J.S. Bach and blurred tonality (learning the three-part Invention or Sinfonia in F minor, BWV 795)

The Sinfonia in F minor is a tour de force work of art, perhaps evocative of the composer’s Musical Offering in its strikingly atonal sections. Yet there are definitive cadences in Major and minor keys that occur at the terminus of tonally ambiguous tunnels.

Bach wrote a preface to the two and THREE Part Inventions (as per Elaine Comparone, Harpsichordist and Baroque scholar), *”where he beautifully expresses his purpose to develop the art of CANTABILE playing in 2 and 3 voices” (loosely translated) “on keyboard instruments.”

Quote, Johann Sebastian Bach 1723

“Honest method by which the amateurs of the keyboard—especially, however,
those desirous of learning—are shown a clear way not only
(1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress,
(2) to handle three obbligato parts correctly and well; and along
with this not only to obtain good inventions (ideas) but to develop the same well;
above all, however, to achieve cantabile style in playing and at the same time
acquire a strong foretaste of composition.”

***

The way to approach a composition of this magnitude is to parcel out three voices, and separately track them from beginning to end. This can be tricky, especially where they converge, or are divided between the hands. At one point, the soprano and alto are so closely placed on the printed page, that it takes a keen eye, not to mention ear, to separate them within the texture.

Until the player is thoroughly versed in the alto, bass, and soprano lines to the extent that he can sing each, as if learning his part in a choir, should he begin to layer the voices. The process presumes that singing has been translated into playing each line, beautifully phrased, with a sensible fingering attached. (knowledge of the Subject, its content, articulation and phrasing is pivotal to the learning paradigm combined with an awareness of streamed half-step movement that gives the composition an eerie effect–along with its embedded tritones)

In my instructional video, I take the stepwise journey that begins with a breakdown of voices, and I conclude with a sample playing of three simultaneously layered lines.

There are no learning shortcuts. Laying down a solid foundation is the best route to enjoying a complex composition such as this one.

Play through at Largo Tempo:

Sinfonia in f minor bwv795 page 1

Sinfonia in f minor page 2

Sinfonia in f minor p. 3

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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