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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 23

April 30, 2006 at 5:10 PM

Is it possible that Bach did not write the Six Cello Suites?

The latest news from the UK is that a scholar believes that Bach’s wife, Anna Magdalena, may have been more than his copyist, reports The Telegraph (UK): "A study by an academic who has spent more than 30 years looking at Bach's work claims that Anna Magdalena Bach, traditionally believed to be Bach's musical copyist, actually wrote some of his best-loved works, including his Six Cello Suites... He points to what he regards as the uniquely symmetrical nature of the work, and to the fact that the manuscripts included many corrections and adjustments, suggesting that they were original composing scores."

Scholars are intrigued, but several prominent performers are skeptical. Julian Lloyd Webber insisted that the compositions were "stylistically totally Bach" and that "many composers had appalling handwriting, which meant better copies would naturally have been made, with the originals then discarded".

Steven Isserlis, who is working on a recording of the Suites, said: "We can't say that it is definitely not true, in the same way that we can't prove that Anne Hathaway did not write some of Shakespeare's work, but I don't believe this to be a serious theory."

It’s stories like this that show how wide the gulf between performers and musicologists can be. Of course, the academics are right sometimes. Witness the now-universal acceptance that Purcell’s beloved Trumpet Voluntary was really composed by one Jeremiah Clarke as “The Prince of Denmark’s March.”

But the Cello Suites? Now, that’s bordering on sacrilege for many people.


I received a nice note from Gennady Filimonov, first violinist of the Odeonquartet, telling me that the group is being featured in the Member Spotlight of Chamber Music America website.

“In our case, it has been a fantastic journey in the premiere of Wayne Horvitz's "These Hills of Glory" String Quartet #2 written for String Quartet and Improvisor,” writes Gennady.

Keep watching here for an upcoming interview with Gennady about what it’s like to play with an improviser and other important matters.

Musician News

Rei Hotoda has been named assistant conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the first to hold this title at the WSO in several decades, reports the ASOL. Currently principal conductor of Chicago's contemporary-music ensemble Noamnesia and also a concert pianist, the WSO appointment is her first permanent posting with a symphony orchestra.

Wes Kenney, music director and conductor of Colorado's Fort Collins Symphony since 2003, has signed a contract extending his contract through 2009. Kenney is also music director of Opera Fort Collins and director of orchestras at Colorado State University.

5/9/06 – Violinist Sophia Mak will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major (first movement) with the Bard College Orchestra.

4/26/06 - Choong-Jin Chang has been chosen as the new principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 38 year old Seoul native has been associate principal and is currently acting principal. Current principal Roberto Diaz has been phasing out his orchestra responsibilities as he prepares to become president of the Curtis Institute. Chang, a member of the Johannes Quartet, studied at Curtis with former Philly principal Joseph de Pasquale.

4/23/06 - Midori’s passion for contemporary music was explored in the New York Times: "Now, at 34, Midori has begun commissioning new music in a joint initiative with the violinist Vadim Repin. She has also decided that as a musician and teacher, she has to do more than simply perform contemporary music. She has to persuade everyone, from reluctant arts administrators to confused audience members, that there is a good reason to listen.” The article also notes that Midori teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Southern California. This fall, she will settle full-time in Los Angeles to direct the university's new Midori Center for Community Engagement, a clearinghouse for musical outreach activities, ideas and training.

Orchestra News

4/25/06 – A financial crisis and management turmoil at the Napa Valley Symphony will delay payments to the orchestra's staff and musicians and may jeopardize their future, reports San Francisco Classical Voice. The Executive Director has been let go, the Board President has quit and surviving administrators have raided the previously sacrosanct endowment. Music Director Asher Raboy, who has been with the orchestra for 16 years, becomes interim executive director, while the former boss is said to be contemplating legal action about being dismissed without notice, his severance and vacation pay withheld. Bob Williams, president of Musicians Local 292, told the musicians that "Napa Valley Symphony is not going bankrupt," warning them that their next paycheck may be late.”

4/23/06 – PlaybillArts is reporting that the Boston Symphony is launching a free series of podcasts. “The videos, which range in length from one to five minutes, discuss important works by the two composers, illustrated with still photographs, paintings, images of scores, video, and musical examples. They originated on the orchestra's ambitious web site as part of its three-year-old Online Conservatory project, but are now available through Apple's iTunes music store."

4/23/06 – The South Dakota Symphony will have a composer-in-residence program for the first time during the 2006-07 season, reports the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD). Composer Daniel Kellogg "will be in town during the next three years," the paper writes, adding: "The orchestra performed two of Kellogg's pieces during its past season. Kellogg attended both performances, was part of the rehearsal process and taught several master classes in the region during his last visit. The orchestra is committed to performing two or three of his pieces during each of the upcoming three seasons. Delta David Gier, the orchestra's music director, comments: "It's a good step for us, and it is unusual for an orchestra our size to have a composer in residence.”

From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 1, 2006 at 12:51 PM
It will be interesting to see what other scholars have to say. Anna Magdelena was a talented musician. The Cello Suites, however, do seem to me to be quintessentially Bach in style. In addition, despite the fact that her copy was for many years the only manuscript, there are now at least three others, and the four disagree on much. This suggests the existence of a lost original from which copies/revisions were made by others. Also, the fact that there were six of these, just as there were six pieces for solo violin (definitely written by Bach) and the keyboard pieces come in sets of six (Partitas, English Suites, French Suites, all definitely written by Bach) seems to point to Bach. Unless you have something indisputably written by her to which you can compare the Cello Suites, I would be very reluctant to attribute them to her.
From Scott 68
Posted on May 1, 2006 at 6:21 PM
the cello suites are actually an elaborate code with a hidden message regarding christ and a conspiracy by the vatican to cover up his relationship with mary magdeline

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