All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

15 inventions

BWV 772-786 performed by Johannes Asfaw, Kanji Daito, Evander Eijsink, Domonkos Hegyi, Anna Kuvshinov, Frank Monster, Peiting Xue and David Zielman
Ottone, Utrecht

Harpsichordists Siebe Henstra, Menno van Delft, Pieter-Jan Belder en Tineke Steenbrink taught eight talented children to play the harpsichord in only three months.

One of the four harpsichord masters, Siebe Henstra, on the 15 inventions.

Teaching them young

Bach did not make things easy for his pupils in their first lessons.

No piece of music can do without ingenious ideas or inventions. But the name invention is also used for a very special genre with a colourful history, to which Bach’s 15 short keyboard pieces also belong.

Like the ricercares of the Renaissance and early Baroque, Bach’s 15 inventions are experiments (here very concise ones) on a musical idea, a theme and a new way of combining lines. In tiny doses, the player can thus familiarise himself with the effect of music and with Bach’s genius.

Bach’s 15 inventions are in the Klavierbüchlein, the exercise book that Bach compiled around 1720 for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. Three years later, he further underlined his didactic aim: the pupil was to practice two-part playing, learn how to deal with musical ideas and get a taste of composition. The 15 inventions were therefore the first step in Bach’s teaching method for keyboard. The 15 inventions are followed in the Klavierbüchlein by the French and English Suites, and the collection concludes with Das Wohltemperirte Clavier.

The 15 inventions are dominated by imitation, as is to be expected in two-part Baroque music. After all, two-part texture is the simplest form of counterpoint. Bach went on to structure his method with care. In the exercise book for Wilhelm Friedemann, he organised the inventions by theme: the first three (numbers 1, 4 and 7) are based on scales, and the next three (numbers 8, 10 and 11) on broken chords, followed by a combination of both in Invention no. 14, which is almost a fugue in form.

The order in Bach’s later, definitive manuscript from 1723, however, corresponds to the system of the keyboard. Just as later on, in Das Wohltemperirte Clavier, the order is chromatic, alternating between major and minor. Bach did, however, leave out the most difficult keys with lots of sharps or flats. Beginners on the keyboard only got those keys dished up later on.


15 inventions

keyboard work (solo work)



Special notes
The earliest source for the Inventions, the Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, only became available to the public in 1932. All the editions up to then had been based on the autograph from 1723.

Cast & Crew

Release date 22 April 2016
Recording date 16 April 2016
Location Ottone, Utrecht
Harpsichordists Johannes Asfaw, Kanji Daito, Evander Eijsink, Domonkos Hegyi, Anna Kuvshinov, Frank Monster, Peiting Xue en David Zielman
masters Pieter-Jan Belder, Menno van Delft, Siebe Henstra, Tineke Steenbrink
Harpsichord Bruce Kennedy after Michael Mietke
Camera Maarten van Rossem, Robert Berger, Richard Spierings
Camera assistant Luuk Walschout
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCERS Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Gaffer Zen Bloot
Interviews Gijs Besseling, Noah Pepper
project manager Hanna Schreuders
Concert producer Imke Deters
producer Jessie Verbrugh
acknowledgements Rabobank

Vocal Texts




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