The two-part inventions of J.S. Bach: a performing edition based upon the keyboard technique and performance practice of Bach and his circle



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Texas Tech University


The Inventions of J.S. Bach are a set of miniature masterworks for keyboard instruments which form one of the pillars in the training of young keyboard players. The Inventions have been examined from several compositional and theoretical perspectives, and the present study does not focus primarily upon these concerns, but rather upon the keyboard technique and performance practice of Bach and his circle. It is essential that these technical and performance issues be examined, drawn together, and applied to the musical text if an adequate understanding of this repertoire is to be attained.

The present study pulls together information from the primary sources, secondary sources, and from modern research. Differences of opinion between the various sources are noted and evaluated, and the information gleaned from this process is applied in detail to the Inventions. In order to communicate the results of this study as clearly as possible, an appendix contains a musical text upon which the results are explicitly diagrammed. Variant readings are incorporated as needed. Aspects of these pieces which are considered include differences between the two autograph sources, genres of the various pieces. Baroque fingering compared and contrasted with Bach's fingering, questions of articulation, the meaning of Bach's preface in the 1723 edition, and eighteenth-century performance practices which pertain to the performance of these pieces. Although choice of instrument undoubtedly has an impact upon performance decisions, the question of which instrument to choose for the performance of the Inventions is not addressed in detail. Rather, the present study explores alternatives for performance which can be extracted from the relevant sources and applied to these pieces at the discretion of the performer.



Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750. Inventions, harpsichord, Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750 -- Criticism and interpretation, Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750 -- History and criticism, Suites (Harpsichord) -- Analysis, appreciation, Keyboard instrument music -- 18th century, Performance practice (Music) -- 18th century, Harpsichord music -- Interpretation (Phrasing)