The Rolling Motion of Bach Invention 1 in C Major

One can play Bach in an articulated, shapeless, way or cultivate an approach that draws on physical motions that curve phrases and vary dynamics.

Sometimes a wake up call arrives in the form of a LIVE lesson as it unfolds in real time. A review of footage often clarifies ideas about phrasing, allowing for modifications here and there.

If we as teachers are absolute in our thoughts, embracing an unchanging perspective about a composition, then there’s absolutely no room to grow or gain new insights about phrasing, interpretation, etc.

Yet in this piece of video shown below, I became ever more convinced that the motif or subject of Bach Invention 1 had a curvy contour that threaded through the composition in one form or another. It needed an internal aural image that could be realized by a particular physical approach.

When the subject’s inversion occurred in measure 3, the curvaceous character remained and required a certain playing consistency.

This is such a miraculous composition that journeys through many keys in its two economical pages, yet the nuances of the modulations cannot be overlooked. I love the transition to D minor, where one can dip the C# in Measure 10, coming under it with a lesser dynamic--in a subtle way to herald the key change.

In any case, this is how the lessons played out: (Still a partial sample of what we worked on) followed by my early morning demonstration of wrist motions that applied to this composition. The ungodly hour required my playing softly with a flat dynamic so as not to wake my neighbors in our Berkeley apartment.

In any case, this is how the lessons played out: (Still a partial sample of what we worked on)

Shaping the Subject:


The Inverted Subject:



A Slow motion subject rendering, followed by playing the balance of the Right Hand:



My Invention 1 performance in tempo:


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