4

I was playing Bach Invention 1 when my sister told me that I was playing it wrong.

When I learnt this piece like 10 years ago, my sheet looked like this.

BWV 772 with upper mordent

But my sister showed me her music sheet from her book, and it looked like this. (Sorry for the bad quality)

BWV 772 with lower mordent

So I the difference here is the mordent in the 4th beat of the first two bars. I remember it being a (normal) mordent, but in my sister's book, it's an inverted one.

Here is my question.

  1. Why are there two different versions?
  2. Is there a single correct version? According to Wikipedia, it says that in the Baroque period, the mordent was a lower mordent. How should I interpret this?
1
  • Mordent .... Mordor . We are in danger! Wake up sheeple! – Carl Witthoft Oct 2 '20 at 13:58
6

There are different versions in various editions for a number of reasons. Sometimes different editors start with different sources, either different manuscripts or different early editions of a work. Sometimes editors adapt the work to suit the people who are likely to use their editions, either by simplifying or by following the musical tastes of their time.

For Bach's 2-part inventions you can see an original manuscript at

https://imslp.simssa.ca/files/imglnks/usimg/f/fb/IMSLP467846-PMLP3267-15_Inventio_Manoscritto.pdf

and you can see Bach's own instructions on how to play his ornaments at

http://www.jsbach.net/images/ornaments.html

These sources indicate to me that the first version is closer to Bach's intention.

If you look at these yourself you will notice firstly that the right hand is on soprano clef, not treble clef (the bottom line is middle C). Also you will see that in the second crotchet of the first bar (and in other places later) there are additional notes. It is your decision whether to play them or not.

4
  • Thank you very much for showing me his original work. I am very much satisfied. – zxcvber Oct 2 '20 at 4:28
  • Nice answer. I was going to post these links last night but I fell asleep before I could do so. I've seen some modern editions with the triplet figures; it's interesting to see that they were obviously added after the piece was initially copied. I've also never seen a modern edition without the vertical stroke in the ornament sign, but it's clearly absent in the manuscript. So it's not a mordent at all, but a trill! It really underscores the value of consulting source material where that's available. – phoog Oct 2 '20 at 14:40
  • 1
    Interestingly, the second manuscript available on IMSLP, copied by one H.G.M. Darnköhler around the time of Bach's death, has the ornament on the subsequent note. It has been "corrected" into a mordent by adding a vertical stroke in pencil (and there are several other ornaments penciled in as well): a good example of how variants of this sort can arise. – phoog Oct 2 '20 at 14:52
  • @phoog Regarding the triplets, see Extra notes in a Bach manuscript? – Aaron Oct 3 '20 at 8:21
2

The Bärenreiter1 and Henle2 urtext editions and the ABRSM edition3 all indicate a trill and make no reference to other possibilities.

In the Alfred Masterworks edition,4 the editor, Willard A. Palmer, includes the following note.

ALL manuscripts show a TRILL here. The mordent on this note, which appears in the Busoni edition, the Czerny edition and the Mason edition, is without foundation. (emphasis original)

In this YouTube video featuring five great pianists all performing Invention #1, note that only Gieseking plays mordents.


1J.S. Bach, Inventions and Sinfonias (BWV 772-801), Urtext of the New Bach Edition, ed. Georg von Dadelsen (1970, Bärenreiter).

2J.S. Bach, Inventionen, Sinfonien, Urtext, ed. Rudolf Steglich (1979, G. Henle).

3J.S. Bach, Inventions and Sinfonias (BWV 772-801), ed. Richard Jones (1984, ABRSM).

4J.S. Bach, Two-Part Inventions for the Keyboard, ed. Willard A. Palmer (1968, Alfred).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.