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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: 18 September 2021

Fragment and Fantasy: Anna Magdalena Bach at the Organ

Fragment and Fantasy: Anna Magdalena Bach at the Organ

(p.119) Chapter Four Fragment and Fantasy: Anna Magdalena Bach at the Organ
Sex, Death, and Minuets

David Yearsley

University of Chicago Press

All the Bach males were trained as organists and almost all pursued the craft professionally. The only record of female involvement in organ playing in the family is the fragmentary Fantasia pro Organo (BWV 572) written into Anna Magdalena Bach's Notebook of 1722 by her new husband, Johann Sebastian, the greatest organist of his time. What little attention commentators have paid to these unfinished twelve bars has seen them as documenting Johann Sebastian's desire to have his young wife understand something of his instrument. Yet closer scrutiny of the broader historical record reveals that girls and women did play the organ in Lutheran Germany, some because they were charged with helping their organist fathers discharge their duties, others of a higher social station pursuing organ performance as a form of elevated refinement. The appearance of this lively fantasia fragment in the Notebook of 1722 could suggest two modes of engagement with the organ on the part of the Bach women: BWV 573 might offer a trace of quasi-professional training or it might document the social aspirations of the Bach family away from musical labor and towards musical leisure.

Keywords:   female organists, female church musicians, handwriting, learned women, social aspiration, musical labor, musical leisure, organ pedalling, women's dictionaries, pedal clavichord

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