Issue 8
Monday, 01 October 2018
Charles Darwin University
Professor Martin Jarvis (centre) onstage at BAFTA with film director Alex McCall (left) and composer Sally Beamish
Professor Martin Jarvis (centre) onstage at BAFTA with film director Alex McCall (left) and composer Sally Beamish

Musical mystery revealed at BAFTA

By Andrew Hall

A controversial feature-length documentary based on research by Professor of Music Martin Jarvis was screened recently at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

“Written by Mrs Bach: Broken Silence” investigates whether some of Baroque-period German maestro Johann Sebastian Bach’s most famous works were, in fact, composed by his second wife, Anna Magdalena.

Over the past 30 years some works previously attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach have been re-attributed to other composers, Professor Jarvis said, “barely causing a ripple in the placid waters within the classical music landscape”.

However, when he suggested evidence existed advocating the great composer’s wife as a serious contender for recognition, the reaction of the Bach orthodoxy was swift and fierce, and access to key research materials was denied.

“The vehemence of the reaction to the findings in my research was astonishing,” Professor Jarvis said. “An important theme in the film asks why misogynistic attitudes persist in the 21st Century, when it comes to proposing an alternative to accepted narratives.”

A key contributor to the compelling documentary includes US Professor of Forensic Document Examination Heidi Harralson, who worked to substantiate Professor Jarvis’ research.

Other contributors to the film include world-renowned British female composer Sally Beamish; professional cellist Attilia Kiyoko Cernitori; and the (now) 13-year-old English child prodigy composer, pianist and violinist Alma Elizabeth Deutscher.

“Our film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and I am delighted that that BAFTA has also acknowledged its relevance,” Professor Jarvis said.

“Written by Mrs Bach: Broken Silence” will be available on digital download through iTunes, Amazon, Google and Microsoft on 8 October.