SEON - Philips
1 LP - 6575 061 - (p) 1975
1 CD - SBK 60879 - (c) 1999


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Inventions
25' 00"

- Invention No. 1 in C Major, BWV 772 1' 22"

- Invention No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 773 1' 58"

- Invention No. 3 in D Major, BWV 774 1' 16"

- Invention No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 775 1' 11"

- Invention No. 5 in E-flat Major, BWV 776 1' 57"

- Invention No. 6 in E Major, BWV 777 3' 17"

- Invention No. 7 in E Minor, BWV 778 1' 27"

- Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779 1' 04"

- Invention No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 780 2' 17"

- Invention No. 10 in G Major, BWV 781 1' 00"

- Invention No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 782 1' 54"

- Invention No. 12 in A Major, BWV 783 1' 27"

- Invention No. 13 in A Minor, BWV 784 1' 16"

- Invention No. 14 in B-flat Major, BWV 785 1' 28"

- Invention No. 15 in B Minor, BWV 786 1' 11"

29' 44"

- Sinfonia No. 1 in C Major, BWV 787 1' 11"

- Sinfonia No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 788 1' 42"

- Sinfonia No. 3 in D Major, BWV 789 1' 32"

- Sinfonia No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 790 1' 45"

- Sinfonia No. 5 in E-falt Major, BWV 791 2' 51"

- Sinfonia No. 6 in E Major, BWV 792 1' 28"

- Sinfonia No. 7 in E Minor, BWV 793 2' 25"

- Sinfonia No. 8 in F Major, BWV 794 1' 25"

- Sinfonia No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 795 3' 42"

- Sinfonia No. 10 in G Major, BWV 796 1' 15"

- Sinfonia No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 797 2' 42"

- Sinfonia No. 12 in A Major, BWV 798 1' 37"

- Sinfonia No. 13 in A Minor, BWV 799 1' 22"

- Sinfonia No. 14 in B-flat Major, BWV 800 2' 18"

- Sinfonia No. 15 in B Minor, BWV 801 1' 28"

Gustav Leonhardt, Harpsichord by Martin Skowroneck, Bremen, after J. D. Duclken, Antwerpen 1745

Luogo e data di registrazione
Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam (Holland) - Novembre 1974

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Recording Supervisor
Wolf Erichson

Recording Engineer

Dieter Thomsen

Prima Edizione LP
Seon (Philips) | 6575 061 | 1 LP - durata 55' 07" | (p) 1975 | ANA

Edizione CD
Sony | SBK 60879 | 1 CD - durata 55' 07" | (c) 1999 | ADD

Original Cover



The two-part inventions and three-part sinfonies, like substantial sections of the "Forty-eight," owe their origin Bach's endeavours to provide the best possible musical education for his sons. They were first written into Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's keyboard notebook in 1720. The final, partly revised version of 1723 was given a preface in which Bach explained the significance and purpose of these compositions. The pupil should not only be able to reproduce clearly at the keyboard a two-part or three-part polyphonic movement but also learn the "cantabile manner of playing" i.e. am inpressioned, singing style, and on the other hand also acquire "a strong foretaste of composition." "Would-be teachers" should thus take account of the themes and their treatments in these exemplary models, so that they themselves might draw benefit from initating these prototypes. From this particular point of view Bach's inventions and sinfonias probably remain to this day almost unsurpassed. They are works of art on the highest musical level.
In each of these 30 compositions Bach completely succeeded in his self-imposed task of developing a whole piece from one theme without interludes or digressions. He employs all the contrapuntal skills to transform the thematic material, dividing it, separating it, recasting and extending it, according to the emotional content until its potentialities are exhausted in every conceivable direction and the whole is rounded into a musical work in which all elements are perfectly balanced. Each theme receives the treatment appropriate to itself, so that not one of these compositions resembles another even formally, let alone in expression or character. When the musical material is subjected to such concentrated treatment it is no wonder that many of the inventions and still more of the sinfonias closely resemble fugues. These pieces differ, however, from the fugues of the "Forty-eight" in that the bass enters accompanying the theme from the start, and also in the appreciably greater density of their development.
Even in the two-part inventions veritable miracles of musical creativity are revealed to anyone with ears to hear. The C major piece opens the series in festive brilliance, working out scale motifs, but closely dovetailing the parts. Nos. 3 and 4 in D major and D minor respectively, are distantly related and similarly swift in flight. The high-spirited eight piece and the gigue-like fughetta No. 10 seem full of ebulliest good humour and musical zest; both are based on triad motifs, as is No. 13 in A minor, though this is more subdued in its emotional expression. The final Invention in B minor is fashioned into a high.spirited capriccio. No less than six of these compositions betray a strict fugal influence. The powerful Invention in E flat is designed as a quasi-double fugue with two themes constantly combined, while No. 12 in a is still more brilliant and imposing. The F minor and G minor pieces are distinguished by the highly expressive part-writing which in the second of these movements is intensified by chromaticism to give an almost tragic utterance, No. 7 in E minor flows along calmly, but it is still closely organised. This fugue-like style of composition leads to strict canonic writing in the C minor Invention, Bach's only keyboard canon before the "Goldberg"Variations. There are two movements which stand completely on their own. In no. 6 in E one is captivated by the graceful, elegant investiveness. Here the parts are drawn tunefully together in contrary motion and then move apart again, a device repeated several times in the course of this piece in ternary song-form. somewhat more solemnly, but at the same time charmingly, Bach compresses the theme of the B flat Invention step by step until it finally culminates in a stretto.
In the three-part sinfonias - sinfonia in seventeenth-century terminology means any kind of work for several parts - the ssame keys give rise to some of the same musical characteristics as in the inventions. The C major Sinfonia, with its assertive rising scale theme, again acts as an introduction, the movement in E major stays turned in upon itself with its melodic charm, the A major composition shows itself to be animated and fiery once again, and the final B minor Sinfonia, written in a more homophonic style, display a scherzando character in gigue rhythm. The most striking difference between the sinfonias and inventions lies in the more concentrated polyphony of the sinfonias. For one thing, 1o of them (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6-10, 13, and 14) are fugal in character. Four examples may illustrate Bach's mastery here in fashioning works of the most diverse emotional content. The D major piece has a mercurial, dancing gait, its melodic exuberance conveyed from the start in the falling sixth and rising seventh of the theme. No. 8 in F is also imbued with a dance-like, playful lightness. The calm, elegiac flow of the E minor Sinfonia is heightened by increasingly intense contrapuntal development which finally draws the outer voices nearly four octaves apart.
Bach's pupils themselves recognised the F minor movement as a jewel of the greatest expressive power and the highest polyphonic art. In it three themes are developed in triple counterpoint. In this "triple fugue" the logical part-writing gives rise to harmonic clashes reminiscent of the imaginative world of the Crucifixus of the B minor Mass. At the opposite extreme to this tense and sorrowful sinfonia one may point to the homophonic style of the "Aria" in E flat, whose graceful melodic phrases remind one of Bach's song "Bist du bei mir." These two contrasting pieces provide perhaps the clearest demonstration of the utterly inexhaustible diversity of Bach's creative ability.

Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht