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June 23, 2007 / Tony

Interesting take on Bach’s Invention No. 1

Invention No.1 BWV772 (J.S. Bach)

This little video highlight many of the aspects that I love about this piece and Johann Sebastian Bach in general.  In music, an invention is simply a short composition with a two-part counterpoint.  (I am no music scholar so I’ll just leave it at that.)  Bach wrote 15 Inventions (along with 15 Sinfonias, which are compositions with three-part counterpoint).  He wrote them (in 1723) as training exercises for his students.  This is his inscription from the collection:

Straightforward Instruction, in which amateurs of the keyboard, and especially the eager ones, are shown a clear way not only (1) of learning to play cleanly in two voices, but also, after further progress, (2) of dealing correctly and satisfactorily with three obbligato parts; at the same time not only getting good inventiones, but developing the same satisfactorily, and above all arriving at a cantabile manner in playing, all the while acquiring a strong foretaste of composition. 

Well, enough about the technical aspects of the piece.  What I wanted to write about was why I love this piece so very much.  Bach’s music, even in these simplest forms, exhibit a clarity of idea and soundness of structure that is astounding.  In this piece, he takes a simple motif of this:

bach-invention-01-preview.png

and turns it into something sublime and complex but still pleasing to the ear.  It is just so well ordered that even while playing the Invention on other instruments (the pieces were written for piano students) like two guitars the pleasantness and sheer musicality of the piece is not diminished. 

And order, I think, is the key concept in Bach’s music that appeals to me.  He is able to take similar or disparate voices and weave them into a single orderly piece that still retains the identity of the individual voices.  He is, in short, able to find order in a messy world and that is rather refreshing to hear in this world we live in. 

Last note:  I watched a French film named Chaos awhile back.  The end credits were scored by Bach’s Aria from his Goldberg Variations.  I thought it was a perfect salve to the utter disorder of the lives of the characters in the film.  If you have a free night, try to watch it.  It’s not a bad film and I’d love to hear if others had a similar reaction to the choice of that piece.

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One Comment

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  1. Bastardo Anónimo / Jul 1 2007 12:52 pm

    Wow, amazing.

    I’m trying to learn a reinterpretation of Bach’s Invention 01 made by Paul Gilbert for guitar, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are many more to choose from.

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