Bach vs. Bach

An Australian Bach scholar, Martin Jarvis, has made news headlines recently with his claim that there’s forensic evidence Anna Magdalena Bach, not her husband Johann Sebastian, wrote the Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012.

I’ll be interested to read Professor Jarvis’ findings, which will be published in a doctoral dissertation later this year. (You can already get a glimpse of the work in this transcription of a lecture given at Charles Darwin University, where Jarvis teaches.) This isn’t, of course, the first time that a scholar has claimed that A. M. Bach wrote some of J. S. Bach’s music, of course, but I’d like to know more about his methodologies and conclusions. I note that Jarvis’ PhD is in Forensic Document Examination, not in musicology, which leads me to wonder whether he also uses comparative musicological-analytical readings of the texts themselves to support his thesis.

I was also interested in the reaction on social media to Jarvis’ assertions. Isn’t it strange how quick so many are to dismiss the idea that music of greatness could have been composed by a woman? Practically no one these days would say overtly that a woman couldn’t compose great music, but that’s the implication we can take away from it. Whether this hi-tech detective work can stand up to old-fashioned textual and theoretical research is another matter, naturally. Jarvis himself appears to believe that there’s been a sexist cover-up. Let’s wait and see, with open minds, what this dissertation can tell us.