Bach was an impostor – isn’t that a lovely story?

I know I’m repeating myself, but, as we all know, repetition is the mother of all learning.

Not everyone has yet learned that we’re living in a lunatic asylum run by its inmates, and so, at the risk of repeating myself, I have to produce more factual evidence.

Mercifully, the newspapers never disappoint. The current big story picked up by all our broadsheets is that some of J.S. Bach’s best works were actually written by his second wife Anna Magdalena.

Specifically this multi-talented woman is supposed to be given credit for parts of the Goldberg Variations, the six cello suites and, according to one source, the B Minor Mass.

If true, this is a remarkable achievement reemphasising the endless potential of womenfolk, whose talents have been suppressed by beastly men throughout history, a gross injustice feminists are undoing even as we speak.

One would have thought that Anna Magdalena would have had her hands full, looking after Bach’s four surviving children from the seven he had fathered in his first marriage, giving birth to 13 of her own, running the rather crowded household, continuing a professional vocal career and acting as Bach’s amanuensis, especially in his later years when his eyesight failed him.

But this indomitable lady still found time in her busy schedule to knock off some of the greatest music ever written. It’s only because of the inherent misogyny of the world that her contribution has gone unrecognised for 400 years.

Until the Aussie academic Martin Jarvis came along. Using expert graphologists he came to the only possible conclusion: Anna Magdalena didn’t just write down her husband’s work on lined paper – she actually composed much of it.

All ye of little faith, sit up and listen. Mrs Bach’s handwriting didn’t show the strain of someone copying written documents and, if that doesn’t convince you, editing marks show she had to stop and correct the music as she went along.

Case made, beyond not just reasonable doubt but any other kind as well. Of course inveterate sceptics might argue that an alternative explanation just would be possible. And, dare one say it, it would be rather more persuasive than the cock-and-bull story peddled by Dr Jarvis.

For example, since in his later years Bach couldn’t see well enough to write, he composed at his clavier, with Anna Magdalena writing the music down. And even before he went partially blind, Bach was known to dictate his music as he composed it. This would explain both the editing marks and Anna Magdalena’s handwriting showing no signs of a copyist.

Then again, the cello suites were written between 1717 and 1723, while Bach married Anna Magdalena only in 1721, almost immediately after his first wife’s death. So can we please give him credit for at least some of the suites?

(Thankfully, no one has suggested yet that Mrs Tolstoy actually wrote War and Peace – a remarkable restraint, considering that no fewer than seven copies of the manuscript were written in her hand.)

The amazing thing is that Jarvis himself is well aware of the falsity of his claims: “My conclusions may not be wholly accurate,” he says, “but the way in which tradition has put Anna Magdalena into this pathetic role… is rubbish.”

For the benefit of those of you who aren’t fluent in Australian, allow me to translate. Jarvis’s isn’t an open and shut case. In fact, he has no case at all.

What he does have is a thirst for publicity, a keen nose for the potential appeal of any feminist gibberish, no matter how insane, and the ready outlet of major newspapers experienced in translating feminism into sales.

It’s not just feminism either. Another clinical symptom of modern madness is egalitarianism, the desire to bring everyone, ideally including sublime geniuses, down to the level of the masses who are all ‘self-evidently’ supposed to be ‘created equal’.

Thus Mozart, who was not only one of history’s greatest composers but also one of the cleverest men in his contemporaneous Vienna, has to be depicted as some kind of idiot savant, an Asperger sufferer who, although stupid in every way, was somehow able to compose some pretty mellifluous tunes.

It takes monumental ignorance to be unaware of the gigantic intellectual effort that goes into musical composition to believe that any great composer could ever be the infantile cretin of Schafer’s fancy. Or else it takes the craving so powerfully described by the Russian poet Pushkin when talking about the public depiction of Byron:

“The crowd greedily reads confessions, memoirs, etc., because in its baseness it rejoices at the abasement of the high, at the weakness of the strong. It is in rapture at the disclosure of anything loathsome. ‘He is small like us; he is loathsome like us!’ You are lying, you scoundrels: he’s small and he’s loathsome, but not the way you are – differently.”

Jarvis obviously feels the same need. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that the kind of genius that goes into composing works like the cello suites, not to mention the B Minor Mass, takes over its possessor.

Had Anna Magdalena indeed written several pieces of immortal music, we would have had ample evidence of her spending every waking moment writing – or at least trying to write – more. She wouldn’t have been able to run a perfect bourgeois household and look after a crowd of children the size of a football squad.

Yet her real, historical role as wife and mother, the great man’s faithful friend and assistant, the bedrock of his life seems ‘pathetic’ to modern sensibilities. Hence the concoction of the frankly idiotic fairy tale about a sublime composer who never received due credit for her attainments.

Hence also the alacrity with which our previously respectable papers have picked up the non-story. What a mad world we live in!






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