Bits of Mrs. Bach

for piano
8 mins.

A reworking for piano of five pieces from J.S. Bach’s
Anna Magdalenabuch of 1725

Programme notes

Bits of Mrs. Bach was begun in 2002 and completed in 2005. It was written entirely for fun, and out of a love of Bach’s second Anna Magdalena Notenbüchlein, which was compiled in 1725. None of the five pieces I have selected is thought to be by Bach himself: the G minor Polonaise and the concluding Marche are by his son C.P.E. Bach, while the opening Musette, the D minor Aria (a popular song about pipe-smoking) and the famous Menuet in G are of uncertain authorship.

My reworking of the five pieces is free (if not easy), and light-hearted. It takes full advantage of the modern piano and modern piano technique, and is designed as a flashy recital piece lasting about eight minutes. I have arranged the pieces in a sequence which creates unity of key, the first and last pieces being in D major. The pieces run into one another so as to play almost continuously. To round it off I have added a coda of absurd and virtuosic pianism, culminating in a meditation on the letters BACH which I feel Mrs. Bach’s other half would have rather enjoyed.

Giles Swayne 2009