A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Giovannini

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GIOVANNINI, a name interesting in musical history solely on account of the part it plays in the discussion concerning the song 'Willst du dein Herz mir schenken,' which for many years was attributed to Sebastian Bach. The song appears in the larger of the two music books of Anna Magdalena Bach, written on two leaves now loose, but evidently once belonging to the volume, in which they occur after p. 111. The outer page of the first leaf bears the title 'Aria di Govannini' (sic) the song itself appearing on the two interior pages. As a copy of the song 'Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen' is written on the outer page of the second leaf, it has been considered that the contents of these pages were contemporary with the rest of the book, and Zelter, into whose hands the volume came from C. P. E. Bach, hazarded the conjecture that the song was by Bach himself, that the Italian name was the equivalent of the composer's first name, and that the copy was made partly by Anna Magdalena herself. Zelter's theory became fixed in the public mind as a certainty, since a play by Ernst Leistner and a novel by A. E. Brachvogel made the composition of the song an incident in the love-story of Bach; and even at the present day the question can hardly be taken as settled. Forkel refused from the first to believe in its authenticity, judging it from internal evidence, but Dr. W. Rust has adopted Zelter's theory, and has even gone so far as to assert that some of the bass notes are in the composer's autograph. (Bach-Gesellschaft, vol. xx. 1. p. 15.) More recently, however, strong evidence has been brought which may be taken as proving the song to be the composition of an actual Giovannini, whose name appears in Gerber's Lexicon as that of an Italian violinist and composer who lived chiefly in Berlin from 1740 until his death in 1782. In the same writer's 'Neues Lexicon' (1812–1814) the additional information is given that about 1745 he went to London, and produced, under the pseudonym of the Count of St. Germaine, a pasticcio entitled 'L'Incostanza delusa' in which the airs were much admired. He also published some violin solos under the same name. Dr. Spitta, in his excellent résumé of the question (J. S. Bach, vol. iii. p. 661, etc., English edition), tells us further that songs by Giovannini are included in Graefe's Odensammlung (1741 and 1743) two of which were since published in Lindner's 'Geschichte des deutschen Liedes,' etc. (1871). These are said to show a strong resemblance to the style of 'Willst du dein Herz mir schenken,' and there seems no longer any reasonable doubt that this Giovannini is the real composer. The external evidence quite admits the possibility of this, as the book may very probably have come into other hands after the death of Anna Magdalena Bach, and so competent a critic as Dr. Spitta sees no reason to endorse Dr. Bust's opinion that some of the notes are in Bach's handwriting; while from internal evidence it might well be thought that no musician who had even a slight acquaintance with Bach's work could ever suspect it to be by him.

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