays, on the flute sonatas makes this point very clear. `It sounds like Bach to me' or `it doesn't sound like Bach to me' simply isn't rigorous enough to prove or disprove authorship. There is simply no guarantee that JSB was not simply composing in a style uncharacteristic for himself. With regard to other works for which we are more confident that JSB wrote them but which do not survive in autograph manuscripts, there is no guarantee that someone else wasn't simply writing in a style very much like JSB.

Mark Knoll's dissertation, `Which Bach Wrote What?' from the late 1990s, did a computer-aided statistical study of stylistic criteria in some keyboard and chamber works that have been variously attributed to CPEB, JCB and JCFB. Even with rigorous scientific criteria applied to stylistic evidence, he was still not able to give a 100% conclusive answer as to authorship.

To conclude, I certainly agree with Julian and John: we need to see the actual scholarly work to make any sort of criticism of it, the newspaper articles simply don't provide enough information. I certainly don't share the skepticism about `forensic evidence' though. Alfred Dürr, one of the greatest Bach scholars of the 20th-century, entirely revised the chronology of the Leipzig vocal works using solid `forensic' (though he didn't call it that) evidence, namely watermarks and handwriting. However, as I said above, simply having a manuscript in AMB's hand (as P 269 is) is not enough for attribution.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 13, 2008):
AMB

These links should take you to the list discussions I referred to in an email last week.

I know that Thomas Braatz has done quite a bit of work on the provenences of some of these disputed scores.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Hidden-Text.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Magdalena-Copyist.htm

John Pike wrote (October 13, 2008):
[To Evan Cortens] Many thanks for these links. I absolutely agree with your comments about "ecrire. I'd like to pick up on a few things:

1. All these references to handwriting and different manuscripts are very confusing. I have seen references to three manuscripts, none of them in JS Bach's hand: a 1727 manuscript, allegedly the one with the "written by Madam Bachen" inscription on the cover, and to a 1713 manuscript. If the 1727 manuscript is a copy of a 1713 manuscript, then AMB could not possibly have been the composer. As Uri pointed out, she would only have been 12, whereas JSB would have been 28 in 1713. I suspect the 1713 manuscript (and what is the evidence for that date?) is a copy of an original JSB manuscript, now lost.

2. I have seen a reference to AMB having been a pupil of JSB in 1714. Even if this is 6 years earlier than was once thought, that is still entirely possible and reasonable. She would still have been only 13 then. It is not unreasonable to think that she actually became a pupil the previous year (which could have been as little as 1 day before (1st day of) 1714 and copied the manuscript then. Years are always a bit confusing since the years started on a different date in those days.

3. In one of the web postings we read:
"But ever since Martin Jarvis first studied Johan Sebastian Bach's Cello Suites at the Royal Academy of Music in London, he felt something wasn't quite right.

MARTIN JARVIS: It doesn't sound musically mature. It sounds like an exercise, and you have to work incredibly hard to make it sound like a piece of music."

Another website claims that other experts over the past 30 years have also had reservations about the style.

I repeat, I am not convinced. I have about 20 recordings of these works and they sound musically mature to me, and some of Bach's finest works. Sure, they are difficult. Any piece in the wrong hands can sound like an exercise, but they sure don't sound like an exercise in the hands of Rostropovich or Yo-Yo Ma, to give but two examples. I'm no musicologist but I know great music when I hear it and Uri, who is a scholar, also said that he thought this music was of the very highest quality.

4. I wonder if Ruth Tatlow and Helga Thoene have looked at the cello Suites to see if these is any possible numerical symbolism in them, which might help.

I don't doubt that Anna Magdalena could have played a role in composing bits of Bach's music (as well as copying it) and I am fully persuaded that she was a very fine musician indeed, but the cello suites and Violin sonatas do sound essentially to be JS Bach to me, in much the same way as Mozart's unfinished Requiem is essentially Mozart, whoever completed it (and it sounds, from handwriting analysis as if about 3 people were involved in completing it) .

I have no doubt that scholarship over the next few years will help fill in gaps in our knowledge of bach and of people who helped actually compose the music (after all, it would have been a superhuman effort for one man to compose it all) but the precise thing that we are being asked to swallow here (that AMB wrote ALL the Cello Suites) just doesn't wash with me.

I remain very unconvinced. I really need to know exactly what this so-called "forensic" evidence is. And with the very greatest possible respect to Yo Tomita and Peter Sculthorpe, I think talk of rewriting the history books is a tad premature.

 

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