Inventions and symphonies

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The inventions and symphonies are a collection of 30 polyphonic movements for keyboard instruments (e.g. clavichord or harpsichord ) by Johann Sebastian Bach , consisting of 15 two-part "inventions" ( BWV 772–786) and 15 three-part "symphonies" (BWV 787– 801). Sometimes the term "two- and three-part inventions" is used (Latin inventio = "invention"). The original title is "Auffrichtigeanleitung".

Origin and arrangement

Originally the two-part pieces "Praeambulum" and the three-part "Fantasia" were entitled; they were part of the piano booklet for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach from 1720. In 1723 Bach copied them again in fair copy - in a new arrangement and with the new title, with numerous additional decorations and a few corrections or rhythmic changes. There are also two copies, that of an unknown Bach student, probably around 1723, and a copy by Heinrich Nikolaus Gerber from 1725. Both have a rich ornamentation.

In his fair copy from 1723, Bach arranged the inventions and symphonies in ascending order by key. In contrast to the “ Well-Tempered Clavier ”, there are no pieces in the keys that were not in use at the time .

Character and purpose

The Inventions and symphonies are not just pieces that are played occasionally, but mainly exercises for players and model instructions for composing; also contributions to a philosophy of music . They contain numerous examples of contrapuntal composition.

Bach put the following title in front of the 1723 report as “Instructions for Use”. The italic font corresponds to Bach's German cursive script:

Rhythmic variation of the first invention in the version from 1720
Sincere guidance,
With those who love the clave,
but especially for those eager to learn, a German
Liche species is viewed, not with 2 Sti alone (1) m s
to learn pure play, but also with further pro
also greßen (2) correctly with three obligatory games
and to proceed well, anbey also has good inventory
nes not get alone, but also well selbige
perform, but most of all a cantable
Kind in playing, and besides one
strong Foretaste of Composition to over-
Anno Christi 1723
from Joh: Seb: Bach.
Princely Anhalt-Cöthe-
niche capellmeister

The individual sentences

Inventions (two-part)

Invention 1, C major 4/4 time, BWV 772
The short, half-bar theme already requires the equal use of all fingers; for sequential passages, both halves are used independently of each other. Bach introduces the reversal in the third bar and now uses it on an equal footing with the original figure. In a later step Bach extended the thirds of the theme to triplet passages ; the resulting version represents the final stage of the autograph. According to Georg von Dadelsen , it is to be regarded as an “alternative version to the version in pure sixteenths.
Invention 2, C minor 4/4 time, BWV 773
A strict canon that is continuous over long stretches, two bars apart, with a characteristic counterpoint of sigh motifs . The upper part leads in the first third, then the same movement with swapped parts in G minor follows, and finally the first section is taken up again.
Invention 3, D major 3/8, BWV 774
Three-part shape; the multiple modulating middle section also establishes a variant of the theme with a significantly longer start. A recapitulation with a veiled beginning and interchanged voices, a fallacy leads to the coda.
Invention 4, D minor 3/8, BWV 775
The sentence is similar in its three-part structure to the previous sentence. The thematic material is a scale excerpt in harmonic minor , with the third step between the sixth and seventh degree being obscured by octaving .
The composer Helmut Lachenmann wrote a third part for this invention, which, however, does not follow the hemiolas at the ends of sentences and therefore differs stylistically.
Invention 5, E flat major 4/4 time, BWV 776
A Bourrée- like topic and accompanying, rather uncharacteristic sixteenth drive. The movement begins like a fugue and then brings the topic beginning at all sustainable levels, so that the beginning of the recapitulation is completely imperceptible.
Invention 6, E major 3/8, BWV 777
The movement is the only one in both collections to consist of two repeated sections - like a stylized dance movement. Characteristic is the step of the two hands in rhythmically shifted eighth tone scales ( syncopation ); as a contrast, an upbeat anapaest motif is introduced. The second part begins with exchanged hands in the dominant key. Despite the three-measure, the movement manages without any hemiolus at the end of the sentence.
Invention 7, E minor 4/4 time, BWV 778
The motif that was established at the beginning is gradually developed into long, expressive sixteenth-note chains by lengthening the prelude, and even when the tonic is revived, it is not brought back into its original form at the end, so that the impression of a real recapitulation does not arise.
Invention 8, F major 3/4, BWV 779
A triad broken into eighth notes and, as a counterpoint, a sequential descending scale form the thematic material. The movement begins as a strict canon that soon becomes free; the first third modulates to the dominant; the same material then leads back to the tonic at the end.
Invention 9, F minor 3/4, BWV 780
The theme with its expressive jumps and its counter- subject (counter-theme) are repeated with swapped voices, then they are used for extensive modulations . The harmonious intensity leads to the constant occupation of both hands, in which the three parts are not clearly separated from each other.
Invention 10, G major 9/8, BWV 781
As the greatest possible contrast to the previous invention, what follows is an emphatically undemanding “ pastoral ” harmony; Even the opening motif is only a triad break, and the whole movement consists of eighth notes running continuously without any noticeable contrast. The material is constantly evolving; only the beginning of the middle section and the recapitulation are marked by the literal inclusion of the opening motif.
Invention 11, G minor 4/4 time, BWV 782
A theme that is quite long with two bars appears alternately in both hands and is always accompanied by new counterpoints - Bach manages to use ascending and descending chromatics here with equal ease. The closing bars form a remarkably long, topic-free route.
Invention 12, A major 12/8, BWV 783
A developed fugue that lives from the contrast between the theme, which consists of a repeated note followed by a trill, and its counterpoint of virtuoso triad breaks. The two interludes use a unanimous passage in which hands alternate over short distances.
Invention 13, A minor 4/4 time, BWV 784
The rhythmic structure of the theme is reminiscent of the first invention, but is based on triad breaks. The movement mainly focuses on the harmonic development and adapts the melodic shape of the theme accordingly.
Invention 14, B flat major 4/4 time, BWV 785
The movement creates a wide arc through its long theme, which the bass only takes up after an interlude. The thematic core motif is then used for several modulating, development-like passages up to a conspicuous climax in which both hands are guided in thirds, quite homophonically. Only then does the expected narrowing lead to the end.
Invention 15, B minor 4/4 time, BWV 786
The cycle closes with a developed two-part fugue - at the beginning with a non-thematic supporting bass, then with a solid counterpoint. It contains three real developments, the second of which is in the parallel major key, the third brings the theme only in the basic key and thus brings the cycle to an end with clear harmonic stability.

Symphonies (three-part)

Sinfonia 1, C major 4/4 time, BWV 787
The movement begins like a three-part fugue, another bass entry simulates four-part play. The theme is quickly reversed, but often not precisely imitated, so that after a short time each scale has a thematic effect.
Sinfonia 2, C minor 12/8, BWV 788
A three-note movement in which the theme is imitated by the second voice in the octave canon. After the tonic triad in the top of the theme, there follows a scale section similar to the two-part Invention in D minor. The theme consists of regular eighths. With the entry of the bass, a counter-theme of running sixteenth notes is established. From the middle of the sentence at the latest, the topic head is used sequentially; the theme no longer appears in full in the recapitulation either.
Sinfonia 3, D major 4/4 time, BWV 789
In this three-part fugue, only the first and last development are complete; the second development has only one theme. Splits off the theme head are used for motivic play in the extended interludes.
Sinfonia 4, D minor 4/4 time, BWV 790
The second half of the clearly gallant fugue theme sequences the first half, and this already indicates the further use of the motif at all pitches. From the middle (end of the second development), Bach unobtrusively adds a chromatically descending scale.
Sinfonia 5, E flat major 3/4, BWV 791
The movement clearly falls out of the series: a bass that appears to be “ pizzicato ” in the ostinatian rhythm (that is, the same motif) supports two solo voices imitating each other. Clear allusion to the style of sensitivity . Later generations would clearly describe such a sentence as a character piece.
Sinfonia 6, E major 9/8, BWV 792
The theme of running triplets is not very characteristic, and thematic work is as little in the foreground as counterpoint - more of an intermezzo that emphasizes the cycle character of the work precisely in its simplicity and inconspicuousness, with which the listener can concentrate on the surrounding movements : a composed, sounding pause. Still, it contains a few surprises - some harmonic twists, a small cadenza and unexpected, high-spirited sixteenth-note decorations of the upper part just before the end.
Sinfonia 7, E minor 3/4, BWV 793
The sentence is a very clearly developed fugue; from the second development onwards, a counter-subject - already presented in eighths in the exposition - joins the theme from continuous sixteenth-note chains, which constantly continue and only falter at the recapitulation, which is dramatically emphasized as a result.
Sinfonia 8, F major 4/4 time, BWV 794
From the second development (second quarter of the movement) onwards, this fugue also begins the narrowing that otherwise occurs here. The interludes also draw their motivic material from the theme head.
Sinfonia 9, F minor 4/4 time, BWV 795
The movement is strongly chromatic and is somewhat reminiscent of the F minor Prelude of the Well-Tempered Clavier II (BWV 881). The theme consists of a characteristic sigh motif and will soon be used in reverse. The strong chromaticism of the opposing voices, the large intervals (up to the ninth ) and the far-reaching modulations make the movement appear to be one of the expressive highlights of the cycle.
Sinfonia 10, G major 3/4, BWV 796
In the light-heartedness of its scale runs, this movement clearly appears as an intermezzo after the previous one. The theme catches the eye with its rhythmically advanced initial tone; it is varied several times over the course of the fugato so that it appears only once in its original form after the start of the fugato . The key and the not very ambitious harmonic processes make you think of a pastoral - similar to the invention of the same key.
Sinfonia 11, G minor 3/8, BWV 797
The distinct dance character alternates between a Siciliano and a Furlana and is also emphasized by the initially quite clear eight-bar period. A short motif is constantly imitating through all the voices; The movement is structured by two homophonic passages supported by organ points.
Sinfonia 12, A major 4/4 time, BWV 798
The theme introduced in the fugato consists of two motifs, which in the following are mostly processed independently of one another and are layered on top of each other in the extended intervening parts. Even the coda no longer knows the original theme.
Sinfonia 13, A minor 3/8, BWV 799
The calm Passepied- like movement uses a step-by-step theme, which it often also leads in thirds, and in the course develops two strongly contrasting counter-themes with a funny syncopated character.
Sinfonia 14, B flat major 4/4 time, BWV 800
A fugue that also narrows the subject in the last implementation.
Sinfonia 15, B minor 9/16, BWV 801
The theme is based on repeated notes and ends with a virtuoso chord break. It is introduced in the canon between upper voice and bass and has a fixed counter-subject. Bach uses the first part of the topic for motivic work in the interludes.

Similar two-part works

Bach otherwise wrote only a very few consistently two-part works for keyboard instruments. In his keyboard exercise, part III , in 1739 he published four movements, which he headed “Duet”, and which have a much larger scope than the Inventions and also differ significantly from them in terms of composition - they are characterized by highly developed contrapuntal technique with frequent narrowings and reversals , on the other hand through great harmonic boldness with lots of chromatics . In a very similar form, he added four strict two-part canons to the fourteen contrapuncti of the art of the fugue , which require a virtuoso player.

The Fantasia sur un Rondeau in C minor BWV 918 as well as the opening movement of the Partita, also known as Fantasia , are two purely two-part movements that are reminiscent of an invention and whose continuous counterpoint often coagulates into canonical passages, which are just as quickly abandoned 3 A minor BWV 827 . The E minor fugue BWV 855 from the first volume of the Well-Tempered Clavier is probably the only example of a two-part fugue.

Web links

Commons : Inventions and Symphonies  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Foreword by Karl Heinz Füssl in JS Bach: Inventions and Sinfonias, Ratz / Füssl / Jonas, Wiener Urtext Edition, UT 50042, Schott, 1973, p. 5
  2. Wolfgang Plath : NBA V / 5, critical report, Bärenreiter, Kassel and Leipzig, 1963, p. 70ff.
  3. ^ Martin Geck: Bach - Leben und Werk, Rowohlt 2000, p. 574
  4. Quoted from Christoph Wolff : Miscellanea musico-biographica on Johann Sebastian Bach, in Ulrich Leisinger (Ed.): Bach in Leipzig - Bach and Leipzig, Leipzig contributions to Bach research, conference report, Leipzig, Olms, 2000, p. 446
  5. Christoph Wolff , Johann Sebastian Bach , 2nd edition 2007. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 978-3-596-16739-5 , p. 249
  6. Graphic representation in: Hubert Wißkirchen , Construction and Expression - Bach's Inventio in C , in: Music and Education , Mainz 1986, Issue 10, pp. 888–894 (also on the web )
  7. Johann Sebastian Bach: Inventions and Symphonies , edited by Georg von Dadelsen. Bärenreiter Verlag, Kassel. In it the foreword dated 1971, p. IV.
  8. John Butt in: Siegbert Rampe (Ed.): Bach's Piano and Organ Works: Das Handbuch , 2008, ISBN 978-3-89007-459-7 , p. 927