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Bach: Invention No. 1 in C Major

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ID:2
Johann Sebastian Bach - Inventions :
Invention, No. 1
Invention  No. 1  in C Major by Bach piano sheet music
Key: C Major Year: 1723
Level: 5 Period: Baroque
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Urtext (527 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Czerny edition (493 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Autograph manuscript (707 kB)


A study in conversation

The compositional economy of this first invention is astounding. Virtually every note of the whole piece is derived from the very short subject, by means of transposition, inversion (turning the subject upside down) or augmentation (lengthening the note values). The most common version of this invention is the one with semiquavers throughout, but as can be seen in the autograph manuscript, Bach later presented a second version. By adding passing notes to the descending thirds on the second beat, he introduced a triplet motive into the subject.

The two-part inventions are an excellent introduction to contrapuntal music, i.e. music where two or more equally important voices imitate and converse with each other. A subject appears first in one voice and is then echoed in the other voice/voices. Don’t be led to think that Bach’s inventions are only dry exercises in counterpoint. They were composed to develop the player’s cantabile, i. e. a singing style of playing, and are also very useful to develop one’s coordination, variety of touch and articulation. But above all they are masterful miniatures full of charm and feeling, exploring a wide range of musical expressions.



Practice & Performance Tips:
As you learn each invention, try to locate all the subjects, which might appear transposed. Practice the inventions hands separately. Try to memorize each hand first, in order to develop independence and touch control. Strive for an even playing. You may want to practice each voice (or each hand) non-legato first. Double check that your fingers are always relaxed before and after playing each note. Practice slowly!
The   subject in this invention has 8 notes (C-D-E-F-D-E-C-G) while the   countersubject has 4 notes (C-B-C-D). Lift your hand slightly between   the subject and the countersubject. In other words, try to leave some   “air” in between the G and the C and do the same throughout the   invention. The lifting will help the music breathe and add clarity to   the invention.

Learn   the whole invention without the ornaments first. When you are ready for   the ornaments, make them consistent: the first ornament that appears in   this invention is called a trill (m. 1, right hand). The B with the   trill can be realized as C-B-C-B (therefore, start from the upper note).   Measure 5 contains a mordent on C. Play it as C-B-C.

Bach   uses sequences very often. If you consider the first sixteenth-note   (semiquaver)... Sign up for a Gold membership to read the practice tips.

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