Melbourne, October 6 : An associate professor from Charles Darwin University in Australia has come up with a provocative theory that Johann Sebastian Bach's wife, Anna Magdalena, wrote some of the works attributed to the great music composer.
"The scientific evidence says the way we understand the relationship between Johann Sebastian Bach and Anna Magdelena is not correct," ABC Online quoted Martin Jarvis, who is set to present his research at the International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences in Melbourne next week, as saying.
He said that he did not think that it was right to portray Anna as a simple woman who was only good for having babies and accurately copying Bach's manuscripts.
"My conclusions may not be wholly accurate. But the way in which tradition has put Anna Magdalena into this pathetic role ... is rubbish," he said.
Jarvis, artistic director of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra, insisted that ever since his student days at the Royal Academy of Music in London in the 1970s, he had thought the Bach Cello suites did not sound like Bach.
"Certainly in the first suite, the movements are short and very simple, in comparison with the first movement of the violin works. And I couldn't understand why," he said.
He also said that he had studied a note written on the cover of the cello suites manuscript saying "Ecrite par Madame Bachen Son Epouse", meaning "Written by Mrs Bach his Wife", which had always been interpreted as "copied" by Anna Magdalena.
The researcher said that deconstructing the cell suites, he found 18 musical reasons they did not fit in with Bach's musical output.
Jarvis said that he analysed handwriting in as many manuscripts as he could with the help of forensics laboratory, and compared the manuscripts attributed to Bach to a known sample of Anna Magdalena's own handwriting.
His efforts helped him identify Anna's input in a number of manuscripts.
According to him, piecing together the musical analysis, handwriting analysis and known facts about the movements of Bach and Anna Magdalena provides a more accurate representation of Anna's role in her husband's life and work.
Jarvis points out that Anna was a daughter of a trumpet-player friend of Bach's, and he believes that she met her husband-to-be when she was studying composition with him at the age of 12, in Weimar in 1713.
He believes Anna joined the Bach household in 1720, the year Bach's first wife mysteriously died.
Jarvis says Anna's handwriting in the notebooks of Bach's eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, suggests she was working as his tutor. He also claims to have studied notebooks that show signs of Anna evolving as a composer.
The researcher says that one notebook, dated 1725, contains an aria in Anna's handwriting which is is not attributed to any composer. He says that Bach used this aria, which many scholars have said does not sound like Bach, at the beginning and the end of his Goldberg Variations.
"(The aria is) a composition of hers and he has then demonstrated his love for her by using it," says Jarvis.
Though Jarvis has received a fair amount of "hate mail" from those who reject his ideas, he insists that a number of scholars support his view, including a musicologist from Sweden who has used statistics to conclude the cello suites did not fit into Bach's other works.
He has revealed that his next step is to analyse the works that appear to have been written by Anna to see if he can identify a unique style that can then be looked for in other works.
Jarvis has a contract with ABC Books to publish a book on his work later next year.