I just learned that Minuet in G Major BWV Anh. 114. and Minuet in G minor BWV Anh. 115 – Suzuki Method staples – aren’t by Bach! The composer is Christian Petzold. The songs were included in the 1725 edition of Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, which had sheet music transcribed by Anna Magdalena Bach, J.S. Bach, sons J.C. and C.P.E Bach, and family friends Johann Gottfried Bernhard and Johann Gottfried Heinrich. Most of the songs were by J.S. Bach, but some were by others. The composers were only noted for some songs and the authorship of some are unknown to this day. These two minuets were initially assumed to be by J.S. Bach, but it was later discovered that they are most likely to have been composed by Christian Petzold. He was a highly-respected composer and musician in Dresden and toured Europe in the 1700s, but few of his works are still available.
Here’s a lovely recording of the minuets as performed by Takako Nishizaki.
When I learned of this, my initial reaction was that it must be newly discovered information. Nope. This was confirmed in the 1970s. I learned Anh. 114 circa 1987 and was told it was by Bach. Many of the videos that show up from a Google search of “Minuet of G major” attribute the song to Bach, and they were obviously posted well after the 1970s. For the video embedded in this post, the description of the video lists the composers as Bach and Anonymous; there is no mention of Petzold. The recording was released in 2010 and the video – which appears to be her official NAXOS of America artist account – was posted just a few days ago on January 8, 2016.
If you’re familiar with (or googled) what BMW Anhang means, you’d know that 114 and 115 put the songs in the category of “works of doubtful authenticity“. The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis was established in 1950, so even before it was discovered who really composed these minuets, there was doubt. However, the Suzuki piano books list it as simply “Minuet in G Major” for Anh. 114 and “Minuet in G Minor” for Anh. 115, so I was unaware of the categorization of these songs. Looking at the 2008 editions for Piano Volume 2 and Volume 3, it does list Petzold as the composer for both songs. I had the 1978 edition, which lists Bach as the composer, which is why I believed that for decades. (I called my mom, who saved my sheet music, to look at the book and she confirmed this.) By the time I learned the songs in the 1980s, it was known to have been composed by Petzold, but my piano teacher didn’t tell me, “This says it’s by Bach, but now we know it’s Petzold”. It’s likely she didn’t know. I doubt this made front page news in the US. Even though we have Internet access today, most of us wouldn’t think to look this up if we didn’t know the authorship was in question. Considering that the next Suzuki Piano School edition after 1978 was published in 1995, numerous musicians younger than me would have been taught that it was by Bach. And the 1995 piano edition may have still listed Bach as the composer. According to Suzuki Skeptic, editions of the Suzuki books for various instruments attributed the songs to Bach up until 2007. And since those older editions are still being shared, it’s likely to happen for years to come. There are other books that include these minuets and older editions are likely being used to this day as well.
So next time you hear these songs with a friend, let them know, because many classical fans are unaware.
(Note: Minuet in G Major, BWV 841, which was also in Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, is by J.S. Bach.)