I was meant to be seeing a preview last week of ‘Written by Mrs Bach’, a documentary claiming to prove that Anna Magdalena wrote some of her husband’s cello suites. The theory originates from Martin Jarvis, a professor at Charles Darwin University in Northern Territory, Australia.
It is disputed by John Butt and Ruth Tatlow and in the Guardian today by the cellist Stephen Isserlis, who writes: ‘Why am I so sure that Bach himself composed the suites? It is partly because there are countless connections between the suites and many of his other works; but even more because the language is so clearly his – that perfection of utterance that is pure JS Bach.’
UPDATE: Now Alex Ross picks the claim to pieces in the New Yorker, linking to the various manuscripts on which Jarvis built his hypothesis and unsnagging his flimsy fancy, strand by strand. Let’s hear no more of this Mrs Bach nonsense.
Ruth Tatlow has sent us a further demolition by Tim Cavanaugh, citing Tomita, Wolff and her own 2008 report: http://www.
It seems to be a textbook case of a film-maker pandering to what desperate media long to believe.
Here’s a trailer for the doc.
I didn’t attend the preview. Life’s too short.