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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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Fragment and Fantasy: Anna Magdalena Bach at the Organ

Fragment and Fantasy: Anna Magdalena Bach at the Organ

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

David Yearsley

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226617848.003.0004

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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