This is the 24th measure of Bach's Minuet in G major BWV Anh 116. What does the parenthesis mean? In the previous measure the D has a #, but it shouldn't carry over. Re this piece, I have seen 3 versions in this measure: #D, ♮D, and (#)D. Does the parenthesis here mean it's optional? (one version marked as "urtext" has the natural symbol ♮)

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    Given the 3 versions you've seen, it probably means that it's unknown whether the sharp was originally written by Bach or not. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 16:37
  • One of the versions was noted as "urtext" and has the natural symbol. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 16:40
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    In that case, it might mean that the natural is thought to be a mistake by Bach, though I find that unlikely. Either way, the implication here is that it is up to the performer whether or not to play the sharp. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 16:44
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    @ThisIsAQuestion - I've seen notes and accidentals in parentheses in Fanny Mendelssohn works indicating that the editor believes that Fanny made questionable choices there.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 10:42

2 Answers 2


I have a Verlag urtext edition with D♯ in m. 23 and D♮ in m. 24 both are without parenthesis. (The natural is actually notated, even though it isn't necessary after the barline.) It has the comment in German da in A kein ♮, fraglich ob d2 oder dis2 and Google translates that to there is no ♮ in [Notenbuchlein fur Anna Magdalena Bach], questionable whether d2 or d♯2.

After a play through I think the accidentals and comment are clear.

The starting key is G major and do the D is natural in that key. After the double bar it modulates to E minor where the D takes a sharp to make the leading tone. The part in E minor ends at beat one of m. 24. The next phrase starts with the D♮ and an immediate return to G major. The D is natural to restore it to the key of G.

You should check for comments in the edition with the sharp in parenthesis to understand what it's supposed to mean. Otherwise I would stick to the urtext.

The IMSLP manuscript https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ReverseLookup/475024 has no accidental on the note in question...

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  • Thank you very much, not only answered the question but helps me understand the structure of the music. Just a quick question---I think I get what you mean ,but curious what exactly do the "a", "d2" and "dis2" refer to in your translation "there is no ♮ in a, questionable whether d2 or dis2."? (p.s. I love this beautiful little piece) Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 18:44
  • I got the score by web search. The footnote says the following but I can't find any info about the notation: Mutopia-2001/04/1-77 This music is part of the Mutopia project, mutopiaproject.org It has been typeset and placed in the publicv domain by Allen Garvin. Unrestricted modification and redistribution is permitted and encouraged Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 20:22
  • I did some extra checking and edited the translation. Basically it says unclear whether D or D#, but apparently the editor things D natural, because that is what they put in notation. Makes sense to me. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 20:39
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    A is an abbreviation for the Notebook title and 'is' and 'es' are suffixes for sharp and flat in German. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 20:41

The rules for how long an accidental applied for were different in Bach's time, and not as precise as we have now.

There is therefore some doubt about whether the 'missing' sharp in the following bar would be understood by a contemporary reader, or whether it was an oversight; or indeed whether Bach meant a natural.

Editorial indications in modern publications are shown in a different style from markings in the source, so that the reader knows which is which, and can make their own decisions.

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