Anna Magdalena Bach was the second wife of composer J.S. Bach, singer and chamber musician. She was born into a musical family. Little is known of her career as a vocalist but she certainly knew J.S. Bach professionally at Köthen, where he was Kapellmeister from 1717. They married in December 1721, a year and a half after the death of the composer's first wife and settled in Leipzig in 1723. The couple had 13 children, six of whom lived to adulthood, including future composers Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and Johann Christian Bach (later known as "The London Bach").
|Portrait of Bach and his children|
Anna Magdalena Bach: a forgotten genius?
Martin Jarvis, professor of music at Charles Darwin University in Australia, claims some of Johann Sebastian Bach’s best-loved works were actually written by his wife. He also discovered that the only complete manuscript from the time for the Cello Suites was a manuscript in the hand of Anna Magdalena, and that the original manuscript in the hand of Johann Sebastian had vanished.
Prof Jarvis claims that there is musical evidence to prove that the Cello Suites - whose exact date of composition has never been established - were not written by Bach.
Prof Jarvis believes that Anna Magdalena also had a hand in composing the aria from the Goldberg Variations, and said it was highly likely that she composed the first prelude of the Well-tempered Klavier Book I.
Stephen Rose, a lecturer in music at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: "It is plausible that she corrected, refined and revised many of his compositions, although there is not enough evidence to show that she single-handedly composed the Cello Suites."
When J.S. Bach died in 1750, J.S. Bach left no will and his modest estate was evenly split between Anna Magdalena Bach and the nine surviving children from both marriages. If the subsequent neglect of J.S. Bach's memory reflects scant credit on the Leipzig establishment, then the treatment of his widow reflects none at all.
In 1751, church officials evicted Anna from the Kantor's quarters she had called home for nearly 30 years, and she spent the rest of her life scraping by on charity. Why her able-bodied children did nothing to alleviate her poverty is not known. She died at 58 in an almshouse and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave at Leipzig's Johanniskirche (St. John's Church), where her husband had been laid to rest a decade before.
J.S. Bach's forgotten grave was discovered during renovation of the church in 1894, but Anna Magdalena's was not and is now irretrievably lost - the Johanniskirche was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. In the 1960's historians began to re-examine the role Anna played in J.S. Bach's life and art, and today there are revisionists who claim she was the actual composer of some of his late music.