Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Inventions Nos. 1-15, BWV 772 - 786
Sinfonias Nos. 1-15, BWV 787 - 801
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685, oneof a large family of musicians. After the death of his parents he moved, at theage of ten, to Ohrdruf, with his 13-year-old brother Johann Jacob, to live withthe eldest of their brothers, Johann Christoph, an organist. Bach's own earlycareer was as an organist, from 1708 until 1717 in the service of Duke WilhelmErnst, elder of the two brothers ruling the duchy of Weimar. From 1717 until1723 he was Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, withdifferent musical responsibilities, largely secular. Thereafter he served asThomas-Kantor in Leipzig, with responsibility for music in the principal citychurches, continuing there until his death in 1750. This final period of hislife involved him in activity with the Collegium musicum of the University, forwhich he arranged earlier instrumental concertos for solo harpsichord orharpsichords, and in the assembly and publication of a number of hiscompositions, in particular a series of four volumes of keyboard music, theClavierubung.
Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias werewritten about the year 1723 in Cothen, included in a collection of piecesdesigned for the education of his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, lateremployed as an organist in Dresden and then in Halle, before his final years inBerlin. It has been suggested that Bach derived the title Invention, forthe fifteen two-part compositions, BWV 772 - BWV 786, from the work ofthe Italian priest and composer Bonporti, a set of Invenzioni for violinand keyboard published in 1712 and known to Bach. The term, however, was notnew to Bonporti, as it occurs from the sixteenth century onwards to describe avariety of instrumental compositions. Originally Bach used the title Praeambulum
for the first set of pieces and Fantasia for the three-part Sinfonias,BWV 787-801. While in The Well-Tempered Clavier, the 48 Preludesand Fugues, Bach used all possible keys, major and minor, in the Inventions
and Sinfonias he avoids keys with more than four sharps or flats.
The first four Inventions, in C major, C minor, Dmajor and D minor, and Invention No.8 in F major, open with a directimitation of the upper part an octave lower, the opening subject providing thebasis of the Invention. Inventions Nos. 5, 6 and 7 have bothparts starting simultaneously. No.5, in E flat major, is based on theopening figure in the upper part, and No.6, in E major, each halfrepeated, makes use of syncopation between upper and lower parts, the secondsection opening with a transposed inversion of the opening. In No.7, inE minor, the lower part continues in imitation of the upper, while in No.9,in F minor both parts start at the same time, the lower later imitating the upper.
The compound rhythm subject of No.10, in G major, has imitation at aninterval of a compound fourth in the lower part. The remaining Inventions haveboth parts starting simultaneously, with No.14, in B flat major,offering rhythms of greater elaboration, at times in consonant intervalsbetween upper and lower parts, moving together.
The fifteen Sinfonias, BWV 787- BWV 801, using thesame keys as the two-part Inventions, and often known themselves as Three-PartInventions, are fugal in texture, although in each of them two parts starttogether, to be followed by the third voice.
Eleven of the Sinfonias open in otherwise standardfugal form, an accompanied subject is followed by an answer in another part anda later entry of the subject in a third part. Sinfonia No.2, in C minor,and No.15 in B minor have only two entries, and these at the octave,while No.5, in E flat major, uses two upper parts in imitativecounterpoint over a repeated bass figure. The Sinfonias, in spite oftheir apparent clarity of texture and simplicity, conceal technicalcontrapuntal devices often of some considerable ingenuity.
@ 1995 Keith Anderson
Performance of the Music of J. S.
Bach on the Piano
This recording was produced tocommunicate, stimulate and encourage the interpretation of Bach's keyboardworks on the modern piano. It is based upon recognized fundamental elements ofperformance practices of early music.
The interpretation of Bach's music onthe modern piano remains a confusing issue in light of the fact that theinstrument basically evolved with the romantic period. It is, therefore, nosurprise that attempts frequently result in romantic readings, a directionwhich can be most musical at times but may be stylistically confusing if notactually foreign to the score. Musical preferences also favour a clean,mathematical and metronomic realisation -a safe but somewhat noncommittalsolution to the communication of Bach's artistry.
On a different level, then, is theenjoyment of incorporating the often neglected elements of rhetoric, inegalite,the structures of the strong and weak within a given pulse and metre, and thefingering techniques of the time (shifting and sequential fingerings ratherthan consecutive scale fingerings). These components, which are stronglyinterrelated and directly influence choices of articulation and flexibility ofrhythm, often answer automatically questions of style, especially when they areunderstood as basic elements of the musical language.
The complex subject of ornamentation,both Bach's written out ornaments and the liberty given in repeats ofmovements, is most challenging and - rewarding when there is the concept offreedom of execution and the manner is improvisational and imaginative.
Dynamic shadings within figurations,motivic material, and entire musical lines in any part of the polyphonicstructure become particularly exciting and meaningful upon melodic (andharmonic) analysis. Important pitches, in the greater sense of the direction,can be pointed out by dynamic control and nuance and by the effect ofrhythmic flexibility within the structure of the melodic line. The degree ofsuch bending in time is most personal and strongly communicative when appliedwith balance and refinement of taste.
The process of merging the "old" and the"new" in Bach's keyboard works will be an ongoing pursuit for me asit will most likely be for pianists with an interest in early music who strivefor reorganization of the ear before fingers are expected to reflect such innerfeelings. Since such musical detail is best demonstrated by the music itself,it is my hope that this recording will be a helpful example in this process andthat listeners and students alike will find it an enjoyable means ofcommunication.