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Introduction to Bach Two Part Invention

Introduction to Bach Two Part Invention - first of 16 lessons on Bach Invention

“Most of all to achieve a “cantabile” style of playing” - J. S. Bach

Bach wrote about his purposes for writing the two-part and three-part inventions:

Forthright instruction, wherewith lovers of the clavier, especially those desirous of learning, are shown in a clear way not only 1) to learn to play two voices clearly, but also after further progress 2) to deal correctly and well with three obbligato parts, moreover at the same time to obtain not only good ideas, but also to carry them out well, but most of all to achieve a cantabile style of playing, and thereby to acquire a strong foretaste of composition.

Bach wrote 15 two-part inventions and 15 three-part inventions (also known as sinfonias) as training exercises for his 10-year-old son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and his students. The pieces were intended to impart knowledge of basic compositional technique, as well as to serve as teaching material for developing basic playing skills at the keyboard - particularly the “cantabile” style of playing. Today, no one disputes the fact that these masterpieces are among the finest repertoire for every young pianist in the development of good technique.

Playing Bach, however, is never easy. One almost always encounters scores of issues that require one to dig deep into Bach’s mind to gain understanding and insight.

For example, did you know that there is a teaching order that Bach had in mind for helping W. F. Bach to progress at the keyboard? What are some of the most important principles that Bach was trying to teach? Prof. Sheng will explore and introduce the first exercise that Bach wrote for his ten-year-old son. It behooves all pianists to study this exercise to gain familiarity with Baroque fingering.

Join us this year for this exciting journey of learning Bach together! You will be learning a set of foundational principles for playing Bach. You will also get to listen to and compare many different recordings of each invention and beginning repertoire by Bach to consider different interpretations. Our teaching and our students’ learning will be enriched immeasurably when we are thus better enabled to do justice to one of the most important composers ever lived.


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