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#1647689 - 03/25/11 08:05 AM Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe?  
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ll Offline
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So I have a few advanced students now...! While a bit scary (?!), it's also very exciting.

One student in particular has played all the inventions, which I love about her! She's very good with the Bach, but I'm hesitant to move her onto the WTC before I can polish a bit more with her. However, I don't want to reuse the inventions just yet as she recently completed them with another teacher who recommended her to me.

Now, I know there are the English and French Suites, but frankly I don't think they have the same merit that the contrapuntal pieces. So I'm looking at the Sinfonias, but I really haven't heard of anyone teaching these - at least, the few people I've asked never have. So I'm asking the forum.

Do you teach Sinfonias? If so, in what order, and how many?

What do you do after the Inventions to keep the counterpoint going? Do you jump straight into the WTC or do you work on more dance movements? Do you do partitas (or movements) before the WTC, as Bach would have done?

Along with the Inventions, she's learned quite a few Little Preludes and AMBN pieces, so I know she has a strong foundation. I just don't know which move to make next - straight to a fugue, or maybe something more simple in the Sinfonias/something else.


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Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
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#1647706 - 03/25/11 08:37 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Quote
Now, I know there are the English and French Suites, but frankly I don't think they have the same merit that the contrapuntal pieces.

You may want to rethink this. The French Suites have much to offer, and in level of difficulty, fall between the Inventions and the Sinfonias. My students invariably learn all of #5, and some learn either #6 or #4.


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#1647770 - 03/25/11 11:06 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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When I was a student as a teenager, my teacher assigned me sinfonias along with the inventions (though at a rate of approximately two inventions for one sinfonia). By the time I stopped my lessons, I had gone through approximately 2/3 of the inventions and 1/3 of the sinfonias.

Approximate ordering of the sinfonias I was assigned: #2, #4, #13, #15, #14, #7. (The inventions I learned were: #2, #4, #8, #13, #15, #6, #14, #9, #10, #7.)

Somewhere in between, I also was assigned the Allemande of French Suite #6. The last thing I learned from her was the Prelude from English Suite #2.

#1647809 - 03/25/11 12:30 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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I have taught a few Sinfonias (C minor, F minor, A minor, and B minor), but I don't like this set very much. I think they are some of Bach's weakest writings.


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#1647949 - 03/25/11 04:34 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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I have to say that I agree -- I don't really like the Sinfonias all that much, and I don't think they repay the effort it takes to learn to play them well. Some of the pieces in WTC are, in my view, no harder to play and hugely more rewarding.

#1648095 - 03/25/11 10:17 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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I don't think that the sinfonias are as weak as some seem to think, but I do agree with John.

If you must assign 3- voice contrapuntal Bach, how about the Bb fugue from bk 1 of WTC? Some will disagree, but I find that one to be easier for students to grasp than many of the sinfonias.


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#1648141 - 03/25/11 11:58 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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How do you feel about the sinfonias yourself? This should help guide your decision. I absolutely love them and play #'s 12-15 every day, if you can believe it.

Last edited by Candywoman; 03/25/11 11:58 PM.
#1648181 - 03/26/11 03:36 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Thanks for the input all!

Personally, I play all the inventions and sinfonias every day as a warm up - but that's me. I love Bach. However, even with my Bachophile tendencies, I don't actually care for the sinfonias all that much.

And the French Suites may fall inbetween, but I don't think it continues the same thing that the inventions set up: contrapuntal playing. I think one can learn a French Suite alongside the WTC, if they want to.

This student does NOT like any of the Suites or Sinfonias (she may have interest in one, actually, but it was pretty fleeting).

Gerard, thanks for the WTC suggestion. I'll look into it. Are there any others you'd recommend?

There's also Scarlatti, but I haven't explored his works well enough to pinpoint anything out - plus, I always think he's the more 'playful' side of Baroque while Bach is the meat.


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Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
#1648215 - 03/26/11 07:19 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Originally Posted by ll

Gerard, thanks for the WTC suggestion. I'll look into it. Are there any others you'd recommend?


I'm not Gerard, and you'll probably think I'm mad, but for a first foray into the WTC I offer as a suggestion the Eb major fugue from book II. It's actually in four voices, but (in my opinion) it's not that hard to play, and it's well worth the effort of learning.

My experience is that often people are willing to make a step up in difficulty if the more difficult stuff repays their efforts.

#1648755 - 03/27/11 06:34 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: kevinb]  
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Originally Posted by kevinb
I'm not Gerard, and you'll probably think I'm mad, but for a first foray into the WTC I offer as a suggestion the Eb major fugue from book II. It's actually in four voices, but (in my opinion) it's not that hard to play, and it's well worth the effort of learning.

My experience is that often people are willing to make a step up in difficulty if the more difficult stuff repays their efforts.


Not at all, Kevin! Sorry, I must have missed your posts.

Thank you for the suggestion. Are there others you'd recommend?

And I definitely agree - the difficulty can sometimes correlate quite well with the progress a student will make.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
#1648788 - 03/27/11 08:20 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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II
I happened to be searching for something in old PW posts and I came across your early postings. I hope you do not mind me asking. But in late 2008, you were apparently a beginner, working through the early method books. I am amazed that you are now taking advanced students and want to teach them 3 part inventions or the WTC.. Perhaps I don't have your story right. I really did not research all your posts. But if that is true, I am most impressed..

#1648805 - 03/27/11 08:44 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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If the student doesn't particularly like Bach then move on to some other composer!!!!

There's plenty of great material to choose from. Seriously. And why get stuck in the Baroque era? If your goal is to explore contrapuntal writing then why not look at a Beethoven Sonata movement with contrapuntal aspects to the writing? Or something closer to the current day? One single composer is not a healthy repertoire diet for a student, and a fixation with contrapuntal writing doesn't seem healthy either: there are lots of other cool things students could be learning to do at the piano!!!


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#1648849 - 03/27/11 10:03 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Originally Posted by ll

Gerard, thanks for the WTC suggestion. I'll look into it. Are there any others you'd recommend?



Depending on the maturity level of the student - which might be kind of low considering that it looks like she turned her nose up at the Allemande of the 5th French Suite, one of the most beautiful pieces ever written (IMHO) - you might want to consider the G major fugue from WTC I.

It might seem too long to her, though


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#1648871 - 03/27/11 10:31 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Originally Posted by ll
And the French Suites may fall inbetween, but I don't think it continues the same thing that the inventions set up: contrapuntal playing. I think one can learn a French Suite alongside the WTC, if they want to.
Virtually all of Bach's keyboard music is contrapuntal.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 03/27/11 10:33 AM.
#1648921 - 03/27/11 11:44 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by ll
And the French Suites may fall inbetween, but I don't think it continues the same thing that the inventions set up: contrapuntal playing. I think one can learn a French Suite alongside the WTC, if they want to.
Virtually all of Bach's keyboard music is contrapuntal.


Yes, but there's contrapuntal and, well, contrapuntal. There's an independence of line in fugue -- by any composer -- that isn't present in all contrapuntal writing.

#1648929 - 03/27/11 12:03 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Originally Posted by ll

Thank you for the suggestion. Are there others you'd recommend?

And I definitely agree - the difficulty can sometimes correlate quite well with the progress a student will make.


I'm reluctant to make these kinds of suggestions, becuause I'm aware how tastes vary. For my money (and to my taste) the prelude in E and the fugure in F both offer a high reward-to-effort ratio, but then I like these pieces. Somebody already mentioned the Bb fugue, which is also quite manageable (in my view). The trick is finding something one likes enough to offset the difficulty.


#1649099 - 03/27/11 05:38 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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@Andromaque: I was a "beginner" who was slouching about (I asked my teacher to start me in John Thompson and she looked at me like I was crazy and started me on Inventions and more), not practicing piano (self-pity), and feeling quite a bit lacking (more self-pity). I just pushed myself a lot that year and practiced all through out the day, built up my technique, and auditioned to the Piano Pedagogy program at my school - made it, and here I am. I was lucky enough to have a strong musical background from violin (though I'd call myself a beginner in that as well because of even more self-pity!).

I'm definitely not 'advanced,' like most people here are, but I think I do alright now laugh

@Elissa: I have students working on more than one piece at a time. She does have a Classical piece (Beethoven Sonata 49/2) and a Romantic Piece (Chopin Nocturne in c minor, Post.). She came in working on these and is doing well, just not done yet. I haven't wanted to add something Contemporary because I want her to focus a bit on proper practicing/polishing and also catch up in her theory (her last teacher didn't do any), but we'll probably be doing that in the next couple of months.

However, alongside all of this, the student LOVES Baroque (mostly Bach, though she did enjoy some of the Scarlatti I played for her) music. Not only did she tell me she enjoys listening to it, but her technique is WONDERFUL. Such great finger legato, phrasing and articulation, etc. That's why I wanted to continue her with it, but wasn't positive in choosing something from the WTC.

@Gerard12: Funny enough, that was the one she kinda liked! However, I don't fault people for their tastes in (classical) music. I don't care for Schubert, but that doesn't mean I think others have a higher level of musical maturity than I do.

I'll probably begin with the G major one and see where it goes, but I'll look into the other you mentioned.

@Kevin: Thanks again. Like I said, I'm just looking for suggestions as to what some do here before I can make my own decision. I know it depends on the student, and I appreciate more options given so I can give *them* more options too!

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
#1649181 - 03/27/11 07:52 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Thanks for the explanation, II.
I would suggest that your talents non-withstanding, your experience so far would not qualify you to teach sophisticated polyphonic music, or even advanced students.. But that is just my opinion and I am not a teacher. Perhaps other teachers could weigh in and correct me if I am wrong. But going from beginner in piano, learning your first inventions to teacher of WTC and 3 part inventions in 2.5 years is.. unheard of, or should not be. Not fair to the students!

#1649195 - 03/27/11 08:28 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Bach is actually something I excel at, far more than other works. And I have a Bachelor's Degree in Piano Pedagogy, which is almost the same as the Performance degree except that I had to take a few extra pedagogy classes and didn't have to give a senior recital. I have played plenty of advanced repertoire, yes, but what I know more than others with just a regular degree is how to teach the techniques and pieces - and the mental side is just as important.

I've been taught how to teach it, and I have learned many of them myself, but this is not the academic or self-side anymore. It's teaching it to others. I'm fine with the other repertoire and how to progress, just never anticipated a student who'd go so far in the Baroque repertoire.

And if it weren't for the recommendation and talking to I got from this teacher, I wouldn't be doing so. But if all you are mentioning is the piece-of-paper qualification, then yes, I am. As for the rest of it... well, that's why I started this thread asking, and we all need to start somewhere.

I suppose it's a double-edged sword: on one hand, I feel like I can. On the other, it's intimidating. I know I can do it, but it never hurts to seek guidance from those more experienced than I am - hence why I come to these forums.

Last edited by ll; 03/27/11 08:29 PM.

II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
#1649286 - 03/28/11 01:04 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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I love the Bach symphonias... As works and as a tool to be taught. I don't have a student that advanced yet to be able to learn these, but I consider them a step downwards from WTC. They are fine works and since they are limited to 3 voices and are not 'full fugues' are usuall less complicated than WTC.

That's about all I can say for now. I've learned 3-4 of them before moving on to thw WTC (due to haste in order to carry on taking exams...)

#1649366 - 03/28/11 06:21 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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Sinfonia #5 is a great teaching tool, a foundation for playing ornaments.

Don't laugh here, but when I learned them I didn't know there were separate voices really, or at least didn't pay attention to them. Having matured as a musician, I can go back and play the pieces with the voices.. I LOVE them.. most of them.


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#1649403 - 03/28/11 08:17 AM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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I, too, have a student who is now ready to move on to other polyphonic music than Inventions. In fact, when he performed an Invention last year at auditions, his judge told him he was ready for WTC. Of course, the judge didn't know that this was his first Invention! So we have done 3 Inventions now, and each one he learns quite quickly. I toyed with the thought of doing a suite movement, but I really feel a prelude and fugue would be a more suitable challenge.


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#1649697 - 03/28/11 04:09 PM Re: Bach, Sinfonias - yes, no, maybe? [Re: ll]  
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@Apple, thank you for pointing out number 5. I think that may be one I can get her to do - it's not that she didn't agree to do them, but you can tell she wasn't excited about them. If I can at least get her to manage one, it'll be something.

@Morodiene, do you have any idea as to which you'll start with? I know G and C are the typical ones, but there have been some other great ones mentioned here.


II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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