Did J.S Bach, the eminent composer of such celestial works as the Goldberg Variations, the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Brandenberg concertos, and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor have an alter ego?
It appears that the clever Kapellmeister, director of heavenly choirs, and the composer of music divine, may have had a mischievous streak.
As choir director in Arnsadt, the 20-year old Bach got into fisticuffs with a student named Johann Geyersbach.
The brawl originated thusly: walking softly and carrying a big stick, Geyersbach approached Bach as he crossed the marketplace with his cousin. Geyersbach accused Bach of having insulted his bassoon skill, 18th century lexicon for “Come at Me Bro.” Bach denied having insulted him. Geyersbach retorted, “Whoever insults my bassoon, insults me.”
He then called Bach a “dirty dog” and Bach drew his sword. The two began wrestling until other students tore them apart.
The nanny goat case was taken to court. The court found Bach guilty of having called Geyersbach “Zippelfagottist,” a nanny goat bassoonist. They told him that a man must learn to accept the less talented.
Did Bach take the court’s advice to heart? A few years later he tore of his wig and hurled it at a musician, telling him he should have gone into cobble making.
Overall, Bach did a good job of hiding his Hyde. Where there is smoke, there is fire. With the embers of genius burning in his brain, it is only natural that Bach had to let off a little steam. If the cost of brilliant intensity is a tossed wig and a nanny-goat epithet, they are minor ducats compared to eternal treasures.
To listen to one of those timeless treasures, Prelude #15 in G from the Well-Tempered Clavier Book II played by Rosalyn Tureck, click on