Bach's 2-part inventions - Which are your favorites or have played?

Discuss the piano literature and how to teach and learn it

Postby Stretto » Fri Oct 07, 2005 3:40 pm

Just was curious what if any of Bach's 2-Part Inventions has anyone played? What are your favorite one's to play? What are your favorite one's to listen to regardless of whether you have played them or not? Some of them can be found in The Audition Room on PEP. Has anyone played them all?

I've played Invention #1, #13, and #14. I was assigned #1 and I asked my instructor to help me learn the other two. My favorite one is #13. I was thinking of learning some others, so wondered what everyone else likes out of them. (It seems like when I went to college, Bach's 2-Part Inventions were always being assigned to first year students, especially #1, maybe it was just my imagination.)
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Postby Beckywy » Fri Oct 07, 2005 3:57 pm

I was taught that a teacher teaching the advance levels should be able to play all the 2-part inventions.
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Postby Stretto » Fri Oct 07, 2005 4:09 pm

Beckywy wrote:I was taught that a teacher teaching the advance levels should be able to play all the 2-part inventions.

Well, part of the reason I was thinking of going through and learning more of them was so that I could teach them to some students when they started getting up there in ability. Since my time is limited, I wanted to start with the more "favorite" one's. Beckywy, do you have any that you think of as being more enjoyable to play over others?


I edited this post to add that although the above is something I had thought about in learning some more of the Bach 2-Part Inventions, it's actually not my main reason, maybe more of just a benefit of learning them. The main reason I was considering learning some more of them is more just for fun because in getting a music degree in college (over 10 years ago actually) I had to buy a lot of music books just to learn one piece out of a whole book assigned to me by my instructors and I have all these books sitting here unused that I have only learned one piece each out of. It just seems like kind of a waste to have all this good music and not be using it. But it's really overwhelming trying to figure out where to start or what to choose in learning some of it. :( I was just thinking the best way to figure out where to start in learning more music out of these books was just to ask for recommendations from others who have played some of these. I could use recommendations from those of you also who haven't played them but have listened to them as to your favorites to listen to. Hope some of you can help me out. If no one has any recommendations, maybe I should start with some of my other books.




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Postby Beckywy » Fri Oct 07, 2005 11:23 pm

The easiest ones to teach are #1, #6 and #8. My favourite one is #14.
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Postby 97-1128742375 » Sun Oct 09, 2005 8:38 am

I have the c major #1 part of my repetoire.
I also like #4 in d minor and #13 in a minor
The cool thing about Bach's two part inventions is that they can be interpreted in such different speeds. On my CD of the inventions, I have Andreas Schiff. :)
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sun Oct 09, 2005 11:15 am

I've played 5 or 6 of the Inventions in recitals. I think it's a shame that many examples of really fine music are not used in concert more because they gain the reputation (stigma?) of being just teaching literature. Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias, the Clementi and Kuhlau sonatinas, Beethoven's Opus 49 (1 and 2), the Debussy Arabesques and Reverie, some of the Schumann Album for the Young, short pieces by Kabalevsky and Mendelssohn, etc.--I've used them all, and students in the audience love to hear them.

Horowitz played and recorded Clementi Sonatas, Debussy's 'Serenade for the Doll", even Mendelssohn's "Spring Song"; the performances are perfect gems, and they show what wealth can exist in seemingly simple pieces.

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Postby Stretto » Sun Oct 09, 2005 12:35 pm

Thanks for the help so far everyone.

Dr. Leland,
I think you may have just shed a little light on why my instructor's chose the pieces they chose to assign to me. I have always wondered how they choose what to assign a student. I was assigned a piece in college by all the composers you mentioned except Kuhlau and Mendelssohn. Perhaps now I wonder if in part because the pieces where considered 'teaching material'. I never realized that. I didn't question what I was assigned too much because I trusted the instructor's judgement that they had a good reason for what they assigned. I had a Clementi Sonata once I just couldn't stand. I did mention to my instructor on that one that I couldn't stand it and he pointed out the importance of being able to play pieces that one didn't necessarily like. That was an excellent point that I had never considered. I did do miserably on it at juries, though, and didn't pass to the next level that year, but nevertheless learned a lot. I came across that Sonata in my book several years later and kind of liked it and didn't know why I didn't like it before. I mentioned a few times to my instructors how much I loved Schubert and Chopin (I kind of changed my mind now about playing Chopin, not listening to it however), but I never got to play either one while in college.
You mentioned Kabalevsky, (that's another book I should look into learning more of - I have 24 Preludes Opus 38 for piano), I learned #15. That piece was so extremely fun to play! I don't think one could ever get tired of playing a piece like that. I've got to try some more of those too.
You also mentioned simple pieces. I have been learning something about myself lately how much I have an infinity for simple 'song' tunes and simple melodies and 'tunes' in a piece of music. I just gravitate toward the stuff. I think that's why my favorite 2-Part Inventions are the one's that sound more 'tune'- like in nature. So as I am trying to go through a bunch of the books that I mentioned I only played one piece from to learn some others, I may go ahead and first concentrate on the one's with tune-like or song-like melodies that appeal to me.

Appassionata, Welcome to the PEP Board by the way, thanks for your idea that Bach's 2-Part Inventions can be interpreted at different speeds. I actually really like playing #13 and #14 at slightly slower speeds than what I have heard on recordings. It seems like some of the beauty of the sound is lost at too fast of speed. I've just been purposely playing them just slightly slower and have been wondering if I am interpreting them wrong this way but since I'm mostly playing them for my own enjoyment or for family and friends, I can get away with it.

Beckywy, Thanks for the tip on the easiest ones to teach. I might go through those little by little and if I ever teach them, start with those. So far I have only had students that have gotten up to about what is considered level 4 or 5 in the main stream method books.

Does anyone else want to add their favorite 2-Part Inventions? Even if you have never played any, if you have listened to any, what one's appeal to you?




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Postby 97-1128742375 » Mon Oct 10, 2005 12:52 pm

thank you stretto :D
i think what you said about playing the inventions slowly to capture the beauty of the sound is very true!
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Postby Stretto » Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:47 am

appassionata,
I'm glad someone else agrees that some of the 2 Pt. Inventions sound better somewhat slower. Thanks for coming back on this thread and mentioning that. I just love #13 especially and although I'm not playing it extremely slow, probably a few 'notches' slower on the metronome than say, for example, the recording of it on "The Audition Room" on PEP. I just have to revel a little in the sound of it is all - kind of like someone who gobbles their food down vs. someone who savors the taste. I've just always assumed that I was interpreting it incorrectly at a little slower speed.

That brings up a good question, appassionata, or anyone else, what speed, in your opinion, should the 2 Pt. Inventions be played? Should they all be played at basically the same speed or should some be played at different tempos than others?

And here's another question I've always wondered, I kind of like to be expressive with pieces - but assumed that it would also be interpreting the 2 Pt. Inventions incorrectly by getting too expressive with them, as say with Beethoven. What is everyone's opinion of how much variation in dynamics and expression should go into them? Should the variation in
expression be more subtle vs. extreme?

Also, anyone else is still welcome to add their favorite ones. What do you all think of them in the first place? Do you like them at all as far as playing them or hearing them played? Do you think of them as just drab 'teaching' pieces?

Appassionata,
By the way I'm glad you came on the board, we could use another 'voice' on here. Also, I love the quote on your signature. The main reason I got hooked on music and playing the piano in the first place and what I love the most about it still is the ability to express what cannot be expressed in words. Again, welcome!
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Postby 65-1074818729 » Tue Oct 11, 2005 9:00 am

Does anyone else want to add their favorite 2-Part Inventions? Even if you have never played any, if you have listened to any, what one's appeal to you?


I have not yet attempted any of Bach's two part inventions, however I have listened to all of them. I prefer listening to 2, 5, 6 and 14.

AFlat :;):
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Postby Stretto » Tue Oct 11, 2005 9:24 am

Thanks A-flat:

I really, really appreciate your opinion and imput, :) . I have been kind of trying out a few this last week to figure out what to start with (I have never done well with too many choices). That's why I need you all to help me narrow it down to what to start with. My time is limited so I want to start with everyone's favorites (the one's everyone finds most enjoyable for the sound and/or finds most enjoyable to play). I just started with the 2 Pt. Inventions with all my music as they seem like one of those standards most everyone does at some point in learning the piano. Probably look at some more Beethoven Sonatas too. I guess I am trying to figure out what the best one's are for sound and interest to play if I want to teach some of them eventually too. Of course, to interest a student in learning one, I would want to give them one of the "coolest" one's. Just going through trying them out this last week, I kind of liked #6 too A-flat, as was thinking of tackling that one merely because of the sound of it. I'll have to look at #5 again. I'll let you all know when I start learning one - kind of holds a person accountable to follow through after posting about it - that's a good thing. Thanks again for the imput.
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Postby Beckywy » Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:38 am

Stretto wrote:And here's another question I've always wondered, I kind of like to be expressive with pieces - but assumed that it would also be interpreting the 2 Pt. Inventions incorrectly by getting too expressive with them, as say with Beethoven. What is everyone's opinion of how much variation in dynamics and expression should go into them? Should the variation in
expression be more subtle vs. extreme?

Have to keep in mind the 2 pt. inventions were written before the piano. Doesn't mean not to be expressive because it's a waste to play the inventions without using what the piano can offer, but the harpsichord and clavichords didn't have the range a piano does, in terms of dynamics or legato touch.
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Postby Stretto » Tue Oct 11, 2005 1:46 pm

Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking in my question on that. That's why I was just wondering do you think most pianists tend to be cautious about getting too 'carried away' in expressiveness in these pieces, in other words more conservative? Whenever I've listened to recordings of Bach, maybe not enough, I don't hear much extremes in dynamics. Do you think most pianists intrepret Bach in keeping with what the instruments of his day were capable of or take more liberty? Makes me wonder what Bach would do with these pieces if he had the instruments of today to play them on. Perhaps he wouldn't have even written in that style if his instruments had the range capability in dynamics of today's piano's. But I'm glad they wrote their music in the style they did because I love listening to how all the voicing goes together, amazing! :)
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Postby 97-1128742375 » Tue Oct 11, 2005 2:02 pm

stretto, i think it depends on the invention on how slow the piece goes. its an interesting question. maybe if the inventions are all a type/group of pieces in different keys, they should be all played at about the same rate on the metronome. Anyone else have any ideas?
I also like your question about being expressive with the inventions. I think that in the inventions, there are subtle differences between dynamics. there are lots of crescendos and decrescendos (sorry about the spelling :) ) Chopin is very different; his compositions have a much wider dynamic range. I like being expressive too! :D
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Postby Beckywy » Tue Oct 11, 2005 3:00 pm

My understanding of the 2 pt inventions were - he wrote them as study pieces for his students to teach independence of the hands.
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