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re: ot: bearclaw bach festival
7 jul 2003

>...did you ever recall which bach piece he wrote for his wife? ever
>since you mentioned that, i've wanted to hear it. iirc, he wrote it
>using notes from the letters of her name?

  in the early summer of 1720, johann sebastian bach spent three months
  in the company of his patron, prince leopold of anhalt-koethen, at the
  bohemian spa of karlsbad. on his return to koethen, bach received
  unexpected notice of the death of his wife, maria barbara (1684-1720),
  who had been buried roughly a week earlier on 7 july. 

  the event is recounted in lorenz mizler's musicalische bibliothek
  (leipzig, 1954): "having spent thirteen years in happy marriage with
  this, his first wife, he suffered the severe distress of discovering,
  on his return to coethen from a journey in 1720, that she had passed
  away and been buried, although he had left her in the full bloom of
  health at his departure. the first report that she had fallen ill
  and died only reached him as he entered the house."

  ...the second partita, in d minor (bwv 1004), ends with the ciaccona
  as its final movement and was paired with the second sonata in a minor,
  the so-called "passion sonata" (bwv 1003). both works are based on
  inaudible chorale quotations. the secret subject common to both the
  a-minor sonata and the ciaccona is death and resurrection.

  the death of maria barbara must have given bach the immediate impetus
  to compose this extraordinary movement. bach has engraved her name in
  cryptographic form [how,exactly?-np] at the opening of the ciaccona.
  many compositional devices and extra-musical constructs suggest that
  this "dance" was written as a "tombeau"--an epitaph in music--for
  maria barbara bach, dedicated to her memory. 

  from helga thoene's notes to the hilliard ensemble's "morimur" cd, 
       "a secret language--hidden chorale quotations in j.s. bach's
       'sei solo a violino.'" 


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