New Theory: Bach Didn't Write His Greatest Works
Mrs. Bach did, say researchers
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2014 7:36 AM CDT
German composer Johann Sebastian Bach is shown.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – A new documentary argues that Anna Magdalena should be known for much more than being Mrs. Johann Sebastian Bach: She may have been the composer of some of her husband's greatest works. Music professor Martin Jarvis, whose authorship suspicions were first aroused more than three decades ago, describes the evidence as "circumstantial" but "strong." He, together with composer Sally Beamish and document-forensics expert Heidi Harralson, presents the theory in Written by Mrs. Bach. They zero in on pieces described by the Washington Post as "immortal masterpieces"—among them, the "Cello Suites" and the aria from "Goldberg Variations"—and build their case as follows:

They say the pieces are quite different from Bach's other works from a structural and technical perspective; that the manuscripts seemed to be written by Anna Magdalena (with one page actually saying "written by Mrs. Bach" in French); and that there's an absence of actual proof (e.g., personal papers attesting as much) that Bach wrote the works. And Anna Magdalena would have been capable of doing it, they say: She hailed from a musical family and was herself a talented soprano. While she and others were tasked with copying Bach's scores for distribution, the researchers didn't find a "heaviness" to the handwriting that they say is typical of a transcriber, reports the Telegraph. They also uncovered corrections in her handwriting, which they see as an indication that she was composing it as she was writing it.