Invention: Brief History

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Bach's Inventions (2-voices) and Sinfonias (3 voices) were originally published in the Klavierbüchlein for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1720). They were called "Preambles," and were intended as instructional pieces in performance and compositional technique. Bach later revised them and called then Inventios and Sinfonias.

The original ordering of the pieces was based on compositional or performance techniques, in the following key scheme:

C: d: e: -- F: G: a: -- b: Bb: A -- g: f: E: -- Eb: D: c:

Group 1: scalar subjects
Group 2: arpeggio subjects
Group 3: accompanied subjects, invertible
Group 4: syncopation, chromaticism
Group 5: summary, ending with a grand canon (C-minor Invention)

The 1723 version reorders the Inventions according to key relationships, as follows:

C: c: -- D: d: -- Eb -- E: e: -- F: f: -- G: g: -- A: a: -- Bb: b:

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