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András Schiff Teaches Bach

András Schiff works with a student on Bach’s Second Partita for Keyboard, one of a set of six and the last group of keyboard suites Bach composed. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Bach invention number 10  (Read 15884 times)
LVB op.57
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« on: June 29, 2005, 05:18:28 PM »

I just started  Bach's invention number 10, which is one of my favorites, and I have an important question on interpretation here. I know the general rule in play 8th notes in Bach is to seperate them, while playing 16th notes legato, but when I play this piece that way, it kind of sounds mechanical. Another method I experimented with is connecting each set of triplets as one phrase. Any thoughts?
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piano sheet music of Invention
gorbee natcase
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2005, 07:24:34 PM »

Learn it so you no longer have to think about the notes and then work on the interp
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Mayla
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2005, 08:32:13 PM »

.
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2005, 09:04:40 PM »

With Bach I tend to learn the piece several different ways and then play the different ways to several "knowledgable" people. Then I see what they think. The results so far have been good.
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llamaman
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2005, 09:21:33 PM »

Play it how you think it should be played.
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2005, 11:35:56 PM »

 I would listen to recordings and use creativity, because, on interpretation, it is pretty much your choice, you play it way you think is more suitable for you and the way that you think sounds the best.
 Good practice  Wink

Mario Barbosa
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bernhard
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« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2005, 08:32:20 AM »

This invention is a dance (a giga in fact), and as such is lively and bouncy.  Youcan hear similar gigues on the French Suites in Eb and G.

You want to play it fast, but not so fast that you miss the accents (as discussed below) – somewhere around dotted crochet = 120. So I suggest playing it staccato throughout (or detached). (By the way, this rule of playing 8th notes detached and 16th notes legato is just superstition. The decision to play whatever legato and staccato must be taken on musical grounds, not because of some “rule”).

Now if you look at the score of this invention, the first thing striking about it is its uniformity of both rhythm and melody. The whole piece is basically made up of quavers in both hands. Compared to the rhythmic variety of the other inventions this one seems very dull and mechanical. Then most of it is made of arpeggios. Since Bach is one of the most inventive composers in the Baroque, and since this is a pedagogical piece (teaching one not only technique but above all composition and counterpoint), can it possibly be another level to this piece?

You bet. This piece is all about accents. Bach kept all other musical components as simple as possible so that he could then instruct us on the art of using accents.

I am going to show you the first six bars, and let you have fun figuring out the rest of the piece.

First the time signature is 9/8, which is compound time, and therefore follows a 3/4 pattern, with each beat corresponding to a dotted crochet. In the score below, I have marked each beat with the symbol “>”. So you have a metric pattern of accents. This is the first level. Every first note of the groups of three quavers is accented (the first one in each bar being a strong beat, and the other two weak beats).

Now here is what Bach does (and clearly had enormous fun doing it).

Because a note in the high register is naturally accented, Bach places the high notes at odds with the metric accent. I have marked the high notes in each group of three quavers by making the head of the note white:



Now, start by having a look at bar 3. There you can see that in both right and left hand the melodic accent (white notes) coincides with the metric accent (>)

Now have a look at bar 1 (I have enclosed in a rectangle the pair of descending arpeggios because – if you do a motif analysis of this piece – they are part of three out of the four motifs and because out of all the possibilities, Bach uses only three in this piece – numbered 1, 2 and 3). As you can see the melodic accents are now displaced in relation to the metric accent. This will actually be the case in all bars in the picture, except for bar 3.

Now, if you have a look at bar 2, you can see that in the right hand the melodic and metric accents coincide, but in the left hand, the melodic accent is displaced by two semiquavers. This is accent counterpoint – the major feature in this invention. (Showing you that counterpoint needs not be melodic, but can also be harmonic and rhythmic).

You can see this accent counterpoint in most of the bars (look at the figures enclosed in the rectangles), but the best way to hear it is to isolate the melodic accented notes (that is the highest notes in each group of three quavers).



The phrasing in this invention (as pretty much everything else) will be completely dependent on understanding the accent patterns (both metric and melodic) and how they interact.

Interestingly enough you need not worry about physically stressing this or that note. If you just play the piece as written, all this will come out naturally. So this is not a matter of physical work, but rather mental. You must hear the accent pattern in your mind. If you do that the fingers will naturally comply. Unfortunately no one can hear in one’s mind what one has not heard physically beforehand. So this is how you go about it.

1.   Create a score where only the melodically accented notes are present. (As I have done for the first six bars above).

2.   Now play this score (if you used a good notation software to create the score  is even better, since you can then just listen to the midi associated with it) as many times as needed to completely memorise what it sounds like.

3.   Now listen to as many CDs of this piece as you can, and see in how many of the interpretations you can actually hear the pattern above. This will immediately tell you who are the good Bach interpreters and the ones who do not have a clue. (And your idea of making each three quavers a phrase is also not good, since it will completely destroy the accent pattern).

4.   Now start working on the piece using the accent pattern as your guide towards tempo, phrasing, agogics, dynamics and other interpretative decisions. Anything that further the accent pattern is correct, anything that destroys it is incorrect.

5.   Finally, on the matter of ornamentation, you can ignore all the mordents if you wish (they were not originally there – they were added by Bach later, much later), but not the trills.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



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jazzyprof
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« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2005, 03:01:51 PM »

Wow, Bernhard, what a fantastic analysis!  This is such a great guide that I am going to get to work on this invention right away!
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2008, 01:08:06 PM »

Excellent! That sheds quite a *high light through this Invention crystalline counterpoint web. I will practice immediately and write down the metric. Thanku! °°Now, I wonder a bit about Baroque trills. Playing the Inventio10, I started trilling with the written note first, then shake with upper. Later on I realized I should start with the upper note instead... Which trill way is correct? And indeed is there some option to choose from as far as trills are concerned in Bach's works?
All the best!
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« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2017, 11:03:48 AM »

Hi all,

Resurrecting an ancient thread here.


as I am trying to get a better understanding of this invention I am applying Bernhard's suggestions. As the images are not available anymore I've done the first 6 bars in Noteflight


Can anyone confirm that what I am doing is right?

https://www.noteflight.com/scores/view/a2a83c83066d0ff920fa6254d87e940298577b22



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j_tour
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« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2017, 12:45:01 AM »

I don't know for sure, but that's the way I'm understanding it.

Thanks for bringing this technique back to the living:  it's a new one to me.  I'd imagine after doing a few practice scores, you could get pretty good at reading off this kind of rhythmic skeleton off the full score, and incorporate it into a bag of tricks for learning, similar to ... I don't know, playing arpeggiated chords as vertical blocks when you want to focus on some other aspect or voice.

Also, it seems to me this would be useful for all kinds of pieces, or fragments.  Something like the Gigue from Schoenberg's Op. 25, where at least people like me can easily get confused about the rhythm's essential structure.
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