5

Inspired by the question Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Order, I thought I'd ask what order people would recommend learning to play Bach's Inventions and Sinfonie.

4

I once asked this of my piano teacher. The response I got first suggested obtaining a good edition with all the ornamentation properly explained (and printed above the relevant parts rather than right in it so that you may learn it first without). She personally recommended the Alfred edition edited by Willard Palmer.

Next, you will likely do best to begin with the two part inventions rather than sinfonias, as the sinfonias are more difficult on the whole, although you might find No. 6 easier than several of the two part inventions.

As to the inventions, the best ones to start with are ones with less complex rythyms and fewer ornaments. No. 4 and No. 6 are good ones to start with, but you might be fine starting with others such as No. 1 or No. 8, if you play partially by ear and are assisted by familiarity.

2

The Pianist's Guide to Standard Teaching and Performance Literature by Jan Magrath gives the Inventions and Sinfonia as ranging from levels 7 - 10:1

Grade 7
Inventions 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 13, 14

Grade 7-8
Invention 6

Grade 8
Inventions 3, 5, 7, 9

Grade 9
Inventions 11, 12, 15
Sinfonia 3, 6, 10, 11, 15

Grade 9-10
Sinfonia 1

Grade 10
Sinfonia 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14


1Levels 7 - 10 encompass solidly intermediate-level through early advanced pieces. For example, Clementi sonatinas are considered level 6; whereas, Kuhlau sonatinas are level 7. Chopin Nocturnes are level 10.

2
2

ABRSM Exams Grades

Invention 1 in C, BWV 772: Grade 4, (years) 2015 & 2016 and 1958
Invention 4 in D, BWV 775: Grade 5, 1987
Invention 6 in E, BWV 777: Grade 6, 2021 & 2022
Invention 8 in F, BWV 779: Grade 5, 2021 & 2022
Invention 13 in A minor, BWV 784: Grade 6, 2017 & 2018 and 1996
Invention 14 in B-flat, BWV 785: Grade 6, 2013 & 2014
Invention 15 in B minor, BWV 786, Grade 6, 2003 & 2004 and 1961

Sinfonia 10 in G, BWV 796: Grade 7, 2011 & 2012
Sinfonia 13 in A minor, BWV 799: Grade 6, 1999 & 2000
Sinfonia 15 in B minor, BWV 801: Grade 7, 2021 & 2022 and 1987

Not a complete list, but might be useful.

2
  • That's really useful. Is there a searchable database of past ABRSM lists? – AakashM Sep 10 '20 at 11:53
  • 1
    Unfortunately no searchable database I know of. I'd imagine they might have a private, internal database themselves. I just looked through the past syllabuses online and various other sources like abrsm.org, archive.org, even bl.uk and worldcat.org (I wasn't very successful). I'm sure the ABRSM must have used more of Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias. Somewhere there is likely a complete set of the syllabuses in some archive somewhere! Would love to know! – Owain Evans Sep 10 '20 at 13:55

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