Not written by Mrs. Bach

Since my last post about the British-Australian professor Martin Jarvis’ claims that Bach’s cello suites might have been the work of Anna Magdalena Bach, I’ve done a bit of reading on the subject. I came to the conclusion that Jarvis’ ideas, though provocative, didn’t seem to have taken into account a tremendous amount of existing Bach scholarship, including forensic analysis, by leading academics. So it was interesting to read this well-reasoned rebuttal of Jarvis’ thesis by Tim Cavanaugh in The National Review. One of his interviewees, the distinguished Bach expert Christian Wolff, observes “There is not a shred of evidence, but Jarvis doesn’t give up despite the fact that several years ago, at a Bach conference in Oxford, a room full of serious Bach scholars gave him an embarrassing showdown.” (I don’t know about you, but I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall at this event.)

You can’t fault Jarvis for the power of his convictions, even if his self-identification with Galileo raises eyebrows. If I had been delivered such a smack-down from a scholar of Wolff’s erudition, I doubt I would have been so tenacious. I expect we can now lay this (non-)controversy to rest along with the claims that Anne Hathaway wrote Shakespeare’s plays.


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