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By Mary Nemet | From the May-June 2022 issue of Strings magazine

Busy researchers behind Offenburg editions devote themselves to unearthing little-known Baroque manuscripts and making them known to players and their audiences. Transcriptions and arrangements of these treasures (such as the composers themselves might have done) are also high on their agenda.

J.S.-Bach--15-Inventions

J.S. Bach: 15 Inventions
Arranged for two violins by Mihoko Kimura
Edition Offenburg, €17.90

This adaptation by Mihoko Kimura is based on Bach’s autograph manuscript for clavier, originally intended as teaching material for his sons. Bach gave forthright instructions for these 15 two-part inventions: “To learn to play two voices cleanly but also after further progress to handle three obligato parts in a pleasant and lively manner, thus developing good inventions (motifs), achieving a cantabile style, and acquiring a strong foretaste of composition.”


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Thus, we have a picture of how Bach taught his children. These Inventions (and the three-part sinfonias referred to in his instructions) were specifically written for Wilhelm Friedemann in Cöthen between 1717 and 1723. The eldest of Bach’s sons, Wilhelm would have been around ten years old.

The works are of course, much more than exercises, displaying Bach’s consummate skills in counterpoint, structure, and his creative development of themes.

Adapting the original for two violins, the counterpoint becomes readily apparent for both listener and player. (Kimura has also arranged the Inventions for two violas and two cellos). String duettists will welcome the clarity of the writing and the varied moods created by different keys. The editor’s suggestions for ornamentation, fingering, and other cues are sparse but very helpful.

A full score plus a separate Violin 2 part make up this vibrant and refreshing volume of duos. Kimura’s practical modern edition would no doubt win Johann Sebastian’s approval.