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Piano Lesson: Analyzing/playing Bach Invention in D minor, No. 4, BWV 775 in slow tempo (Videos)

In J.S. Bach’s Two-part Inventions both voices overlap and imitate each other creating counterpoint.

The SUBJECT of no. 4 contains a d-minor Harmonic form scale whose 6th note, B flat does NOT continue in an upward motion to the leading tone, C# or 7th note, but instead, the C# is displaced down to the lower one. (B flat goes down to C#) This is unexpected in the course of scale progressions, so it has an emotional impact bound up in the intrinsic nature of the interval and its fall. (watch phrasing, and roll wrist forward for the ascending scale)

In truth, the descent sounds generically like a Major 6th, but its spelling conforms to a 7-letter spread, making it a 7th.

The second part of the opening subject, is the broken-chord, detached 8th-notes. They should not be too short. (I think press/lift)

Once the content of the Subject is understood, then any elaborations should be noted as occurs starting in measure 5 and on, as well as sequential measures, where a melodic or bass segment may be repeated a step below or above–or for that matter any uniform distance as long as there’s a symmetrical relationship between measures or phrases. (melodic and/or harmonic component–rhythmic as well)

The trills spelled out in the Palmer edition, are not played rapidly. They’re designated as treble 32nds against 16ths in the bass. When the trill is reversed, the Left Hand plays 32nds against 16ths in the Right Hand. (These would be called “measured” trills)

A very poignant juncture is at m. 48, with its DECEPTIVE cadence. An awareness of this surprising emotional shift is needed, so be prepared for an unexpected delay by way of a Bb VI chord.

Above all, carefully shape phrases and be aware of the counterpoint at all times.

Play Through:

8 thoughts on “Piano Lesson: Analyzing/playing Bach Invention in D minor, No. 4, BWV 775 in slow tempo (Videos)”

  1. Hi, Shirley,
    Looking for something like this on Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV. 971: II. Andante. You don’t happen to have an analysis on it , do you? Your Analysis on Invention D minor helps also in playing the Italian Concerto as far as how to play mordant. The greatest challenge on this piece ( Italian concerto) for me, are measures 17, 26, 44 and the 48. For instance, on measure 17th, I play the prefix GFE (321)F(2), I play the GB (24) on left hand at the same time I play the F on the right hand; then the left hand FA (35) at the same time as the thrill on right hand (3232,3232). The last 2 measures that have doppelt cadence or the prefix and thrill, offers a great challenge because of fingering. I am a sixty year old who started learning music on my own and cannot afford a teacher. I have been playing for the last twenty years and am now now trying to learn some of these more challenging pieces. If you can help me overcome these the challenges presented on these measures, I’d be thankful and wiling to pay you. Since there are some different arrangements for this piece, I can email you the arrangement I have which I think is the original. I haven’t put any pedaling yet. as I need to make sure i am playing the whole piece correctly.
    I would love to hear from you.


  2. Wonderful gift!. Thank you. As a guitarist, this a splendid way to understand scale, and root movement. Very challenging. I am trying to place the right “chords” above each measure, as if this was a folk song, to understand the movements better. I will certainly have questions soon…Thank you for your help, Bertrand

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