Learning a J.S. Bach Invention requires an understanding of right-side-up, upside down, inside out, and other relationships

A recent Skyped piano lesson to London, England, brought home the ins and outs of teaching Bach’s 2-part Invention in C Major, BWV 772. Across a vast ocean, my student and I unraveled the genius of Johann Sebastian by examining his SUBJECT theme, and how he put it (and bits of it) through a series of clever manipulations. (Evelyn Glennie, world class percussionist, asserts that what we don’t SEE in a score, whether it be associated with Bach, Mozart, et al, is what we must NOT ignore)

Yet, having an eyeful of Bach’s two-page composition, can yield a treasure trove of insights that make a throw fate to the wind, inspirational, idealized performance a reality. No one can really wing it, without an adequate cognitive, affective, and physical foundation.

Invention 1 packs so much into so little. That is, the economy of two pages, does not bar the composition’s complexity.

Some words to throw around: Counterpoint, or independent voices interacting; Imitation, self-explanatory; Inversion (playing the subject, or pieces of it, backwards, or inverted) Augmentation: lengthening the subject’s note values, or just a portion of it–likewise, inverting it.

Sequences: the same melodic or bass idea, played up a step, skip, whatever–or down, with a certain symmetry.

Modulations: transitions to different keys.

The above are explored in two videos attached:

SKYPE lesson in progress

Play through in tempo:

Bach invention in C p 1

Bach Invention in C p. 2_NEW

LINK: https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/revisiting-j-s-bachs-invention-1-in-c-bwv-772-video/

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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4 Responses to Learning a J.S. Bach Invention requires an understanding of right-side-up, upside down, inside out, and other relationships

  1. I would be interested in how you teach a student how to put two hands together and what trill practice methods you have found effective. Thanks for all you do 🙂


    • https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/more-on-rolling-through-bach-invention-1-in-c-live-lesson-in-progress-two-parts/


      the student in the latest video.. had already had significant exposure to Bach Invention 1 through the climax, measures 13 and 14.. We were taking it from there on video.
      separate hands, contouring, understanding subject and Bach devices.. practicing ornaments.. first just principle note, then decorated etc.. form, structure, nuance, counterpoint, inversion, augmentation. Baby step learning. I hope the blogs I posted help answer your question.


      • Hi, Thank you for taking the time to answer my inquiries. I really appreciate that very much. PS: I bought your 2 cds from amazon – those are wonderful recordings. (The least I can do to support your endevors; moreover, a delight to listen to). It would be interesting if you were to blog about the production, etc., of those recordings. Also, I hope that you are considering doing more recordings. All of those Bach pieces you have been doing from the 2 books Anna M and WF – there are no easily obtainable recordings of those works played on the piano these days – and what can be found are assuredly not of the same high-quality performances I have heard you do. And, I can certainly tell you that I would buy them if you were to do it. I don’t need to tell you about the limited sound quality of youtube (but certainly better than nothing :). Thanks again for you generosity and hard work,Rick

        Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2013 02:18:04 +0000 To: rickh_78@hotmail.com


  2. Thank you, Rick. You’ve given this day a wonderful beginning! I am considering recording the Little Preludes. A very industrious Skype student has been feeding them to me at brisk pace, and has his own passion vested in learning. So it’s a joyful journey acquiring new insights and epiphanies.. Shirley K


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