Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685 and died in Leipzig 1750 after a long and distinguished musical career. He learnt to play a number of instruments alongside his education as a chorister. After a succession of various posts as organist and choirmaster, Bach was appointed organist and court musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar in 1708 where he gradually earned a reputation as a brilliant performer on the organ. In 1717 he moved to Cöthen where he composed prolifically, especially instrumental music.

The title page of Bach’s autograph of Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier has the date 1722, suggesting that it originates from this period in the composer’s life. By 1723 he had accepted the post of Kantor at the St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, commencing a career that would involve a mixture of school-based teaching, being director of music at a number of churches and writing music for civic events. His appointment as Court Composer to the prince elector of Saxony in 1736 confirmed Bach’s position as a highly regarded and well-established com poser in his circle.

Johann Sebastan Bach as a teacher

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the most significant teachers and composers of his times. His pupils enjoyed challenging instruction, which not only covered clavier-playing and compositional technique but also gave a profound understanding of music.  The lessons started – as today – with technical exercises, which Bach knew how to mete out with pedagogic skill.

Bach’s didactic aims included both playing and composition. Between these we find the execution of embellishments and ornaments, which he merely indicated rather than writing them in full, so that the pupil could early become accustomed to the development of his own ornamental practice.


One example of this free creation of variations is the triplet version of the first two-part Invention (see facsimile on the left hand side). It is the first step on the way to ‘developing good inventions’, i.e. a first ‘foretaste of composition’. In this way, the Inventions, for instance, allow every pianist to gain a fascinating insight into Bach’s musical thinking.

Inventions and Sinfonias

  • With facsimile examples from Bach's autograph
  • Including an appendix of ornamented versions
  • Detailed notes on interpretation and ornamentation
  • Suggestion for the execution of Sinfonia 5 included