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Sex, Death, and MinuetsAnna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks$
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David Yearsley

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226617701

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226617848.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

Music for Weddings and Beddings

Music for Weddings and Beddings

(p.43) Chapter Two Music for Weddings and Beddings
Sex, Death, and Minuets

David Yearsley

University of Chicago Press

The unblemished piety of Anna Magdalena Bach's image, one dominant now for more than a century, might appear to be stained by the ribald wedding poem she copied into her Notebook of 1725 directly after a devout chorale also in her hand. This juxtaposition apparently bothered some German musicologists; indeed the full contents of the poem were often suppressed by them. But these ribald lines spring to life thanks to Anna Magdalena's apparently unapologetic attitude toward sex. Indeed, such bawdy fun featured prominently in Bach family celebrations and in the social gatherings of their German peers, as Johann Sebastian's fragmentary Quodlibet (BWV 524) and contemporary fulminations against such practices confirm. Bach's frequent collaborator Picander (librettist, for example, of the St. Matthew Passion) produced similar off-color nuptial poetry (quodlibets) in large quantities. The erotic power of the female voice and the performing female body is embraced by surviving Bach cantatas of far greater sophistication that could well have been performed by the composer along with his much younger wife, Anna Magdalena. Together they made up one of Germany's leading musical couples. For them, earthiness and godliness, sensuality, and salvation were not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary (pro)creative musical forces.

Keywords:   Quodlibets, Bach family reunions, musical gesture, musical propriety, wedding cantatas, musical erotics, musical couples, moral cantatas, virtuosity, "unequal" marriage

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