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

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