Transition to Bach’s Two-Part Inventions

Greetings, fellow piano teachers! I must heartily apologize for my lack of posts during the month of September. Life has been hard and filled with heart break. The university that I work for made the decision to terminate our instrumental music program and the performance degrees in all disciples effective January, 2020. Needless to say, there has been a lot of frustration, anger, and mourning in our close-knit group — especially since this decision to defund the arts also resulted in the loss of three faculty lines. I decided that it was best not to put words in print on any of my sites as I processed the impact on my friends and students. I think you will all understand why I chose to remain silent.

Now, let’s get back to the music. This week, I began teaching an extremely talented 9th grader who is ready to begin the transition from method books and collections into the standard repertoire for the piano. I began thinking about the options in the Baroque repertoire. While her hands are ready to move into the Two-Part Inventions, I believe that some smaller works of the era will serve her well to become familiar with the style and the concept of ornamentation. I headed to Anna Magdalena’s Notebook and found some options that were not familiar to me and that seem to be good transitional pieces into the larger repertoire of Bach. Here are three pieces that I found that will fit the bill.

Menuet in Bb Major (BWV 118) – This short piece is charming and introduces some common accompanimental figures in the left hand. Rhythmically, it is not challenging and contains few ornaments — a couple of appoggiaturas and a single trill — that makes this a very appropriate introduction to the era.

Polonaise in G Minor (BWV 123) – Parallel movement in a single hand and lots of rhythmic repetitions make this very characteristic of the Baroque era. I especially like the possibility of using this piece with a late intermediate student because of the long left hand line found in the B section. This will require attention to careful fingering and adds the challenge of the presence of two independent voices in the right hand. While it presents some definite challenges to the intermediate pianist, it is achievable for their (typically) small hands and stretches their aural skills to new levels.

Marche in E-flat Major (BWV 127) – With its much easier bass line than the G Minor Polonaise mentioned above, this Marche is regal and is a study of shifting between duples and triples in the melodic line. Very approachable and fits nicely under the hands.

Published by kennithfreeman

I am a classically trained pianist who loves all things musical. I can often be found giving private piano lessons, on the concert stage, or in rehearsal of some type. Currently I am Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. When I'm not making music, I enjoy reading a great novel or trying out a new recipe.

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