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Anna Magdalena as Copyist

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!

 

AMB as copyist

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 19, 2003):
It has been said:
>>And she [Anna Magdalena Bach] in return copied his manuscripts neatly and accurately.<<
< Read more about this at:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Magdalena-Copyist.htm >

From that page:
"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! (...) Perhaps now the myth can finally be laid to rest!"

These results may or may not be valid. Looking at this, there is no way to know. As the method of inquiry is described here, the researcher took brazen shortcuts that would never satisfy any accredited scholar, and then drew a conclusion not supported by elementary logic.

The described method is reasonable for a _quick_ answer, a preliminary (but not necessarily comprehensive) list of works in which AMB surely did participate as copyist; but not for drawing conclusions about what she did not do. The fatal flaw in the inquiry is revealed by this sentence: "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."

The correct method would include (at minimum):
- Reading all 250 of the KB thoroughly (a matter of diligence);
- Showing--at least briefly--that the KB themselves are sufficiently reliable (a matter of faith);
- Providing not only a list of definite cases where AMB did or did not participate, but also a list all the doubtful cases one way or another (a matter of respecting unanswerable questions).
A person who cuts corners more than that is showing either a lack of scholarly instinct, or perhaps an unawareness of what scholarship is.

If one wanted to know definitively how many people named John Smith live in a particular city, such research requires much more effort and dedication than merely flipping open a phone book....

Brad Lehman (although A___ R_________ also surely would have pointed this
out, right?)

p.s. In a similar topic, for the record: I would like to correct my misattribution of the quote "That's not writing, it's typing!" I said last night that I thought it was from the movie "Throw Momma from the Train." Credit should go instead to Truman Capote, who said that of Jack Kerouac's poetry.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 19, 2003):
Brad stated:
>>These results may or may not be valid. Looking at this, there is no way to know. As the method of inquiry is described here, the researcher took brazen shortcuts that would never satisfy any accredited scholar, and then drew a conclusion not supported by elementary logic.<<
The same way that your hero, Laurence Dreyfus, who 'wrote the book' on Bach's continuo group, a book which you adamantly defend, failed to apply the very same scholarly methods that you insist upon must be rigidly applied before any valid statement that would be acceptable to your academic peer group would be allowed to stand.

You obviously overlooked (or is it ' willingly disregarded'?) my comment on Dreyfus' scholarly faux pas that I uncovered recently during the discussion of BWV 119:

Nowhere in his definitive (as you and your peers seem to claim) book on Bach's continuo group does he take notice of the extremely large continuo group which is documented on p. 90 of the NBA KB 32.1 as coming from Bach's own handwriting on his score for this cantata. As I had pointed out, Dreyfus, barely takes note of the two bassoothat are called for (his only reference to this cantata in the entire book). Evidently Dreyfus did not follow your prescription for true musicological, historical research methods that you ascribe to and propound. It makes me wonder whether you are capable of following the very rules for research that you have put forth, but then refuse to apply when you or the members of your academic peer group are involved. It sounds to me like a double standard is being applied here!

This time would you please not wander about to other topics with a myriad questions for me to answer, rather, stick to this point: If Dreyfus overlooked such an important insight into Bach's continuo group after spending a year and a summer on grants to write this book in Berlin and Leipzig, Germany, what do you make of his inability to incorporate such an important fact in his book? Isn't it quite obvious that he 'cut corners' (based on your view from your ivory tower, you evidently frown upon such sloppy, incomplete scholarship)? Why haven't you already sat down to write up this criticism in one of your scholarly music journals? Is it possible that this might then be considered by others as an attack upon HIPology and that you are not yet ready in any way to disassociate yourself from the type of thinking that currently nourishes you and gives you sustenance?

When Hugo Saldias pointed out the potential significance of such a large continuo group, I investigated further and reported on this. This now appears to me to be a point that most HIP practitioners would not care to discuss, because it might upset their assumptions about the severely reduced forces which they believe Bach used to perform his cantatas. Now that we have evidence in Bach's own handwriting that he called for such a large continuo group, would there be any conductor willing to go against the current tide toward OVPP & OPPP? I rather doubt it. Not at a time when OVPP SMPs are in vogue! Eventually, however, some daring soul will take Bach at his word, assemble the large continuo group that he really wanted, and then, through trial and error, add more and more voices and players per part until the proper balance is achieved. As it is, the HIP recordings of BWV 119 demonstrate that these conductors removed instruments from the basso continuo because they would otherwise overwhelm the small number of singers and players that are currently used. Try to imagine BWV 119 in a OVPP recording! Ridiculous. Wouldn't Bach have approached his other major choral works, the passions, B minor mass, etc. in a similar fashion (increasing {not reducing} his musical apparatus by doubling the instruments, but always mindful of the necessary balance between all the elements of the ensemble?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 22, 2003):
“In Leipzig she (AMB) was important as a neat and accurate copyist of her husband’s music.” [Reginald L. Sanders in the “Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach {Boyd}”, 1999] All that is missing here is the usual generalized statement about the substantial amount of copy work that she accomplished.

To be sure, we owe a debt of gratitude to Anna Magdalena Bach for the role in preserving some of Bach’s cantatas (the number of cantatas that survived is less {because some autograph scores from this group also survived elsewhere} than the 40 sets of parts that she turned over to St. Thomas School in Leipzig soon after Bach’s death.) In order to clarify her purported significance as a copyist of Bach's works, I have researched the information contained in the NBA KBs that can shed light on her true importance in this capacity.

As I suspected from my cursory investigation, there has been some over-romanticization because novelists and even knowledgeable experts from earlier periods were prone to seeing what they wanted to see and not what actually was there. It is the fault of most current experts that they continue to rely upon secondary sources and are unwilling to investigate the matter thoroughly on their own. Spitta, for instance, ascribed more copies to her efforts than are now actually believed to stem from her copy work. In the defense of Spitta, it should be stated that her ‘fair copies’ of such important documents as BWV 1001-1006 (the partitas and sonatas for solo violin) resemble Bach’s own handwriting quite closely and there were problems in identifying her handwriting properly, but there the similarity stops. Take, as an example, BWV 1007-1012 (the 6 suites for solo violoncello): the NBA KB VI/2 p. 27 states “Denn für die Schreiber … Anna Magdalena Bach und Johann Peter Kellner läßt sich zeigen, daß sie die Artikulation ihrer Vorlagen nicht nur außerordentlich sorglos wiedergeben, sondern Bachs Absicht oft geradezu ins Gegenteil verkehren. An ihren Abschriften der Violinsoli…, die wir mit Bachs Autograph…vergleichen können, läßt sich der Grad ihrer Flüchtigkeit in artikulatorischen Fragen beurteilen. Zahlreiche Bögen bleiben weg, neue, z. T. entstellende, werden zugesetzt….die Bögen werden um einen Notenwert nach rechts verschoben, usw.“ [In the case of both copyists, AMB and Kellner, it can be demonstrated that they were not only extraordinarily careless in the manner in which they copied Bach’s articulation, they even went so far as to turn Bach’s intention into its complete opposite. In their copies of Bach’s BWV 1001-1006, which we can compare with Bach’s autograph, the degree of their cursoriness in matters of articulation can be assessed. Numerous slurs (phrasing marks) are omitted, and new ones are added which are sometimes distortions of Bach’s original. The slurs are shifted one note over to the right, etc.] To prove its point, the KB then goes on to give side by side examples of Bach’s autograph of the cello suites and AMB’s ‘fair copy’ which gives the impression on the surface that everything is quite acceptable.

In regard to her actual participation in copying out parts (not scores of keyboard music or solo music indicated above), her portion of all existing parts that were copied from Bach’s scores for performance purposes is very small indeed. The total number of such parts is 2536. With less than ten parts to her credit, she can only be given credit for having copied 0.35% of such parts. Mainly she copied violin doublets (copying not from the score but rather from the part that another copyist had already completed.) Sometimes she copied a continuo part, probably from an already copied continuo part. Often she does not copy the complete part but only a few mvts. of it. Dürr’s negative comment on the quality of her copy work still stands and confirms what is described above in the discussion of the solo violoncello suites.

Dick Wursten wrote (May 22, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I once read a serious exposé (I can't remember in what book) about the fact (?) that 'the music-handwriting' of Anna became more and more similar to that of her husband during her life (the proof-example was 'the' chiaconne in both their handwritings).This melting of handwriting was the 'summum' of course, the ultimate proof and icon of her total dedication to her genius-husband. She not only sacrificed - willingly - her own career as a brilliant young soprano, but also her personality: [the characteristics of handwriting = personality].... at least that is what the romantic legend of her life suggests: Anna the faithful. Time for a feminin de-construction of this legend (legenda = what we should read and understand) ?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 22, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< (...) It is the fault of most current experts that they continue to rely upon secondary sources and are unwilling to investigate the matter thoroughly on their own. >
"Rely on secondary sources?"--but that's what you're doing! Have you gone through the KB of all 250 cantatas yet, or are you still merely relying on the examination of the 16 that came up in your internet searc?

< In regard to her actual participation in copying out parts (not scores of keyboard music or solo music indicated above), her portion of all existing parts that were copied from Bachâ?Ts scores for performance purposes is very small indeed. The total number of such parts is 2536. With less than ten parts to her credit, she can only be given credit for having copied 0.35% of such parts. Mainly she copied violin doublets (copying not from the score but rather from the part that another copyist had already completed.) Sometimes she copied a continuo part, probably from an already copied continuo part. Often she does not copy the complete part but only a few mvts. of it. >
You're already told us this. Your repetition of it doesn't magically make it true. Your figure of 0.35% is predicated on your assumption that your earlier "research" was thorough.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 22, 2003):
Dick Wursten wrote:
< I once read a serious exposé (I can't remember in what book) about the fact (?) that 'the music-handwriting' of Anna became more and more similar to that of her husband during her life (the proof-example was 'the' chiaconne in both their handwritings). >
I've heard that somewhere too.

Another line to all this: what about all the cantatas and other works that are no longer extant?

It seems to me that anyone wishing to prove "AMB worked on less than 1% of the vocal music" (or whatever), as such a negative thesis, would have mountains to climb.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 22, 2003):
Brad Lehman questioned my research by asking:
>>"Rely on secondary sources?"--but that's what you're doing! Have you gone through the KB of all 250 cantatas yet, or are you still merely relying on the examination of the 16 that came up in your internet search?<<
I have my own Excel spreadsheet with all the particulars taken directly from the NBA KBs, not the internet site that I had mentioned earlier.

>>You're already told us this.<<
For your sake I tried to keep this report as short as possible with a short summary at the end, but somehow your eyes ‘glazed over’ even with such a succinct report, or perhaps your memory is beginning to fail you.

These results are entirely new (you won’t find this information compiled this way anywhere else, as far as I know) and might be of interest to anyone seriously interested in this matter which is, as you would put it ‘a reality check’ on the quality and quantity of AMB’s copy work. It’s up to you, whether you want to accept this changed view or not. I thought you prided yourself on being very flexible?

Do I sense a fear on your part of “Entmythologisierung” [dymythologization] wherever it appears, as, for instance, when aspects of the scholarly work on which your theories are based are uncovered and demonstrated to be ‘on shaky grounds?’ Why is there so frequently ‘a knee-jerk’ reaction on your part to denigrate my research and to attempt to disqualify my opinions? Perhaps you already sense the danger that your ‘house of cards’ will soon come crashing down unless every effort is made to ‘plug the holes in the dike.’ What other reason could there be for such a lack of respect? Since you have made amply clear that you are a product and representative of the academic establishment (a group to which, as you have indicated, I do not belong), I would at least expect a well-reasoned response with specific indications as to how I have failed to live up to the academic standards necessary to come to a valid conclusion in this instance.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 22, 2003):
AMB as copyist; and scholarly methods

< Thomas Braatz wrote: I have my own Excel spreadsheet with all the particulars taken directly from the NBA KBs, not the internet site that I had mentioned earlier. >
A spreadsheet about all the copyists of all the parts of all the extant cantatas? (Although, of course, that relies on other people's analyses of the handwriting and paper, and is not your own work; therefore it's still secondary....)

Anyway, why didn't you say so earlier? All you'd said so far was that you've taken shortcuts around scholarly methods. Your self-described research technique is at:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Magdalena-Copyist.htm

And, as I've pointed out, the correct method would include (at minimum):
- Reading all 250 of the KB thoroughly (a matter of diligence);
- Showing--at least briefly--that the KB themselves are sufficiently reliable (a matter of faith);
- Providing not only a list of definite cases where AMB did or did not participate, but also a list all the doubtful cases one way or another (a matter of respecting unanswerable questions).

And, as mentioned this afternoon, what are you going to do with lost works? How do you know that AMB didn't work on any of them? Your thesis is that she did not. How do you know?

< These results are entirely new (you won’t find this information compiled this way anywhere else, as far as I know) and might be of interest to anyone seriously interested in this matter which is, as you would put it ‘a reality check’ on the quality and quantity of AMB’s copy work. >
It might, indeed.

< Why is there so frequently ‘a knee-jerk’ reaction on your part to denigrate my research and to attempt to disqualify my opinions? >
See below.

< (...) I would at least expect a well-reasoned response with specific indications as to how I have failed to live up to the academic standards necessary to come to a valid conclusion in this instance. >
I have given such well-reasoned responses, and guidelines for improvement, on many occasions: not just on this AMB topic but also on your other projects of "inquiry" (as you put it). I've pointed out the logical flaws in your methods, and the mistaken assumptions that you take as axiomatic, and your penchant for trying to shoot down the established experts (with character assassination more than with evidence), and your jolly willingness to rely on hearsay, and your refusal to read scholarly papers (preferring rather to consult general reference works). The more detailed list of problems is at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/4971

When offered such suggestions for improvement, you don't take them.

I have a "knee-jerk" reaction (as you put it) against your findings because your demonstrated track record suggests that your findings are unreliable, due to your methods. In the present case (the AMB copyist project) you may have come up with something valid; but there's no way to know.

For starters, why don't you give us that complete list of the doubtful cases? That is NECESSARY if you're trying to prove a negative thesis such as this one...that AMB did not work on more than a very small handful of cantatas.

Remember the old fable about the boy who cried wolf? He was bluffing and lying so many times that when there really was a wolf, people didn't believe him. I have witnessed your non-scholarly methods so many times, it's hard to believe you when you assert that you have found something valid.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 23, 2003):
Bradley Lehman stated:
>>(Although, of course, that relies on other people's analyses of the handwriting and paper, and is not your own work; therefore it's still secondary....)<<
You know full well that most of the experts that you have learned from or have studied and cited have not had an actual autograph score or original part in their hands, and most would not really be able to distinguish the traits of the various copyists nor the revisions that Bach made in the parts. I have pointed out such omissions and misreadings on the part of the experts before, but you refuse to recognize them. That is your prerogative.

BL: >>- Showing--at least briefly--that the KB themselves are sufficiently reliable (a matter of faith);<<
A much greater matter of faith is believing in the extreme performance practices which you seem to want to foist upon listeners whom you disrespect because you currently think this is the only way to make clear to them that Bach's music is alive, vitaland profound. In reality, there are other performance groups that can accomplish these goals without resorting to such extremes and yet have a profound effect..

Where is your evidence from Bach or those closely associated with him in his time and place that such an extreme manner of performance gestures was desirable? Is our current generation so musically obtuse that they are unable to perceive the life in a living performance unless it is presented in such a grotesque manner that it almost becomes an affront to musically sensitive ears. Isn’t this based more on your wild imagination than on actual research that truly relates to Bach?

I am still looking for convincing evidence that such extreme measures of expression were used by Bach. I think we should be erring more on the side of Bach’s intentions rather than overthrowing them in favor of crude methods of over-accentuation and of creating nonsensical breaks in the middle of phrases and words in order to grab the attention of the listener at all costs.

BL: >> Providing not only a list of definite cases where AMB did or did not participate, but also a list all the doubtful cases one way or another (a matter of respecting unanswerable questions).<<
I supplied a host of doubtful cases regarding a number of issues that pertain to historically informed performance practices that you support, but it seemed to be unimportant to you then, so why should it now be important for you to respect unanswerable questions? Double standard again?

BL: >>your penchant for trying to shoot down the established experts (with character assassination more than with evidence)<<
Since when is pointing out the oversights, omissions, and errors of an individual expert considered character assassination? This can only happen if you have completely identified with such an expert’s opinions, an expert who upholds the ideas that you would like to continue to propagate.

BL:>> your jolly willingness to rely on hearsay, and your refusal to read scholarly papers (preferring rather to consult general reference works). <<
If listening to the cantata recordings carefully is considered hearsay by you, so be it. I do not have access to a university library. This is your task as the expert you purport to be. The questions that I have raised in the past have not yet been satisfactorily answered by you. You engage in evasive tactics and hide behind the rules of academic research which you recite when it is convenient for your purposes, yet you refuse to admit that the experts themselves have failed to observe the very rules that you put forth.

General reference works can be useful when they summarize the material and give bibliographies. Week after week I read and report on the evidence given in the NBA KBs. This is certainly the equivalent to the best scholarly papers that are out there, or can you name specifically any scholarly papers that would radically change anything that I have presented regarding the cantatas in recent months?

BL: >> In the present case (the AMB copyist project) you may have come up with something valid; but there's no way to know.<<
But the evidence is quite clear from the sample of copied parts which we have before us. Of course, there is no way to know many things in life and yet we can make some reasonable assumptions only a few of which might turn out not to be as we expected.

BL: >>For starters, why don't you give us that complete list of the doubtful cases?<<
Because, as you stated before in regard to my postings, your eyes tend to ‘glaze over’ because they are too long. If this is true for a supposed expert well-versed in scholarly matters concerning Bach, what chances would there be that other normal BCML readers would feel otherwise? Isn’t it wiser to include a summary and if some reader really found such a list of interest and asked for it, then it could be posted on Aryeh’s site without causing clutter here?

BL: >>I have witnessed your non-scholarly methods so many times, it's hard to believe you when you assert that you have found something valid.<<
The same is true in reverse when you expound on the virtues of inconsistency, irregularity, unevenness, jerkiness, etc., etc. The more I investigate the bases for your assumptions, the more I discover how little solid evidence there is to back up your theories on performance.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (May 23, 2003):
Anna Magdalena's copy job / copy shop

In my original message, I just said that Anna Magadalena copied her husband’s manuscripts neatly and accurately, quoting from a reliable standard work. I did not limit this to the cantatas. Her copying work included lots of other works. Apart from the fair integral copies of some of Bach’s works, she must have made thousands of part copies over the years. OK, let us confine ourselves to the cantatas. I doubt if every new cantata was performed simultaneously in the four main Lutheran churches in Leipzig at the time. Nor am I sure how may singers the choir consisted of - I think at least twelve - or how many strings he had as his disposal, but I think no fewer than three. Having assumed this, for one performance of BWV 121 he must have needed some 24 part copies. The second day of Christmas being a highlight in the church year, I would be surprised if Bach did not actually need 96 copies. Copying had to be done at very short notice. The students were on holiday. Those who helped their cantor he probably had to pay. Life being very expensive at Leipzig, it stands to reason that the bulk of this copying was very much a family affair, indeed. And I can easily imagine that mistakes were being made as things had to be done in a hurry. I am sure that a great deal of the copies made by Anna Magdalena have disappeared. I am also sure that Bach was very pleased with the good job his wife was doing for him in this respect. Otherwise we would have known it one way or another, because he has come to us as a very critical person in relation to the way his works were being performed. Wouldn’t he have complained or denied her this important job? Unfortunately, a lot of her efforts disappeared after Bach’s death. Was Friedemann the only one to blame? Interesting question. Anyway. I am convinced that Anna Magdalena does not deserve to be posthumously labelled as a sloppy, unreliable copyist of her husbands work. She deserves a lot of credit. Without being over-romantic: Sag mir wo die Blumen sind … Sad, sad, sad.

* Brad and Thomas, I respect the integrity and competence of you both. Do you?

* Another interesting question: How many Students attended St. Thomas school at the time. Were they all obliged to follow Bach's music classes? Could he recruit any of them?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 23, 2003):
Peter Bloemendaal stated:
>>Her copying work included lots of other works<<
Outside of the parts for the cantatas which I mentioned (less than 10 of 2536) and a relatively small number of ‘fair copies’ of other instrumental music, AMB’s output remains relatively small. This is relatively understandable with all the other responsibilities that she had within the family.

>>Apart from the fair integral copies of some of Bach’s works, she must have made thousands of part copies over the years.<<
There is no evidence of this whatsoever. Certainly, if this were the case, then in some isolated cantata (or lost instrumental work with parts) for which we have the original set of parts, a few of these ‘extra’ copies would have turned up. We need to remember how precious and costly these copies must have been in Bach’s time.

>>I doubt if every new cantata was performed simultaneously in the four main Lutheran churches in Leipzig at the time.<<
True! There were 2 churches (St. Nicholas and St. Thomas) where these cantatas were performed, and these performances were not simultaneous. The cantata was performed at the St. Nicholas Church very early in the morning (c. 6 – 7 am. I don’t have the exact times before me) while the St. Thomas Church much later in the morning. The cafor the day was not performed simultaneously in various churches, nor could Bach be present to conduct them at the same time and place. The other churches had different music conducted by Bach’s assistant.

There was no need for all the copies that you envision might have been required.

>> Copying had to be done at very short notice. The students were on holiday. Those who helped their cantor he probably had to pay.<<
This is true. It is also possible that some of the copy work was paid for ‘in kind’: a ‘live-in’ student, or a student who simply received music instruction from Bach.

>> Life being very expensive at Leipzig, it stands to reason that the bulk of this copying was very much a family affair, indeed.<<
It is amazing to note that the other members of the Bach family also rarely appear as copyists. We all owe a real debt of gratitude to Johann Andreas Kuhnau, (born 1703) who probably copied more parts than anyone (a very large number which I did not tally.)

>> I am sure that a great deal of the copies made by Anna Magdalena have disappeared.<<
I do not see how this is possible since certainly some indication of this should have been reflected in the 2536 separate parts that have come down to us. It would be strange indeed if the percentage of her contribution to this effort would shift remarkably from the evidence that we do have.

>>Wouldn’t he have complained or denied her this important job?<<
Recognizing all her familial obligations and her inability to be as consistent and reliable as Kuhnau, he probably only used her for these purposes ‘in a pinch.’ Note that the parts that she usually copied were the violin doublets, in essence, copying from an already existent part. She would have been copying this part while Kuhnau, or someone else, continued to copy directly from the autograph score.

“She deserves a lot of credit.”
True, but mainly for things other than her copy work where she was at best inconsistent. What Bach needed at the time when the cantata parts had to be copied under the pressure of time was someone who could copy quickly and accurately. In Kuhnau he found someone who was gifted in this way and he used him over and over and over again with good results.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 23, 2003):
Leipzig politics, Bach's position, Anna Magdalena, and Andreas Kuhnau

>> Copying had to be done at very short notice. The students were on holiday. Those who helped their cantor he probably had to pay.<<
< This is true. It is also possible that some of the copy work was paid for ‘in kind’: a ‘live-in’ student, or a student who simply received >music instruction from Bach.(...) It is amazing to note that the other members of the Bach family also rarely appear as copyists. We all owe a real debt of gratitude to Johann Andreas Kuhnau, (born 1703) who probably copied more parts than anyone (a very large number which I did not tally.) (...) What Bach needed at the time when the cantata parts had to be copied under the pressure of time was someone who could copy quickly and accurately. In Kuhnau he found someone who was gifted in this way and he used him over and over and over again with good results. >
Think about the situation from young Andreas Kuhnau's point of view. His uncle Johann (the most famous Kuhnau, the composer) had been the Leipzig Kantor from 1701 until his death in 1722. This Kuhnau was an institution.

And think about it from Anna Magdalena's point of view, her working conditions. (See below.)

First, some background of what the Bachs were getting themselves into:

In Ulrich Siegele's article "Bach and the domestic politics of Electoral Saxony" (The Cambridge Companion to Bach, a collection of scholarly essays edited by John Butt), the political situation is described. The officials needed to replace Kuhnau. It was the absolutist court party vs the Estates city party: regional government vs local government.

The absolutists fielded seven candidates, in two distinct groups (3 + 3, plus a local guy). "The candidates in the first group were academics and came from an operatic background; those of the second group were organists and non-academics. In presenting these two groups, the absolutists assembled two counter-images of cantors. With the candidates from an operatic background, they promoted a new aesthetic, giving precedence to international rank at the expense of the traditional music theory of the central German cantor. With the organists, they gave precedence to competent specialists who were exclusively musicians instead of being also school teachers." The absolutists preferred their opera candidates (Telemann, Fasch, and Graupner) over their organists (Petzold, Kauffmann, and Bach) and their local man, Schott. That is, Bach's own party put him sixth in preference among the seven candidates. [Siegele then explains this.] Against that, the Estates fielded five candidates.

All five of the Estates candidates turned out to be unavailable. So were all three of the absolutists' opera candidates, and Petzold "was never taken into formal consideration." So, of the twelve candidates, only three remained: Kauffmann, Bach, and Schott. At this point, this far 'down the totem pole', the absolutist party made a motion to redefine the position as a musical directorship, and the Estates party made a counter-motion to field a new candidate (and keep the position defined as it was). "As a formal compromise, each side withdrew its respective motion. In practice, this meant that the city party accepted the candidate presented by the court party, while the court party accepted the definition of the office supported by the city party." [Siegele then explains further how Bach was hired to this position with a concession: Bach was allowed to sub-contract the Latin instruction out of his own pocket, getting out of the academic duty.] "The absolutist party had indeed won its choice of candidate but had been unable to carry out the public and legal act of redefining the office. It was unsuccessful in establishing a music directorship as the new norm. The post remained very much the traditional, conventional one of cantor, which was filled just this once by a Kapellmeister. Bach's tenure in office was defined as an exception."

[Siegele then has sections about the various political controversies and professional squabbles that Bach and his next two successors had to deal with, in this ongoing two-party struggle over the next 30+ years.]

Back to the Kuhnaus. Johann Kuhnau had been the appointee of the Estates party, and he was there for 21 years; and before that he had been the Thomaskirche organist from 1684-1701. That is, Johann Kuhnau had already been a bigshot in Leipzig for 38 years, more than Bach's entire lifetime. Now, after an arduous process, the new guy Bach (who just turned 38) was brought in from the opposite party: a change of political regime, and the absolutists' own sixth choice out of seven. Bach got there only after nine other people had been struck from the ballots.

All this is not to say that Bach wasn't fit for his job, or that he wasn't good at it. Simply: his installation there was a BIG change of the status quo, and a grudging concession by the local government where they were overruled by the other party. Bach barely landed this job at all, and then only on his extraordinary qualifications and skill.

So, there was Bach as the new guy walking into a supercharged situation in spring 1723, and inheriting a set of colleagues and students who were accustomed to having things a different way. He showed up in this move to the big city with his new wife Anna Magdalena (aged 21), three sons and a daughter aged 13 and under, plus the newborn daughter Christiane Sophie Henriette. Busy man.

Extremely busy woman, too: having just given birth, Anna Magdalena became pregnant with Gottfried Heinrich during the first few weeks they were in Leipzig, and went on to have 11 more children during those Leipzig years. Busy, busy, busy. (*)

When the Bachs arrived in Leipzig, Johann Andreas Kuhnau was 19 (born December '03). He stayed around town for five years and then went off to become cantor in Grimma. What better way to learn the musical craft during those five years, than to work with the new guy (even if he was from the other side of the political fence from Uncle Johann)? Copying someone's music by hand, whether one is being paid for it or not, is a great way to learn how it works. (**)

That's a time-honored role of students: to do some of the teacher's "grunt-work" in current projects, whether it's for academic credit and/or pay and/or any other type of perquisites.

None of this tells us anything concrete about why Andreas Kuhnau did so much copying for Bach; but I think it at least gives us some interesting context to mull over.

Personally, I think the Bachs would have been deeply grateful for any type of assistance that came their way, whether it's taking care of children or copying music or whatever; and I think it's way out of line for anyone to chide Anna Magdalena for any messiness in her handwriting. I agree with Peter Bloemendaal: "I am convinced that Anna Magdalena does not deserve to be posthumously labelled as a sloppy, unreliable copyist of her husbands work. She deserves a lot of credit."

Brad Lehman [coincidentally, aged 38, with hands full taking care of one infant, not four other children...]

(*) How many manuscript parts can one person write out, neatly and in a hurry, while taking care of multiple children? And how much music can a player/composer/teacher/administrator produce while living in such a household? It's a wonder that these people got ANY work done beyond the day-to-day stuff.

(**) I knew a composition student who wrote out Beethoven symphonies by hand: both to learn them, and to have a copy of them, as he grew up in a country where photocopying wasn't an option and scores were almost impossible to buy. This guy was a whiz with the pen and ink. This is still a skill worth cultivating, even in an age of computers.

Paul Farseth wrote (May 23, 2003):
Regarding copying Bach's parts as a learing exercise: I think it's also long been considered good advice for aspiring novelists to copy out Henry Fielding's TOM JONES in longhand. I never tried that, but as one of the numberless computer geeks on the mailing list, I can testify to the value of copying out someone else's innovative or many-faceted computer program and inserting comments into it as a way to become familiar with a new computer language and the kinds of information the program is dealing with. A lugubrious process, but remarkably effective.

 

Anna Magdalena as Copyist

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 1, 2004):
I have finally discovered one possible source for the myth that AMB was substantially involved in helping Bach copy out from the score the parts for cantatas for the 1st performances of these works that were performed in Leipzig on Sundays and holidays.

The NBA KB I/14 (Alfred Dürr & Arthur Mendel, editors) traces this myth back to a librarian, Rudolf Schwarz, who published a report on the Carl Pistor – Ernst Rudorff collection of Bach’s autograph cantata scores and the original sets of parts. In the report contained in the “Jahrbuch der Musikbibliothek Peters für 1917” pp. V-VII, Schwarz expresses the opinion that the AMB had copied most of the parts for BWV 168, BWV 172, BWV 174, BWV 176, BWV, 178, and BWV 187. Dürr points out that Schwarz had mistaken AMB’s handwriting for that of one of the major copyists who has been identified by Dürr as ‘Hauptkopist A’ = the main copyist designated as ‘A.’

As I have pointed out before regarding the copyists used in creating the original parts from the autograph scores of the cantatas, AMB’s involvement in this endeavor is negligible and her capabilities in this regard left much to be desired. Only on a limited number of occasions did she help out; and this, primarily consisted of creating the doublets of already existing violin parts. In other words, she was allowed to copy from the parts already created by another copyist, while the other copyist continued copying out other parts from the score.

Rob Potharst pointed to Boyd’s “Composer Companions: J. S Bach” for the following info: >>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.<<

It would be interesting to see if this book describes AMB as an assiduous copyist of parts for Bach’s cantata performances.

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (February 1, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Rob Potharst pointed to Boyd’s “Composer Companions: J. S Bach” for the following info: >>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.<<
It would be interesting to see if this book describes AMB as an assiduous copyist of parts for Bach’s cantata performances. >
It's been some time since I read the book "The Little Chronicle of Magdalena Bach", but I am pretty sure that in it very little emphasis was given on her role as a copyist of scores. Yes, there is mention of her copying scores for "Sebastian", but no special attention is given to that, furthermore, even when book mentions her copying scores, it is not specified that those are cantatas scores (as far as I recall).

Rob Potharst wrote (February 1, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
Rob Potharst pointed to Boyd’s “Composer Companions:
J. S Bach” for the following info: >>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.<<
It would be interesting to see if this book describes AMB as an assiduous copyist of parts for Bach’s cantata performances. >
You are right. The Oxford Composer Companion gives one sentence about the subject of AMB's copy work: "In Leipzig she was important as a neat and accurate copyist if her husband's music."

Charles Francis wrote (February 2, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Outside of the parts for the cantatas which I mentioned (less than 10 of 2536) and a relatively small number of 'fair copies' of other instrumental music, AMB's output remains relatively small. This is relatively understandable with all the other responsibilities that she had within the family. >
Any idea who Anonymous I, II, III and IV might have been?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 2, 2004):
Charles Francis asked:
>>Any idea who Anonymous I, II, III and IV might have been?<<
Based upon Alfred Dürr's research on the copyists (mainly concerning the original parts for the cantatas) stemming from the 50s and 60s at a time when he and others were preparing the early NBA volumes, these designations have also been subdivided with specific identifications such as 'Ie' or 'IIc.' In a few instances the copyists have been subsequently (after the appearance of the NBA KB volumes) identified, but others remain a mystery as far as I know.

An example from a fairly recent NBA KB I/3.1 (2000) has references to Anonymous 'In' and 'Io' just to show you how far the experts have progressed along these lines.

If you are interested I could try to list most of the copyists now known by nam. At the top of the list, as the one who must have copied the largest portion of original parts for the extant Leipzig cantatas, would have to be Johann Andreas Kuhnau. AMB's contribution to this effort, in comparison with Kuhnau, is almost infinitesimal.

Another important source which has led to AMB's overrated importance as a copyist can be found in Philipp Spitta who misidentified the work of one of these copyists as being that of AMB's, thereby increasing, substantially and incorrectly, evidence of her activities until this was later corrected by Dürr and others. Information about this can be found in NBA KB I/15 pp. 9-10 and NBA I/21 pp. 64, 69.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 2, 2004):
[Thomas Braatz] Thomas, are you aware of the C clef issue? And also the words of Schwanenberger on the title page of the Cello Suite/Violin Sonatas & Partitas folio?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 2, 2004):
[To Martin Jarvis] Are you referring to the “Braunschweig-Wolfenbütteler Kammermusikus Georg Heinrich Ludwig Schwanberg (1696-1774)”? copy of BWV 1001-1012 by AMB? The NBA KB VI/2 points out that despite AMB’s great effort to be careful, she still makes mistakes, and, more important than that, she is rather careless in placing the phrase markings. [„Denn für die Schreiber von A und B, Anna Magdalena Bach und Johann Peter Kellner, läßt sich zeigen, daß sie die Artikulation ihrer Vorlagen nicht nur außerordentlich sorglos wiedergeben, sondern Bachs Absicht oft geradezu ins Gegenteil verkehren.“ p. 27 = „In the case of the copyists of A and B, AMB and Kellner, it can be demonstrated that they not only reproduce in an extraordinarily careless manner the articulation markings of their originals, but also frequently often change Bach’s intentions into the opposite of what he had in mind.”] This agrees with Alfred Dürr's assessment of her original part copies based on the scores of the cantatas.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 3, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Yes I am refering to the same document. Schwanberg or Schwanberger writes in the bottom right hand corner on the title page of the two works: "Ecrite par Madame Bachen son Epouse" (sic)

How would you translate those words? And why do you think Schwanberg wrote them?

Avi Eilam-Amzallag wrote (February 3, 2004):
[To Martin Jarvis & Thomas Braatz] "Written (or composed) by Madam Bach his wife"

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) wrote:
>> Yes I am refering to the same document. Schwanberg or Schwanberger writes in the bottom right hand corner on the title page of the two works: "Ecrite par Madame Bachen son Epouse" (sic) How would you translate those words? And why do you think Schwanberg wrote them?<<
These copies of BWV 1001-1012 were prepared by AMB for Schwanberg (not Schwanberger!) in Leipzig between 1727 and 1731. It has been determined that Schwanberg was in Leipzig from late autumn of 1727 until at least October 1728 (it is uncertain just when he left Leipzig.) Being mainly interested only in the solo violin pieces, he soon dumped (sold off) the compositions for solo cello.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 3, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, I am assured that he was also known as Schwanenberger, sorry! Thanks for the information though.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 3, 2004):
[To Avi Eilam-Amzallag] Precisely, Avi!

Charles Francis wrote (February 3, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for the information, Thomas. Apparently, Anonymous I, II, III and IV contributed to the Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach, suggesting, to me at least, they were members of Bach's household.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) stated:
>>Thomas, I am assured that he was also known as Schwanenberger, sorry! Thanks for the information though.<<
Thanks for the tip! Here is the beginning of the MGG article on the Schwanenberger family with all the possible spellings:
>>Schwanenberger (Schwanberg, Schwanberger), Johann Gottfried (Giovanni), * 28. Dez. 1737 oder 1740, in den Kirchenbüchern nicht nachweisbar, in Wolfenbüttel oder Braunschweig, † 29. März 1804 in Braunschweig. Johann Gottfrieds Vater war der Fürstlicher Kammermusikus Georg Ludwig Schwanenberger († 15. Dez. 1774), seine Mutter († 7. Nov. 1741) eine Tochter des Braunschweiger St. Petri-Org. Johann Daniel Bähre. Der Vater besuchte 1727/28 J. S. Bach in Leipzig und stud. bei ihm den Gb. (vgl. Brief vom 17. Sept. 1727 an seinen Schwiegervater Bahre); bei dieser Gelegenheit wurde er Taufpate der Regine Johanne Bach. J. Gottfried Schwanenberger erhielt seine erste mus. Ausbildung am Wolfenbütteler Hof unter G. C. Schürmann und I. Fiorillo. Von 1756 an studierte er sechs Jahre lang auf Kosten des Herzogs Carl I. bei Hasse, Latilla und Saratelli in Venedig.<<

[About the Schwanenberger in question here: It is because of a letter (dated September 17, 1727) which Georg Ludwig wrote to his father-in-law (who was the organist in St. Peter’s Church in Braunschweig) that we know two facts about him: 1) he visited with and studied basso continuo/figured bass with J. S. Bach sometime between 1727 to 1728 and 2) he was godfather to one of Bach’s daughters, Regine Johanne Bach.]

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2004):
Charles Francis surmised:
>>Apparently, Anonymous I, II, III and IV contributed to the Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach, suggesting, to me at least, they were members of Bach's household.<<
Yes, the NBA V/4 p. 68 indicates that they are probably younger members of the Bach household and that Anonymous IV (item 44 in the collection) could be identical with Anonymous I (item 12) and Anonymous II (items 20, 32). Anonymous III (item 37 – “Aria di Giovannini”) remains a mystery because no further example of this handwriting has ever turned up.

I am not at all clear about the bases upon which the families/variations (Io, Ip, etc.) are founded. Are these simply categories with some common characteristics, but which have differences which set them apart from the common mould?

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 4, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, many thanks for that information about Herr Schwan??????! Much appreciated. You didn't comment on his words on the title page, do you have any thoughts about them and the translation?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 4, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) commented and asked:
>>Thomas, many thanks for that information about Herr Schwan??????! Much appreciated. You didn't comment on his words on the title page, do you have any thoughts about them and the translation?<<
1) The ambiguity in the word ‘ecrite’ (‘written or composed by’ as defined by Avi Eilam-Anzallag and with which you seem to agree) is similar to English: it can also just as easily imply ‘copy’ which is the sensible translation of this word considering also its use by someone not native to the French language. Schwan* must certainly not have considered AMB as the true author of the works which she copied, a task which she completed rather carelessly according to most experts who have compared her copy with others of the period (in the case of BWV 1001-1006 with Bach’s autograph score.)

OED gives us some of the following definitions of ‘write’ to ponder:

to trace letters, etc. (even ‘writing with a typewriter/keyboard’); to produce a graphical record; to make a record of in writing; to trace significant characters on a surface; to execute a particular style of handwriting; (to write out): to make a fair or perfect transcription or written copy of something, to copy out; to transcribe in full or detail.

2) The only information that can be gleaned from Schwan*’s comment is that it appears that he received this copy of Bach’s works for solo violin and solo cello from AMB directly when he (Schwan*) was studying with Bach in Leipzig. The fact that this is AMB’s handiwork is confirmed by present-day handwriting analysis and the quality/accuracy of her work (typically error-pand careless as is also the case where she copies parts for the cantatas.)

3) Frequently comments by others appear directly on Bach’s autographs, but these have to be evaluated and confirmed and can not be believed directly. Take, for instance, WFB, who claimed as his own compositions some which were really by his father.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 5, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, Many thanks for your considered reply. I am very interested in your opinion.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 5, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, do you know about and or have any views on the missing 5 bars from the 1st Prelude in the 1725 Buchlein?

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 5, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, I was talking of the "copy" of the 1st Prelude of the Welltempered by the way.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 5, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) asked:
>>do you know about and or have any views on the missing 5 bars from the 1st Prelude in the 1725 Buchlein? I was talking of the "copy" of the 1st Prelude of the Welltempered
by the way.<<
Yes, this is explained by the NBA editors of NBA V/4 on pp. 52-3. The copyist of BWV 846,1 is AMB (in the ‘AMB Notebook’ it is item 29 without the title: ‘Praeludium in C-dur.’) AMB skipped ms. 16 through 20 when she began a new page. These measures (based upon other existing copies of BWV 846,1) are given in lighter/smaller notes in the printed version of this piece in the NBA in order to distinguish them from the actual version that AMB copied out.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 5, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, apart from the Violin Sonatas & Partitas and the material in the 1725 KB do you know of any other complete works where there is a version both in the hand of JSB and AMB? Also, do you know of any rough sketches in JSB's hand where is a fair copy by AMB?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 5, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) asked:
>> Thomas, apart from the Violin Sonatas & Partitas and the material in the 1725 KB do you know of any other complete works where there is a version both in the hand of JSB and AMB? Also, do you know of any rough sketches in JSB's hand where is a fair copy by AMB?<<

Try the following resource:

Digitales Verzeichnis der Werke J. S. Bachs:
https://gwdu64.gwdg.de/pls/bach/we$.startup
https://gwdu64.gwdg.de/pls/bach/wequ$.startup

and search, for instance, for BWV 812 or 813. I think most of your questions can be answered there.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 5, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, I am aware of this theory, but to me it doesn't make sense because AMB, for whom we are told this book was special and that it contained her "favourites", would surely have noticed the missing bars and added them somewhere else, don't you think?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 5, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) asked:
>>Thomas, I am aware of this theory, but to me it doesn't make sense because AMB, for whom we are told this book was special and that it contained her "favourites", would surely have noticed the missing bars and added them somewhere else, don't you think?<<
Possibly, but not really probably, these missing bars were on the page that was torn out between pp. 84 and 85. Page 84 contains ms. 1-15 and page 85 ms. 21 to the end of the prelude. But why would you write the missing 4 measures on a separate page only to continue on a new page after that? Was she trying to save paper (following her husband’s penchant for doing so) by copying the missing measures on the back side of the missing sheet before commencing with the conclusion (ms. 21 to the end) or had she been interrupted after beginning with the missing 4 measures on the torn-out page but then another young member of the family (one of the Anonymi) commenced with copying something else onto the missing page, something that was either so good or so bad that she (or another member of the family) tore it out disregarding the fact that she had squeezed in 4, now missing, measures of BWV 846,1 on that page. Why did she tear out other pages as well, if this book contained her ‘favourites?’ Were there some major blunders that had to be removed or did she, as a loving mother, completely or deliberately overlook the missing measures that were on such pages which a proud mother would, at a later time, present to a son (or daughter?) as a ‘going-away’ present and reminder/souvenir of earlier times when they were children and were allowed to copy or compose something for their mother’s notebook under her tender and loving care? Was this an intentional memory exercise for herself or her children where the player would have to improvise the missing measures so as to create a proper bridge between the two parts? Again, had she been interrupted (household chores, visitors, etc.) and subsequently picked up copying with the wrong, later measure (ms. 21 instead of 16) only to discover after she had finished copying that these 4 measures were missing? Could she not have included a tiny slip of paper with the missing measures, a slip that, at some point in time, fell out, was misplaced, etc. and never returned to the gap between pp. 84 and 85? Is it possible that she was simply careless and never bothered to correct her mistake by including the missing measure elsewhere? Based upon her carelessness documented by experts elsewhere, does this not fit the general picture that we can now obtain regarding her handiwork in this regard?

Now that we have reached this point in our speculations about AMB, it is time to come back to your original question:
>>Why is there so much hostility towards AMB and the possibility that she composed?<<

It is now time for you to explain why you perceive, or have perceived ‘so much hostility towards AMB’ on the Bach Cantatas Site or in this ongoing discussion. Does demythologizing AMB cause you psychological pain? Do you feel a need to believe that she is almost beyond reproach? Are you able to view AMB’s accomplishments and her weaknesses/failures objectively? Define and illustrate ‘so much hostility towards AMB.’ What does this mean to you? If you venerate AMB, I can understand and respect that. Likewise, I hope that you will respect the ‘truth/fact-finding’ process that allows others to come to a conclusion that may be contrary to yours: the accomplishments of AMB have been overrated in the past. It is now necessary to correct the view of AMB that has arisen and has been held by many over the past century or two.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 6, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, once again many thanks for your considered response.

Have you ever compared the 1720 "Autograph" of the VS&Ps with AMB's copy yourself? To me it does not look at all careless, quite the reverse, some pages are almost carbon copies. The reason that the Cello Suites contain so many supposed "errors" (by that I mean notes that editors and cellists have changed in subsequent times, rather than real errors or sloppy copying) is that the Suites were not actually composed by JSB, but probably by AMB in JSB's style (perhaps with his guidance). AMB's manuscript is very clear and easy to read in relative terms. It makes no sense whatsoever to suggest that she was not a capable and careful copyist. As for articulations (bowings) the art of string-playing in those terms was in its infancy (we had not even reached the stage of the "Down Bow" rule) and I suspect that such matters were not taken as seriously by them as by we who have followed centuries later.

I am not a secret admirer of AMB or JSB for that matter - I am just seeking the truth, which I believe remains hidden behind bigotry and mythology - and not just about AMB but the whole JSB question. The reason I asked the question about AMB is given in your response I think!

Gabriel wrote (February 6, 2004):
Martin Jarvis wrote:
< As for articulations (bowings) the art of string-playing in those terms was in its infancy (we had not even reached the stage of the "Down Bow" rule) and I suspect that such matters were not taken as seriously by them as by we who have followed centuries lat. >
Where on earth did you get this idea from?! The art of string playing was most certainly not in its infancy in the 18th century.

Charles Francis wrote (February 6, 2004):
Martin Jarvis wrote:
< The reason that the Cello Suites contain so many supposed "errors" (by that I mean notes that editors and cellists have changed in subsequent times, rather than real errors or sloppy copying) is that the Suites were not actually composed by JSB, but probably by AMB in JSB's style (perhaps with his guidance). >
Do you have any proof for the assertion that AMB composed the Cello Suites? Has anyone else questioned their authenticity?

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 6, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) stated:
>>the Suites were not actually composed by JSB, but probably by AMB in JSB's style (perhaps with his guidance).<<
Even Schwan* on the same title page that you referred us to states regarding the solo cello works (BWV 1007-1012):

‘composée par Sr. J. S. Bach’

Why don’t you ask me or any other knowledgeable native French speaker to translate this for you the same way that you asked about ‘ecrite par Madame Bachen. Son Epouse?’

I have tried to answer many of your questions. Now it is time for you to be more forthright and direct with your responses. Let me ask again, and for the last time, for you to fully explain the motive and reasoning behind your question: “>>Why is there so much hostility towards AMB and the possibility that she composed?<<

You have heard some responses to your notion about the art and skill of bowing in Bach’s time. The available evidence is stacked up strongly against your notion. It is up to you to provide evidence to the contrary. I, for one, would be very interested in learning the sources (don’t be afraid to share them in the original German!) upon which you have based this opinion.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 9, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, thanks once again for your reply.

All my translations have been checked for their correctness by qualified linguists. The fact that Schwan.. wrote the word Composee.... (sorry but I can't add accents in this program) is meaningless, as, from the social conditions of the time, it would have been inappropriate for him to have written anything else.

I am a violinist/violist with over 40 years experience and am well aware of the bowing situation of the period.

You did not answer my question regarding the accuracy of AMB's copy of the Violin works (S&Ps), which, by the way, has Schwan...'s handwriting within the text as well, which suggests that he was involved directly in copying them with AMB.

Remember the words of Charles Darwin, "Always challenge the orthodoxy!"

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 9, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] I have been researching the Six Cello Suites for many years now and have very good reason to believe that they were not written by JSB. Some of my work on this subject has already been published in the UK in 2002, but much work has been done since.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel] By "in those terms" I was referring only to the concept of precise bowing articulations by composers not to the art of violin/ string playing as such.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 9, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) commented:
>>You did not answer my question regarding the accuracy of AMB's copy of the Violin works (S&Ps), which, by the way, has Schwan...'s handwriting within the text as well, which suggests that he was involved directly in copying them with AMB. Remember the words of Charles Darwin, "Always challenge the orthodoxy!"<<
Schwan…’s handwriting within the text has not been documented. The NBA KB VI/1 refers to the fact that the entire notation is by AMB, but not the titles and other text indications which are in an unidentified handwriting from a later time period. If these were by Schwan… as you seem to suggest, then they were added later, not at the point in time when AMB did her copying.

The accuracy of AMB’s copywork in the S&Ps is similar to the solo cello works: relatively accurate in copying the notes, but amazingly careless in the indication of the phrasing marks. Schwan… was not directly involved in the copy process.

Bach’s autograph copy (not the composing score) shows us exactly what the composer had in mind, so there is no need to entertain the non-orthodox theory that AMB composed or helped Bach compose these remarkable compositions.

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 9, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Many thanks again. How do you know that they were added later? On what basis to you make this statement? - simply because someone said it? I have been working with one of the world's leading forensic document specialist on the matter of the handwriting in general in the manuscripts, and there many unanswered questions and handwriting anomalies. I can assure you that it is Schwan..'s handwriting in the text

There is nothing "amazingly careless" about the copying of the bowings, maybe she simply didn't see them as of any particular importance, but just a general guide to articulation. Schwan... could also have added the bowings, for that matter.

How can you say that AMB's manuscript of the Cello Suites contains articulation inaccuracies or she is "amazingly careless in the indication of the phrasing marks, when there is no other complete example of them on which to base the statement ? You see Thomas, you are the subject of orthodoxy.

Thomas, try and think for yourself and look at the evidence for yourself, don't rely on the work of others who may have been very biased, as was Forkel, who wrote his biography of JSB specifically for the purpose of creating a hero for the German people:

In addition it is worth noting that Forkel's biography of J S Bach "On Johann Sebastian Bach's Life, Genius, and Work" appeared in 1802 at a time when "the tide of nationalism was running high." (see NBR). The subtitle of the book "For Patriotic Admirers of True Musical Art" gives support to the argument that a degree of idealisation was taking place and that Forkel's intent was to present "a new hero to the people of Germany" (NBR) rather than an objective account of J S Bach's life and work.

Gabriel wrote (February 9, 2004):
Martin Jarvis wrote:
< By "in those terms" I was referring only to the concept of precise bowing articulations by composers not to the art of violin/ string playing as such. >
Fair enough!

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel] Thanks Gabriel

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 9, 2004):
Martin Jarvis(?) asked and commented:
>>How can you say that AMB's manuscript of the Cello Suites contains articulation inaccuracies or she is "amazingly careless in the indication of the phrasing marks, when there is no other complete example of them on which to base the statement? You see Thomas, you are the subject of orthodoxy.
Thomas, try and think for yourself and look at the evidence for yourself, don't rely on the work of others who may have been very biased.<<
The tone/attitude of your responses sounds very familiar. But that aside, you have completely neglected to incorporate into your considerations the pattern that has been established elsewhere: AMB’s contribution to the cantata parts copying process. It really serves no purpose to try to prove the impossible here and to lose oneself in these insignificant side issues. The fact remains: we have Bach’s autograph copy of these works (the violin S&Ps that you were referring to) and you have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to prove the impossible. This is an endeavor which I do not wish to share with you. Notify us when, where, and under which name your published work has appeared. Perhaps you will revolutionize all the careful work that has been accomplished by Kobayashi and others. Good luck!

Martin Jarvis wrote (February 9, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, I'm sorry if I offended you, it was unintentional of course.

Musical Opinion, Issue 1431, 2002 contains some of my early work on the subject specially regarding handwriting. A summary of the musical analysis appears in Stringendo Vol 25 Number 1, 2003. Yoshitake Kobayashi is aware of my work on some of the handwritanomalies and questions, by the way.

Proving a negative is indeed very difficult but that not deflect us from our responsibilities to establish the truth. The hostility towards AMB as a possible composer, the question I first posed, centres around the unwillingness of most of the biographers of JSB to even consider this as possible. The evidence that she was more than just a "copyist" is at best indirect. However, as I am sure you know, her actual role beyond a singer is not clear, especially when one considers her remuneration during her time at Cothen. Wolff does try to explain this, as I'm sure you have read, but I find his conclusion that JSB was basically greedy and paid AMB a lavish salary as a miscalculation on the generosity of his patron, totally unsatisfactory.

 

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