A few weeks before the birth of my first child, I self-centeredly started compiling some playlists. What music could I share with this new creature? I knew all along that part of my motive was really to accustom him or her to the music I liked, or at least avoid overexposure to music I didn’t like. We managed to avoid most of the baby toys that play music, although I remember a music box mobile on the Pack ’n[’] Play that had an infuriatingly incompetent harmonization of “Rock-a-bye baby.” I used that in class to see if my students could transcribe and critique it. Truly horrible, but at least it was worth something.
A few of my playlists were intended for bedtime and even to leave playing after Gentle Morpheus had sped his airy flight hither. Although all sorts of pieces came to mind, one of the challenges of nineteenth-century repertoire was that many pieces that would have been perfect restful music otherwise had a loud outburst at some point. (That disqualified the slow movement of Beethoven’s 9th, for example, as I feared the fanfares about three quarters of the way through would rouse a snoozing baby. And for a similar reason I had to edit the applause off of the ending of a track of the Oscar Peterson Trio playing “In the wee small hours of the morning.”) Still, there was plenty to choose from. I suspect that my children’s familiarity with Dowland’s solo lute repertoire is probably excessive, and I wonder if in later life a lute recital would put them to sleep. I hope not.
There was a good bit of Bach on the lullaby playlists, which gradually accumulated more and more items over the years. One of the first items to be included was the aria “Schlummert ein” from Bach's cantata “Ich habe genung,” BWV 82. This aria is to me the ideal musical manifestation of solace; listening to it I feel like Bach is gently cradling me in his arms. (Hear a performance of it here.) Of course the text is not about sleep at all, but points instead beyond the grave. And he had stood at the graves of many of his loved ones, and fully half of his children.
Slumber on, you tired eyes,
Close softly and blessedly!
World, I remain no longer here
And take no more part in you
That can serve my soul.
Slumber on, etc.
Here I endure suffering,
But there I shall see
Sweet peace, quiet rest.
Slumber on, etc.
It was in the course of reading totally unrelated to all of this that I stumbled across a reference to a version of this aria found in the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, where it is appears—twice!—in her hand. This detail spurred me to look more at that source—a source that was very different from what I had assumed. Indeed, brought up in piano lessons playing selections from “AMB,” I didn’t realize that there were actually two AMB notebooks—1722 and 1725—and that they are rather different from each other. (As Robert L. Marshall put it, the first book seems to be compiled for AMB, while the second is compiled by AMB.) Although selections from the AMB repertory have been published many times and in many forms, even in the Neue Bach Ausgabe the presentation of these collections is still a bit misleading. Both books are included intact in the fourth volume of NBA Serie V, the series encompassing “Klavier- und Lautenwerke” [“works for keyboard and for lute”] The title for this particular volume (edited by Georg von Dadelsen) is “Die Klavierbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach (1722 und 1725).”
Indeed, Clavier-Büchlein [“little keyboard book”] appears on the title page of the 1722 collection (hereafter AMB1), as it had also for the 1720 collection Bach made for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann (hereafter WFB).
|SOURCE: cropped scan of the title page of the AMB1, from Bach-Digital. (This seems to be AMB's decorative script.)|
There is no title page for the 1725 collection (hereafter AMB2). Might that be significant? (There is no evidence in the structure of gatherings to suggest that such a page is lost.) AMB2 differs markedly from the others, both of which are limited to keyboard music.
For AMB2, Notenbuch (notebook)—the term used in the old BG edition (and in all of the practical editions I have glanced at)—is much more apt than the NBA’s imposition of Klavierbüchlein. First, the contents are more varied, with a substantial number of vocal works in addition to both large and small keyboard works. The 67 leaves remaining in the notebook (with evidence that 8 leaves have at some point been removed) comprise more than fifty items:
1) four multi-movement keyboard works by JSB: early versions of two Partitas (BWV 827 and 830) in the composer’s hand; early on Anna Magdalena copied the first two French Suites (BWV 812 and 813), although the second breaks off in the middle of the third movement.
2) a melange of short keyboard works by various composers (almost invariably without attribution), including nine menuets (the one made [in]famous as “A Lover's Concerto” turns out to be by C. F. Petzold), six polonaises, three marches, the C major prelude from WTC bk. I, the “Aria” theme of the Goldberg Variations (in AMB’s hand, and possibly copied from the now lost autograph of the Variations), a rondeau by F. Couperin (unattributed; and not merely a copy, but with the left-hand figuration adjusted somewhat), a sketched rigoudon apparently by Johann Christian Bach, and an ornamented setting of “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (BWV 691), copied by AMB from WFB, and so much taken over into the Bach organ repertory that it appears also in the NBA volumes of individually transmitted organ chorales (Serie IV Bd. 3). Among these are four pieces now attributed to C.P.E. Bach (including a familiar Marche in D Major, BWV Anh. 122), which appear also in the new C. P. E. Bach: The Complete Works, classified as Juvenilia (in I.8.2). Compiling his own catalog of keyboard works in 1772, C.P.E. remarks “I have suppressed all works before the year 1733, because they were too youthful.” He is too harsh. This is a good tune:
|SOURCE: cropped scan of p. 115 of C.P.E. Bach: The Complete Works, Ser. I Vol. 8.2, Miscellaneous Keyboard Works II, ed. Peter Wollny.|
3) A number of vocal works: probably the most famous of all is the song “Bist du bei mir,” but in addition to the recitative and aria from BWV 82 with which this post began (and to which I will return), the rather frivolous “Aria di G[i]ovannini,” the contemplative smoking song “So oft ich meine Tobackspfeife,” and several spiritual songs and chorales not dissimilar to those of the Schmelli Gesangbuch (1736). (Indeed, one of these—“Dir, dir, Jehova, will ich singen”(BWV 452, but cf. BWV 299)—appears in Schmelli’s collection in a negligibly different form.)
4) Finally there is a nuptial poem in AMB’s hand (“of rather dubious taste” is Marshall's assessment) and two sets of rules regarding figured bass,
Moreover, the accumulation of material in the source itself involved at least eight hands. The bulk of the material appears in the hand of AMB herself (whose notation is memorably described by Spitta as “without a trace of feminine ineptitude” [“ohne eine Spur weiblicher Ungeübtheit”]—the ultimate chauvinist compliment). JSB has a much more limited role (discussed below), and the other six hands include AMB’s sons Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian, as well as her stepson C.P.E. Two of the anonymous scribes (designated by Kobayashi as Anon. L23 and Anon. L24) apparently appear only in this source. I speculate: could these be among JSB’s daughters? Certainly the book seems reserved for the intimates of the family, as the other known hand is that of Bernhard Dietrich Ludewig (in just one item, the tobacco “aria”); Ludewig was a Bach pupil who acted as tutor to the younger children as well, and that familiarity might explain his appearance here.
AMB2 seems to have taken a much longer time than AMB1 or WFB to fill up. Only five blank pages remain, mainly scattered among the last 30 pages. Like Bach’s other manuscript collections, it is evident that whole sections of pages were originally left blank so that additional items could be added later (although in WFB and the Orgelbüchlein the staves were drawn on the all the pages, where in AMB2 they were not). Consequently the sequence of items presented in such a collection is not generally an indication of the order in which they were notated in that source, and AMB’s handwriting evolved enough during the years that it the NBA editor (Georg von Dadelson) was able to conclude which items were late entries in her hand.
In AMB2, J. S. Bach’s contribution is limited: the first 41 pages present two of the partitas (BWV 827 and 830) in his hand, but thereafter his hand appears only a few times. Here he copied out a menuet by “Mons. Böhm.” (Is this his one-time Luneburg teacher Georg Böhm? David Schulenburg mentioned the possibility of one Johann Michael Böhm, who was Telemann’s brother-in-law, but deleted that suggestion in his second edition.) This is often among those pieces young piano students learn.
|SOURCE: scan of AMB2 p. 70 (f. 35v) from Bach-Digital.|
This is one of the few items in AMB2 to bear an attribution, so it has long been known not to be by Bach himself. In many editions (up to the present day) the rest of the contents are tacitly or explicitly attributed to Bach even when this is now known not to be the case. The famous “aria” Bist du bei mir (which appears in Anna Magdalena’s late hand) is not by Bach, but since 1915 has been known to be the work of Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel--a musician clearly held in high regard by JSB, who apparently used an entire cycle of his cantatas in Leipzig in 1735-36, and possibly more. I would be eager to hear more of his work, although it seems that a large portion has been lost.
|SOURCE: scan of AMB2 pp. 75 (f. 38r) and 78 (39v) from Bach-Digital.|
A curious aspect of AMB2—and again differentiating it from both AMB1 and WFB—is the number of works that appear more than once in different versions, generally one right after the other. Sometimes these are transpositions with other slight differences. The chorale “Gib dich zufrieden,” BWV 511 appears again immediately below as BWV 512, transposed down a minor third—and both in JSB's hand. The smoking song (BWV 515) appears first—or at least on the verso side, although that need not be first—in Ludewig's hand and without lyrics; it appears on the facing recto as a collaboration of AMB (melody, transposed up a fourth, and with the first stanza of lyrics) and JSB (slightly different bass line). Without the lyrics one might have assumed this piece was just a menuet; indeed, maybe it was originally, and the lyrics were only inserted after the fact—that the anonymous text existed independently of AMB2 is clear from Telemann’s (earlier?) setting of the same text (TWV 36:142).
Most curious of all, however, is “Schlummert ein.” It appears twice—not in immediate succession, but with intervening pages. Both appearances are the work of AMB, in her younger hand and the transposition for both is consistent with “second version” of the cantata (catalogued in the Bach Compendium as A169b, dating from the early 1730s) The first appearance includes the recitative, which is complete although unfigured. (The first few notes of the bass line bear traces of corrections: evidence of transposition errors?) Following this is the aria, although the ritornelli have been omitted so that only the vocal portions remain; and although AMB provided a staff for a bassline, she left it blank. At some point, however, someone sketched in a bassline in the first three bars:
|SOURCE: cropped scan of AMB2 p. 105 (f. 53v) from Bach-Digital.|
This bassline seems to have been newly composed, as it was not copied or transposed from the cantata itself—or if it was, it was done incompetently. In any case, it does not continue.
Several pages later the aria appears a second time, although this time AMB did not finish the copy. The vocal line breaks off midway through bar 60 (at the end of a page); the unfigured bassline breaks off after 28 bars. It seems likely to me that it was added in later, as it too breaks off at a page-turn: waiting for the ink to dry before turning the page, she was needed elsewhere and never completed the project. (Similarly, I wondered, are the five missing appoggiaturas in her first copy merely a sign of a practical notational issue? That is, might she have used a different pen-nib for the appoggiaturas, so that there was a reason to leave space and move on, coming back to fill them in later? I don’t know the Bach literature well enough to know if this has been explored, nor have I seen it discussed in other eighteenth-century sources.) [On the image on the left, the vertical blemish in the middle of my red circle where the appoggiatura ought to be does not seem to be an erasure—and there is no such blemish in the other four instances.]
|SOURCE: cropped scans of "Schlummert ein" b. 40 in AMB2 p. 108 (f. 55r) [with absent appoggiatura highlighted] and 113 (f. 59v) from Bach-Digital.|
So why is this aria entered twice, neither time complete? Why write it out a second time rather than finish the first? And how useful would they be without the bass? (It doesn’t really matter that it isn’t figured, as the harmonies are intuitive. I had no problem playing a passable version at sight—at least until the bass ran out.) Was the bass not needed here because it could be read off of a separate part? (It might be needed in the recitative to help keep the singer and continuo together, but less essential in the aria with its metrical predictablity.) Was the bassline added to the first three bars of the first copy a pedagogical exercise for one of the children? And does the presence of the aria here indicate a favorite of AMB’s (who never got to sing it in church), or of one of the trebles of the family? It raises many more questions than it answers, even if it is a fascinating glimpse into domestic music-making chez Bach. For nineteenth-century commentators, this glimpse seems to have been voyeuristic, and their writings tend to emphasize the pious contents and downplay the vulgar.
But taking it altogether, this family album is a sort of playlist—not exactly the sort I was compiling for my own family, but in its patchwork assembly still more akin to a playlist than any other of JSB’s collections. Indeed, AMB2 really isn’t one of Bach’s collections: his was the primary hand in the compiling of WFB and AMB1, but not this one. The overlap between these collections suggests some particular favorites. Although no one work appears in all three, a number of pieces appear in two of the books—in each case in different hands:
WFB and AMB1: BWV 841 (a menuet—possibly an early work of Wilhelm Friedemann?)Did other Bach family collections exist that have since been lost? I wonder what further oddities and intimacies they might have contained. Not that it is any of our business....
WFB and AMB2: BWV 691 (an ornamented chorale); and BWV 846 (the first prelude of WTC1)
AMB1 and AMB2: BWV 812 and 813 (“French” Suites nos. 1 and 2, albeit incomplete)