For Sale: Bridge in Brooklyn, Cheap!

Scholarship. Research. Facts. Since we live in the era of “Fox News” we all know that these things are in short supply. Goodness, haven’t you heard about the massive Ebola outbreak in the United States? No? Then how about Anna Magdalena Bach?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, based on nothing more than than a forensic analysis of handwriting a “professor” in North Australia has concluded that not only did Anna Magdalena compose the Cello Suites heretofore attributed to one Sebastian Bach, but also that the aforementioned Sebastian was a wife beater and all-around scumbag. Despite this “thesis” sounding like a rejected script to a Criminal Minds episode (I can just hear Dr. Spencer Reid babbling about the relationship between the Goldberg Variations, sleep deprivation, and homicidal tendencies…. you go, Spencer) this “theory” has received a whole raft of publicity in the international media.


It’s bad enough that the “Lame Stream Media” swallowed this hook, line, and sinker, but what is much more troubling to me is that this has been passed around by supposéd professional musicians as gospel. One young man (who shall remain nameless because he’s going to be so embarrassed in a few years that he subscribed to this claptrap) teaching at a reputable music school in the Midwest (which shall also remain nameless because said school is going to be embarrassed that they hired someone who would fall for this claptrap) published an impassioned defense of this theory, rambling on about feminism and respect for women in music.


You want feminism then please direct your attention to the Boulanger sisters, especially Lili. Why she isn’t recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western Classical music is utterly beyond me. Ditto for Nadia. That’s a worthy cause. And to be honest, I’m pretty sure that Anna Magdalena was a very formidable woman, since A) she put up with Sebastian for all those years; and B) Sebastian put up with her for all those years. Honestly, can you imagine Sebastian Bach marrying a no-talent idiot? Seriously?

But as every Bach scholar on the planet knows this “Cello Suite” theory is not supported by facts. There is simply too much musical evidence that clearly indicates Sebastian was the composer of the suites, and there is as much evidence that Maggie (to her friends) was a copyist and enthusiastic supporter of her husband’s music, but most assuredly not the composer of the Cello suites! All this was pointed out back in 2006 when this “theory” first crawled out from under a very embarrassed rock. But now there’s going to be a documentary, and it’s crawled back out from under that rock, and in today’s information world (and with the power of the internet) at least one gullible person in a position to influence future musicians has fallen for this without doing due diligence and research on the subject himself!


Stop clicking “share” and do your own digging. Scholarship. Research. Facts. Because back in the day before you could land a date with a hot, French model on the internet you actually had to back up your claims with those three things.

But if you persist in clicking “share” without thinking it through – I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale, cheap! Nice view, too!

5 thoughts on “For Sale: Bridge in Brooklyn, Cheap!”

  1. There is a HUGE problem on the internet with finding trusted sources. People still don’t get this. Before the internet, it was far more difficult to spread stories not backed up with research and facts, although hoaxes were possible. Hitler’s purported diary, for example. I haven’t read anything about Maggie Bach composing the cello suites. I agree that women’s accomplishments in the past have been left out of history (“The Heidi Chronicles” is an example of art revealing the shameful truth) and the arts are no exception. I agree about the Boulanger sisters. Nadia is almost always mentioned in terms of what composers she either taught or championed. If she could do either of those things, she must have been extremely accomplished herself. Lili’s story always saddens me beyond words.

  2. And I was tempted to think nothing could be more slanderous than AMADEUS. At least Shafer didn’t try to insinuate that Constanze wrote the Requium. :-0

    (Actually, I might have preferred it if she perhaps had written the Flute and Harp Concerto, Turkish March, and Eine Kleine Nachtmusic…)

  3. I have been performing all the Bach Cello Suites for over forty years. Early on in my study of these pieces I realized, as many cellists do, how strange they are. This occurred to me in about 1970, not because of some media frenzy but because I had begun to play the Gamba Sonatas, Brandenburgs and Passions. The musical experience of playing them was so utterly different than the Suites I couldn’t help wonder why. I thought, as many others have, that given their relative simplicity and sequential difficulty the Suites were early works or that perhaps JSB wrote them for a student. I did wish that he’d written more them in the style, the language, I had become familiar with in other his works. None-the-less I faithfully practiced and performed all of them many, many times over the years. I used to start every day playing a Suite. I’d celebrate every birthday by playing all six with just a break for coffee.
    Then some years ago, out of mere idle interest, I read a just few easy measures of the Chaconne and was literally shocked, stunned, at the realization that there was absolutely nothing in the Suites to compare. I have since learned all JSB’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin and when I go from them to the Suites, as I do almost every day, I cannot help but think that JSB was not the sole composer of the Suites (Martin Jarvis, AMB and feminism aside!) I now believe the Suites are a compilation from various sources. Certainly JSB is one. But taken as a whole there is so much writing that to me is weak or the musical language is so foreign that until a manuscript of the Suites in JSB’s own hand is found I cannot take it on faith that he was the sole author. My 64 year old brain, ears, heart and hands tell me different. With all due respect, if there are facts that prove the authorship of the Suites I have, as a person with great interest in the subject, never heard one. Not. One.
    Now I teach at MacPhail, and I teach the Suites. I teach them with love and attention. They are without a doubt one of the greatest single bodys (apostrophe police help me out) of work in the cello repertoire. While I am honest about my musical beliefs I am never disparaging of anyone else’s. (I save that for politics!) I am very clear that this my own belief, arrived at independently and until now very, very rare in the musical world.
    So call me an idiot. But please don’t burn me at the stake!

    • So, let me get this straight – it’s your gut instinct, and you have absolutely no other proof then your gut instinct, and that means ….. what, exactly? Where’s the proof? There is none. Period. There’s your gut instinct. Half of Bach’s output doesn’t exist in manuscript form. What proof is that? None. I’m sorry you don’t get them. When you have proof get back to me.

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