Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Anna Magdalena: Mother and Musician

During this month of Bach, let’s not forget about Johann Sebastian’s lovely second wife, Anna Magdalena, who served as not only the composer’s helpmate, but as the mother of thirteen of his children and a professional musician. The couple married in 1721 during Bach’s time in Cöthen.

While in Cöthen, Bach did not have duties as a church musician so scholars assume he took advantage of the extra time in his schedule to write secular court music and pedagogical works. The Little Keyboard Books, two of which were given to Anna Magdalena, served as music teaching and recreation books for his family. The first of these books (1722) was a wedding gift and contains the earliest source of his French Suites. The second book (1725) contains famous minuets and other pieces used for teaching purposes.

While Bach certainly contributed to these volumes, the second edition in particular contains many pieces by other composers of the time as well as little works by Anna and the children. It was quite rare during this time for a woman to compose, however Anna added quite a few works to her book up until the 1740s!

Join me next time for an all-Bach playlist just in time for his Birthday! Also, tune into 90.9 WGUC (or online at wguc.org) on Saturday, March 21 at 11:00am to hear Bach’s Goldberg Variations arranged for chamber ensemble.