bach’s record collection

This morning I was playing softly on my electronic piano (with the harpsichord sound) in order not to disturb Eileen. I decided it would be fun to play from the Anna Magdalene Bach Notebook. I have a dog-eared copy I have had for many years. This collection is so-called because one copy exists in her handwriting.

Anna Magdalena Bach’s copy of the Notebook 1722 only in her handwriting

It was not unusually for musicians to have hand written copies of music they wanted to have around. In fact, these kinds of copies were much more common than music that had been made on a printing press.

Copy made in 1725, handwriting is ascribed to multiple members of the Bach household including C.P.E. Bach

The music in the notebook is not only pieces by J. S. Bach but also other composers including Francois Couperin, C. P. E. Bach, and Georg Bohm. So I think of it as sort of the family record collection.

Everyone in the house was a musician. Anna was a professional singer in the court of Anhalt-C├Âthen where Bach served as court musician. I speculate that he may have hired her. At any rate they became a couple after Bach’s first wife died.

Since I have been studying the life and work of Bach’s son, C.P.E. Bach, I imagine what it would have been like in this musical house.

This morning I played several pieces from the Notebook. Then it occurred to me to compare some of them to the J.S. Bach versions from which I usually play them. I discovered that in the E minor partita there were a differing number of measures in the same piece in the two sources.

When Eileen got up, I told her I had spent time down the rabbit hole this morning. This is sort of how I think about the luxury of being retired. Rabbit holes are now something I can get lost in. This was a perfect example.

When I analyze a piece of music, I usually add measure numbers if they are not printed already. This is how I discovered that these two version differed. Anna’s Notebook version has 105 measures in it. The printed version from the first volume of Bach’s published music (Clavier├╝bung volume I) had 108 measures. As I examined the two side by side, I figured out that at one point Bach had added a two measure group and then just before the end he added another measure. All throughout the two there were many slight differences.

I’m assuming that the family record collection version came first and that Bach changed it slightly (improving it, no doubt in his mind) when he prepared for the printed version.

The next step down the rabbit hole is to speculate why he did so.

On a more mundane note, Eileen and I went out and got our Christmas tree. I used to try to delay the purchase of a tree until very close to Christmas. It seemed weird to encourage church people to wait and celebrate Christmas on the actual date and at the same time at home to join in the cultural consumer insanity of extending Christmas back into the season of Advent and even before to Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Even before retiring I was loosening up on this. After retiring I can understand more clearly what I expect from holidays. I like them and like celebrating them. But this year we didn’t get a tree as early as we have been doing. This is more from laziness I think than intention.

So, we had a bit of a difficulty finding a tree to buy today. But we did find one so we’re set with that. I’m expecting the Elizabeth branch of the Jenkins clan to celebrate with us on Christmas Day. So that will be nice.

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