In 2011, no less esteemed a firm than HarperCollins published Written by Mrs. Bach, a book that presented the view of Martin Jarvis, a professor at Australia’s Charles Darwin University. Mr. Jarvis maintained that Anna Magdalena Bach, not Johann Sebastian Bach, who composed the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. His bizarre conjecture has since been produced as a documentary film!
Needless to say, any number of experts have raised serious questions about both the research and the conclusions reached. Indeed, cellist Steven Isserlis was outspoken: “Anna Magdalena Bach did not write the Bach suites, any more than Anne Hathaway wrote Shakespeare’s plays, George Henry Lewes wrote George Eliot’s novels, or Freddie Starr ate his friend’s hamster.” The Isserlis piece appears in The Guardian (29 Oct. 2014): http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/oct/29/why-bach-wife-cannot-take-credit-for-his-cello-masterwork.
What bothers me is that such an apparently ill-founded hypothesis has made its way into print and subsequently to film. How? Are today’s publishers so desperately thirsty for what might once have been deemed a National Enquirer scoop that they must jump over such a wild hypothesis?