Bach Inverted

The Well-Tempered Clavier (or Das Wohltemperirte Clavier BWV 846–893) of Johann Sebastian Bach is a set of 96 individual pieces in two volumes dating from early 18th Century. They represent one of the highest points in the music canon in both contrapuntal writing and diatonic harmony. By composing works in every possible major and minor key, Bach is celebrating the ‘tempered’ tuning of keyboards that now allow every key to be played with equal amounts of concordance.

Portrait of J.S.Bach (1746)
J.S.Bach (c.a. 1746)

The challenge in Bach Inverted was to re-compose each of the works in its opposite mode. So Prelude and Fugue Nº1 in Book 1 that was originally in C major, has been arranged in C minor while Nº2 in C minor is now in C major, and so on and so forth. Strict rules were applied in the entire procedure:

      • no notes were added or taken away
      • note names were maintained, their alteration only permitted by a combination of key and accidental.

A major issue is how to deal with modulations in the case of, for instance, when a tonic modulates to a relative major or minor. This can lead to some hairy moments that Baroque purists may find to be a step too far. Evidently, taste is involved and the works continue to be revised. Not all transformations are successful but some new gems have been created in the process.

Completed in 2016. Latest revision September 2020

Bach Inverted is a composition study in which the Well Tempered Preludes and Fugues of J.S.Bach – the “Forty-Eight” – have been re-imagined in their opposite (or inverted) mode.

Bach’s concept was to write a prelude and fugue in each of the 12 major and 12 minor keys. And so, from the 24 individual keys was produced 48 distinct works. These were completed in 1722.

Twenty years later, Bach repeated the process with Volume II. So now there are 96 exquisite works.

Bach Inverted takes each of the 96 works and re-arranges them in their opposite mode. That which was major is now minor, and vice versa. Strict rules were enforced, notably that all note names be respected while permitting alterations (flat, sharp, double flat, double sharp, natural). No notes were omitted nor added.