Can you explain why the "had" is in front of "he" in the following: "....and would have composed even more difficult pieces had he the ability to play them”? Is this a special kind of inverted sentence?
Yes, it's a inverted subject-verb structure that means "If he had."
This is a special kind of inversion that we can use in "if" clauses only with the words "had, were, should":
- Had he the talent, Tom would have become a professional: (If he had the talent, Tom would have become a professional)
- Should you arrive late, you will be able to find us in the front of the restaurant. (If you should arrive late, you will able to find us...)
- Were I smarter, I would have taken the other road and avoided the traffic. (If I were smarter, .....)