Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bach gets fugued

Now I'm no musician, but this one sounds distinctly out of tune.

Johann Sebastian Bach is now claimed to have stolen some of his credit from his second wife Anna Magdalena Bach neĆ© Wilcke.  Some Aussie professor, one Martin Jarvis,  thinks that "police forensic science techniques" can rewrite the history books and claims that Anna wrote some of his most popular works (it couldn't possibly have been any of the more mundane, could it?).  Sigh.  Of course, this is all reported with great fanfare and as if the fat lady has already sung.  "We know there are a number of works attributed to J. S. Bach that weren't written by him at all," says Jarvis, including Toccata and Fuge in D minor.  We do?  An admittedly quick bit of research shows up no hits on that idea and given the fame of the piece I would have expected the feminist horn to have played the idea loud and long.  You know the one: DA-DA-DA dadadada daa daa.

A little further down the Telegraph article, we find that all is not harmonious in the musical world.

Stephen Rose: "It is plausible that she corrected, refined and revised many of his compositions, although there is not enough evidence to show that she single-handedly composed the Cello Suites."

Julian Lloyd Weber: 'Cellists who have performed the Suites extensively remained sceptical. Julian Lloyd Webber insisted that the compositions were "stylistically totally Bach" and that "many composers had appalling handwriting, which meant better copies would naturally have been made, with the originals then discarded"'.  (It's already well known that Anna Magdelena transcribed many of his later works.)

Steven Isserlis: "We can't say that it is definitely not true, in the same way that we can't prove that Anne Hathaway did not write some of Shakespeare's work, but I don't believe this to be a serious theory."

Oh well, I guess given that Einstein's a fraud too, we shouldn't be surprised that one of the world's musical geniuses was cheating on his second fiddle as well.

Nah, in the absence of a clean, clear note otherwise, i.e. a manuscript of the same level of talent which can unequivocally be ascribed to her, I think I'll sing along to the old melody, police forensics be damned.

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