My question relates to an answer by @Peter to this earlier question Different versions of mordents in Bach Invention No. 1 In C Major, BWV 772

Here's what we usually see

BWV 772 with 16th notes

However, in Peter's answer, we see a manuscript (by Bach himself?) that shows extra notes as follows:

BWV 772 with triplets

The original image is here

I can think of several explanations for this - here are two:

  1. The interjected notes are a variation to be used second time around.

  2. Bach wanted these extra notes in the finished work and just couldn't be bothered to write in the extra line over the top when he added them.


Do we know Bach's intentions and does anyone of renown play the extra notes? If not why not?

  • IMSLP asserts that the manuscript is in Bach's own hand. I do not know the basis of that determination.
    – phoog
    Oct 3, 2020 at 0:35
  • The red arrows cover up the triplet markings. Worth revising the image, if possible.
    – Aaron
    Oct 3, 2020 at 8:42
  • Thanks for asking this. I was coming directly to ask the very same thing.
    – eftshift0
    Jul 12, 2022 at 18:04

3 Answers 3


Original sources

There are four primary sources for the Inventions and Sinfonias.

  1. The Little Klavier Book for Wilhelm Friedemann (1722)
  2. An autograph fair copy by Bach (1723)
  3. Ornamented versions in a manuscript belonging to Bach's student Heinrich Nikolaus Gerber (1725)
  4. Ornamented versions from an unknown student (ca. 1723)

Invention #1

Invention #1 is taken from the 1723 autograph, which was originally written in the "standard" form typically seen, with the triplets "filled in" at a later date (Bärenreiter XII; ABRSM 5; Alfred 20; Henle 65).

Of the editions consulted, all but Henle include both the "standard" and "triplet" versions. Henle omits it: "Bach obviously wanted to exemplify to a pupil how it was possible to vary [the main motif]" (65).

The ABRSM (5) and Alfred (20) editions both indicate that it was and is acceptable performance practice, in the triplet version, to modify the sixteenth notes throughout to make the rhythm consistent. So, for example, the first measure would be played:

T:Bach Invention No. 1 in C Major, BWV 772a
T:Triplet version, m. 1, right hand
(3:2:2 z2C (3:2:2 D2E (3:2:3 GFE (3:2:3 FED G2c2 B2c2 |


This YouTube video includes five separate recordings of the Invention by great pianists. Glenn Gould is the only performer to include "extra notes", though not at the beginning. He inserts them as decorations, especially beginning in m. 16, and in two-sixteenth/eighth rhythm rather than triplets. (Regarding the linked question, notice Gieseking plays mordents rather than trills.)

Wanda Landowska does not play triplets.

Andras Schiff plays the triplets!

Editions consulted

  • J.S. Bach, Inventions and Sinfonias (BWV 772-801), Urtext of the New Bach Edition, ed. Georg von Dadelsen (1970, Bärenreiter).
  • J.S. Bach, Inventions and Sinfonias (BWV 772-801), ed. Richard Jones (1984, ABRSM).
  • J.S. Bach, Two-Part Inventions for the Keyboard, ed. Willard A. Palmer (1968, Alfred).
  • J.S. Bach, Inventionen, Sinfonien, Urtext, ed. Rudolf Steglich (1979, G. Henle).

With no references but a faulty memory, I think these are just triplets (actually sextuplets) without the slur or number. Not all composers were as neat copyists as was Wagner.

  • 1
    That's correct, but this doesn't answer the question, which is basically "why are these triplets in the manuscript while the engraved score has duplets?"
    – phoog
    Oct 3, 2020 at 2:32

It is not obvious what Bach's intentions were, though perhaps musicologists who have studied this may have a better idea. Most of Bach's works, including the Inventions, were not published during his lifetime, but circulated as hand copies until they were published in the 19th century. In some cases the earliest surviving copies (or different copies by Bach himself) differ from each other.

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