Sex, Death, and MinuetsAnna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks

Sex, Death, and MinuetsAnna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks

David Yearsley

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226617701

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


After leaving her parents' home to take up a court post as a professional singer, Anna Magdalena Bach née Wilcke (1701–60) would go on to become, through her marriage to the older Johann Sebastian Bach, a legendary musical wife and mother. After tracing the rise of interest in Anna Magdalena Bach in the late nineteenth century and across the twentieth, the book follows her from her beginnings as a young, flamboyant performer to her end as a bereft and impoverished widow, visiting along the way the places in which she made and heard music: the coffee house, the raucous wedding feast, the church, the courtly music room, and the family home. Wide-ranging reference to social and cultural history illuminates her musical Notebooks' perspectives on marriage and widowhood, her professional and domestic roles, her attitude towards money and fashion, intimacy and sex, and the role of music in confronting the sickness and death of children. What emerges is a humane portrait of a musician who embraced the sensuality of song and the uplift of the keyboard, a sometimes ribald wife and oft-bereaved mother who used her cherished musical Notebooks for piety and play, humor and devotion—for living and for dying.