Bach FAQ 123


The Truth About Anna Magdalena Bach ... The Anna Magdalena Bach Iconography 


The 100 most important Bach FAQ.

Aha, the Anna Magdalena Bach Iconography?! Excuse me, what is an iconography, please? And why is there an Anna Magdalena Bach Iconography? The term explains the research about the images, which come with the stories and subjects of both Johann Sebastian Bach and his second wife, Anna Magdalena Bach ... in our case. Plus, with the story about the "Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach", which is translated wrong most of the time. It has to be the "Little Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach". Because in German it's about a small notebook", which doesn't ( ! ) the translation "Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach" show.

Anna Magdalena Bach. Really? Anna Magdalena Bach? So young? Yes ... the age could fit. However: Who first claimed that this girl was the second wife of the later Thomas Cantor ... we will never find out. Only one thing is sure: She ... is not Anna Magdalena Bach. This portrait even hangs in the Bachhaus in Eisenach, Thuringia. However, there is no ( ! ) tag underneath or next to it claiming that it is her. And with a wink you learn during a guided tour that this is how – at that time – you could imagine ( ! ) the young Anna Magdalena at that time. © Info



Another lady - now even at a harpsichord - could also fit ... age-wise. But again: Sometime before the time of the internet, an author or a publisher simply needed a cute picture of a female musician, and since that time, it is now impossible to imagine the internet without her as Anna Magdalena Bach. Because it is the motive from a movie (... and this picture is not in the public domain yet for a long, long time), I am not allowed to just show it here directly. But with a click on this link you can get to the image very quickly.

At the beginning and with the finding of this booklet (... the cover is on the left ) I thought at first: The title (... and not the book title) of the picture ( ! ) is "The Singing Muse on the Pleiße" ... not necessarily important, but I also thought ... practically no Bach connoisseur of importance speaks out against the fact that the lady at the laptop on the right, more precisely at the portable organ (... that it is not an organ, I learned only much later ... but could have figured it out myself, because there are no pipes to be seen) is Anna Magdalena Bach. In the right half it is the first printed page, in the booklet inside.

No, Anna Magdalena Bach is not on the left and tall, but on the right and small, at the table with the naked gentleman under the table. And yes, right, I clarify: Firstly, it is not her, that is, Anna Magdalena, and accordingly Johann Sebastian Bach is not sitting next to her. And furthermore, maybe it is a harpsichord, a portable one, behind which she is sitting. But even that is not certain. But it is certainly more true than a laptop.

And again they are bigger, the elegant Leipzig folks, obviously in a restaurant with an outdoor terrace. It would have been too nice if some actually scientific evidence had not revealed that this is not the only existing portrait of Anna Magdalena Bach. But ... even for an amateur researcher ... the world ... is not a pony farm.

Yes ... that would actually have been a wonderful fit: the world-famous Thomaskantor Johann Sebastian Bach and the singer plus, since her wedding, Frau Capellmeisterin (... Mrs. band Leader) Anna Magdalena Bach, both making music. Only the guy under the tablecloth would then have disturbed the harmony considerably. Important: Please do not take all my captions too seriously. The text and the knowledge about Anna Magdalena Bach, right after this, further down, is for it – through and through – serious. Without hullabaloo.

She is allowed on this page twice, so to speak: In fact, there is also a video about how the picture of her was created. Just as my cousin Briana Bach-Hertzog painted it for me and for you. It is the today almost only to "hardcore" Bach experts known Esther Meynell, who has certainly written one of the most widely read "biographies" about the Thomas Cantor. Correctly, experts object, it is not a biography, because some details are biographically just not entirely correct. But ... this little booklet introduces so warmly into the life of the two Bachs that the editions went into the hundreds of thousands and the work was printed and distributed by various publishers again and again. Even today, you can find this reading with the most diverse covers and even today this work reads "light and fluffy".

That is what the English edition of this little book looks like. Below are two of more different covers of the German version.

In this illustration it is even twice not ( ! ) the second wife of Johann Sebastian Bach, not Anna Magdalena Bach. That ... you had already guessed yourself. On the left above it is the famous picture "Morning Prayer" or also "House Music" ... at least some publications call it so ... and it is by Toby Edward Rosenthal. On the right it is an almost unknown motif.

But then how do you present a page about Anna Magdalena Bach? Best with a frame fitting to this time period, completely without ( ! ) content. I follow the advice of the most competent connoisseur of the subject and present you: the only picture of Anna Magdalena Bach, which will probably never be contradicted. May it find its way as an "eye-catcher" to all other pictures of the Capellmeisterin from Zeitz, with the Google images.



So there is no picture of Anna Magdalena Bach now? No, today no more ( ! ). Not of Anna Magdalena. And, again explicitly: There is "none more"! Because there was once one. Painted by an artist with the name Cristofori ... but it is lost ... well, maybe it will "reappear" one day. The subject Bach ... is and has always been ... for surprises ... especially good. And all pictures above? Heavily researched and verifiable: Anna Magdalena Bach is not the girl with the blue shirt and the white hood, she is also not the lady at the harpsichord looking into the camera, not the woman sitting on a terrace in front of the Pleiße and with Leipzig in the back (... the picture on the booklet titled "Singing Muse at the Pleiße", in which you can find texts with very simple musical accompaniments) ... and certainly she is not the lady with the dark, short hair ... the modern digital pencil drawing of my cousin for me. In fact, the latter is the Bach author Esther Meynell, who wrote one of the most successful books on Bach. And finally: Correct, also the lady in the middle of the crowd of children and Johann Sebastian at the piano is not Anna Magdalena. So what we know today: We don't know what she looked like. With one click here you can (re)discover all pictures for the keyword "Anna Magdalena Bach" again, and then you will know ... how she did not look ( ! ).

Because there is now no assured picture of Anna Magdalena Bach, her husband "may" on the left then. About the book on the right: I have read it with pleasure, because it is very entertaining! And not only that, it is scientifically founded. Of course, afterwards (... certainly almost ...) you know everything about Anna Magdalena Bach, but you also learn a lot about life back then in Leipzig and how the Thomas Cantor mastered it for 27 years. Important: In contrast to the "Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach", the Gewandhaus* musician and doctor of musicology Eberhard Spree writes about established facts. Meynell's work, on the other hand, is a novel and certainly the most sympathetic, light approach to the composer, but not ( ! ) to his second wife Anna Magdalena Bach. So if you want to find out about Bach's second wife in an entertaining way: The book above on the right is the perfect reading. However, it's in German. * Gewandhaus is a famous concert hall in Leipzig.



The Life of Anna Magdalena Bach


Anna Magdalena Bach was born as Anna Magdalena Wilcke on September 22, 1701. Anna Magdalena's father, Johann Kaspar Wilcke, was already a musician, in fact a court and field trumpeter at the court of the Prince of Saxony-Zeitz. Her brother was also a field trumpeter and violinist. Anna Magdalena received professional vocal training. Exciting: Anna Magdalena was so good that she received a really decent fee on the occasion of a guest performance with her father at the court of Zerbst. Alone in this genealogical branch of the musical family of the "Bache" (... but only in the broadest sense) there were a lot of musicians, respectively female musicians, who are all missing in the "Origin of the Musical Bach Family", if you are for example "hunting for the greatest famous musical family on earth". Both parents of Anna Magdalena Bach, née Wilcke, for their part also came from musical families. Several of Anna Magdalena's sisters married court trumpeters.


In 1721, the later Anna Magdalena Bach was a soprano at the court of Leopold Anhalt-Köthen. She must therefore have received a good musical education. Johann Sebastian Bach also worked at this court from 1717. Since Maria Barbara, his first wife, died in 1720, the two women will most likely never have met. On December 3, 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach married Anna Magdalena, making her Mrs. Capellmeister (... Mrs. Band Leader) Anna Magdalena Bach. For the time after her marriage it is proven that she received the third-highest salary at the court of the prince among the band members after the Kapellmeister (... Band Leader) and the Konzertmeister (... the Concert Master). For over a year, both lived and worked with their children in Köthen, then followed the move to Leipzig in the spring of 1723.


From Johann Sebastian's first marriage, four children lived in the household. Anna Magdalena gave birth to thirteen children, but only six of them survived. However, it was not her job to cook in the kitchen, clean the apartment, do the laundry or supervise the children. There were servants for that. Infants were fed by wet nurses.


Anna Magdalena was also active as a singer in Leipzig. Guest performances by her in Köthen are documented for 1724, 1725 and 1729. For this, it was necessary to practice regularly. There are no written records of further performances, but they must have existed. Otherwise, it is impossible to understand why she kept her voice in shape. In addition, her activities were geared to the requirements of a household in which money was earned through music. This ranged from the trade in music supplies, the rental and sale of musical instruments, and the copying of sheet music to the training of private students, some of whom also lived in the household. Through letters from Johann Sebastian Bach's secretary, his cousin Johann Elias Bach, we know that Anna Magdalena enjoyed flowers.


If you want to know more about Anna Magdalena Bach, stay away from the "Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach": In fact, this is just a delightful, easily digestible read for those seeking a first approach to Johann Sebastian ( ! ) Bach. For all others, however, I would like to refer once again to the book by Dr. Spree, because his reading is factual, excellently researched and at the same time entertaining: on the subject of Bach not a matter of course. Anna Magdalena Bach outlived her husband by about ten years and died in Leipzig on February 27, 1760. Regarding her financial situation, it can be summarized in half a sentence that she was by no means living in great poverty, but was also "not provided for" by the grandiose works of her husband. If GEMA had already existed at that time, she would probably have spent these ten years after Bach's death filthy rich: but she also had to work for her living.


The "Research Project Anna Magdalena Bach Picture on the Internet"


Anna Magdalena Bach. Again to the different pictures from above, because it is important: A lot of wrong information was spread about Anna Magdalena Bach in the last 270 years, but especially since the time of the internet. Here – with me – there is now the truth. So also regarding the pictures about Anna Magdalena: A whole five are spread dozens of times on the internet, but all five definitely do not portray Anna Magdalena Bach, but are just cute illustrations. Here with me, you got them above gladly all summarized again, because they will never go away. From the internet. Because they also "decorate" book titles and internet contributions ... and there neither the authors nor the publishers involved remove them. So, to summarize again: Specifically, it is first the young girl with the blue shirt and the white cloth cap. Then the second, almost more familiar motif: an actress in a modern movie. It is, in contrast to the previous "Anna Magdalena" moreover a photo ... and not a painting: It is Anna Magdalena Bach at a harpsichord. She looks directly at the viewer. Recently, in addition, I myself am responsible for the fact that on the internet you can find the brand new drawing of Esther Meynell (3), which my cousin painted for our project (... so ... oops, my fault that Google presents her with these, your keywords): Esther Meynell, author of "The Little Chronicle ...". Next (4th) Wikipedia presents – at least no longer on their German AMB top page – the image of this couple on a historical work of art, showing a woman – from the viewer's right of a gentleman – sitting at a table. Next to her, it would certainly have been Johann Sebastian Bach who would have enjoyed her music. Until recently I was ( ! ) of the opinion that this is the only picture of Anna Magdalena Bach, which was and is contradicted by (... almost) no side (... I already mentioned that). But this has changed violently in the last weeks: The AMB expert – I call him now this way – says that this can not be, because several facts about this time between 1720 and 1750 point to the opposite. This picture is spread in different enlargements on the internet. Above you could see the complete original, as the booklet, how the title "Singende Muse an der Pleiße" presents it, below a detail and finally are the couple Bach solitary pictured. A last (5.) and a very last motive, which Anna Magdalena Bach also depicts, but of course she did not look like that, is firstly the motive "Hausmusik" (..." Home Music") by Toby E. Rosenthal, who painted it in 1870. In the "Bach world" it is now known that the ladies described above are all together not ( ! ) Mrs. Bach, but on the internet they continue to spread thousands of times anyway. And finally ... now it becomes silly ... I have found another portrait of Anna Magdalena, in fact the alternative title of another publisher who had the "Little Chronicle ..." printed and offered another successful time.


Will even the best and most likeable Anna Magdalena Bach specialist on earth succeed in eliminating Anna Magdalena in her present appearances by virtue of his unique (... and I mean this reverently, seriously and appreciatively) knowledge of the subject matter on which he wrote his doctoral dissertation, at least on the Wiki Commons pages because of its nonsense?


So ... my page about the "truth about the second wife of Johann Sebastian Bach" has become now also a "History about the pictures about Anna Magdalena Bach" and a criticism about the content of the pictures at Wikipedia. And that ... cannot be stopped any more. I know that, because I myself try very hard to spread at least the truth about Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. And to his search term, the "picture with fur and hat" is not so widespread that it cannot be deleted again – sometime – an undertaking that may well take many more years. So the girl with blue cap, the musician at the harpsichord, the woman "in front of laptop" and the lady with the short haircut are not Anna Magdalena Bach. Take another look at how many wrong pictures are spread on dozens of websites.


Next: Some publications – biographers of importance claim this – state that Johann Sebastian Bach only remarried because he wanted to see his household and children from his first marriage taken care of. This would be quite possibly true if Bach had remarried relatively quickly at a time when dying was far more "the order of the day" than it is today. At a time when the household and the care of the children – even with sufficient staff – represented a new challenge for him that he had never known before. This challenge, however, naturally became easier from day to day, because, firstly, the children grew to be more independent with each passing day, and secondly, with each passing week after the death of Maria Barbara Bach, they became more accustomed to life without a wife and without a mother. The urgency to marry again thus decreased dramatically with each passing month. Bach did not marry again until after a full 18 months: this musician, who had a job at the princely court in Köthen. So if there were only three main reasons to marry a second time, and the reason was not to take care of the household and children, then only other reasons could have led to this. He probably decided that Anna Magdalena Bach was a perfect life partner with whom he had fallen in love, who was likable to him or whom he simply liked. And she also knew how to run a household in which money was earned through music, because she had grown up in such a household. She then ran such a household together with her husband.

Johann Sebastian Bach Did Not Leave a Fortune to Anna Magdalena


Bach was not rich, but also not poor ... that's how the most renowned Bach connoisseur expresses it, but ... that's actually true for me as well. And quite probably also for you. But seriously now: Without question Bach certainly had a respectable income. Because he not only received his salary as the Thomas Cantor, but also had all kinds of additional income. This ranged from teaching music to the rental of musical instruments to the amounts that Anna Magdalena earned as an artist and entrepreneur in the field of music. For me personally, however, a reference to the financial situation of the Bachs in Leipzig leads to a quite exciting assessment that also sheds light on the financial situation of Anna Magdalena after Bach's death. In his famous letter to Bach's school friend Erdmann, he states that the cost of living in the metropolis of Leipzig was much higher than expected compared to life in the province of Köthen. If Bach complained about this, it suggests that he certainly did not have to "turn over the Thaler" twice before ordering a second coffee at the coffee house. But Anna Magdalena was not able to live without further income as an entrepreneur in the field of music, quite so carefree and now the most essential ... still in keeping with her status.


All in contrast, by the way, to the financial situation of George Frideric Handel, who lived at the same time and died as a very wealthy man. And Bach was not as famous then as he is today. In addition, there was no GEMA at that time. This means that neither Johann Sebastian Bach nor his wife Anna Magdalena profited from his music being played after his death.


It is a fact that the widow Anna Magdalena Bach received weekly money from the town through the municipal almshouse. However, this in no way indicates poverty in the modern sense. However, she was simply no longer able to live according to her status and was therefore worthy of support. We could therefore speak of a "poverty related to class". Who would like to know more about it, is referred again to the book of the musician with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig and Bach author Dr. Eberhard Spree.

Anna Magdalena Bach vs. Esther Meynell


"The Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" is one of the most successful books about Johann Sebastian Bach. Well, what many Bach connoisseurs say is true: This little book is not quite a serious biography ... but it comes very, very close. It is a novel. And what can you say about a particularly successful book when you have just written another biography about the master yourself? Right, there are some little historical bending in it. Moreover, Anna Magdalena expresses herself in a way that has certainly not been handed down ... but is also not contradicted. The British author Esther Meynell has sold many editions and high volumes. She introduces the life of the star composer in a particularly easy way. Entertaining, sweet, easy going ... that's what made the book so successful before its reprint – which many, many publishers commissioned – was discontinued. Today it is available only used, but is so good that the Publishing House Bach 4 You offers it as one of two Bach biographies, two of round 700 not published by that Publishing House. There was no reasonable painting of Esther Meynell until recently, when my cousin, Briana Bach-Hertzog finally painted one for my Bach on Bach project. And with that, there is a small, further Bach video, what you can experience in only 33 seconds length. Here and now with a click on the play button below.

Yes, one day we will additionally mix the music of Johann Sebastian Bach into this painting event. And ... this is important: The lady above ... is not ( ! ) Anna Magdalena Bach!



Hurray for Wiki ... A Mistake on Google!


How nice, so the German Wikipedia no longer starts with the portrait depicting Anna Magdalena Bach as a young girl with a white cap and a blue robe. That is ... in fact (... we already had that) not Anna Magdalena Bach. Unfortunately, however, exactly this picture is often even in the excerpt of the Google Images section on the first result page, in fact when you google "Anna Magdalena Bach" and there not ( ! ) the picture offer.

This plaque adorns the house where once stood the birth house of Anna Magdalena Bach: in fact the Messerschmiedestraße 22 (... name of the street) in Zeitz (... not in the right picture ... that's just a pretty photo of the center in Zeitz). The picture above left is a rare shot on the internet, and we are happy that the portal "Musikkoffer Sachsen-Anhalt" accompanied us to the request to the photographer, who kindly approved this publication. Because this house is no longer standing – it was demolished in 1888 – above right is an attractive row of houses in Zeitz and not a picture of the house as it stands there today. By the way, Anna Magdalena Wilcke was born on September 22, 1701 (... but the date on the plaque is very close to the actual one ... with a smirk ... and how nice that the plaque exists there at all!) Anna Magdalena was therefore 16 years younger than Johann Sebastian. © Dr. Christine Klein. A heartfelt thank you at this point!

Residents in Zeitz know with this photo where exactly the plaque for Anna Magdalena Bach can be found: In this picture above you hardly discover it, it hangs – on the very left edge of the picture – to the right of the window in which the other side of the street is reflected. By the way, in the very background you can see the tower of the Zeitz Castle. © Dr. E. Spree.

And because the tower of the castle can be seen only very tiny above, you get, as a service so to speak, from me also a picture of the whole castle in full splendor.

A really cool photo that Jens Gerber provided us with for this page. Thank you for it! Is there a person on our planet who has dealt with Anna Magdalena Bach as intensively as few others in recent years? Yup, there is. Above you see him: It is the Gewandhaus musician and author Dr. Eberhard Spree, who even wrote his dissertation, an additional publication, on "his subject". Of course, it is "drier" than his later work published in 2021, but for Anna Magdalena fans who can't get enough ... however ... please do not confuse these two options! So here it goes again to the current ( ! ), younger book from 2021! Please note the copyright of the photographer. © Jens Gerber



An Honor for Anna Magdalena Bach


And there is another tribute to Anna Magdalena Bach and you can find it as one of the Bach highlights in and around the Thomas Church: It is a plaque on the Thomaskirchhof (... Thomas Church Yard) in Leipzig. That makes seven Bach highlights that you can experience there: First, of course, is the New Bach Monument, then Bach's grave in St. Thomas Church. Next, the Bach window in the back near the pipe organ. And when we leave the church – through the side door behind the New Bach Monument – the Old Bach Monument adds up, if you walk just 20 steps towards the street or towards the main entrance of St. Thomas Church. The Bach Archive is on the opposite side of St. Thomas Church, the Bach Shop right by the church, and yes ... the aforementioned tribute to just ... Anna Magdalena Bach. By the way, all monuments to Johann Sebastian Bach can be found here.

The tribute to Anna Magdalena Bach ... © Info

There are seven good reasons for Bach fans to look forward to St. Thomas Church and the Bach highlights around it.

The New Bach Memorial.

The Old Bach Monument.

The Bach window in the nave opposite the side with the Bach grave, left.

The grave of Johann Sebastian Bach near the altar. Anna Magdalena Bach never saw it.

The Clavier-Büchlein, which Johann Sebastian Bach compiled for his Anna Magdalena Bach, better Anna Magdalena Bachin anno 1722. Here you can find more information about it.



Anna Magdalena Bach in the FAZ


Firstly: FAZ is the shortcut for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt General Newspaper, a prestigious publication. Who is now directly interested and who would like to read immediately about the latest research results on the person Anna Magdalena Bach, however in German, is in good hands with the daily newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine". Here it is excitingly shown that Bach's second wife was not "only" responsible for house and family, but was also particularly active as an entrepreneur. Click here for the report. However, attention: It is the article about the dissertation of Doctor Eberhard Spree. To his much more entertainingly readable book, so that no confusion arises, it goes therefore again here.

The Thomas School, to the right of St. Thomas Church: Anna Magdalena Bach lived here for around 27 years with her husband, their many children and also students.

For Bach fans it is once again the familiar image of Toby E. Rosenthal, but ... you guessed it ... also here Anna Magdalena Bach is not shown authentically. But there are two family members – on the right edge of the picture – more than on the cover above. In fact, there they are simply "cut away".



Anna Magdalena Bach With Aryeh Oron


One page deserves a special recommendation for everything regarding the greatest composer on earth, is the website of our friend Aryeh Oron in Israel. Of course, you will find additional information about Anna Magdalena Bach there.


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