Bach Bwv 846 Prelude Analysis Essay

JS Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book I:  Prelude and Fugue C major, BWV 846

Well Tempered Clavier Book I, Prelude C major

We start our analysis with the, so to say, "entry door" into the 48, the Well Tempered Clavier Book I, Prelude C maj. This prelude is an (intentionally) simple series of chord arpeggios, walking through some modulations in the vicinity of and returning back to C maj. Here is a brief map of what happens in the prelude: 
Please note that in the above score, I have grouped the two bass tones and the upper chords separately. This is because in JSBs original score, the 2 bass notes sustain and form the basis of the chord progression. If you play just the bass staff of the above score, you will see that there are some melodic effects that this makes, which are not audible if one just plays each 5 tone chord (upper and lower staves). In connection to this topic, the performer has to decide as to whether the 16th notes of the right hand should be sustained until the end of each arpeggio, or if they should be held (only) as long as the notation indicates. In my view, both variants are viable, it depends on the overall design

This prelude is technically easy to play, so there are no fingerings to be discussed. It is equally easy to understand the few harmonic progressions that it comprises. However, as easy it is to understand what happens, and to technically master the few chord arpeggios, as difficult it is to play this prelude adequately and, if I may say so, tastefully. Bear in mind that this simple piece of music is the entry into a world of highly complex counterpoint music. As David Ledbetter has pointed out (in "the 48"), the Well Tempered Clavier was, inter alia, JS Bach's answer to quite provocative publications of J.Mattheson, in order to defend the traditions of the German polyphonic music. In this context it is almost ironic that JS Bach begins his highly sophisticated collection with something as naive, simple and innocent as the C maj P. 

Which leads me to my personal conclusion, that this piece is not up for "romantic" interpretation. If you play the C maj, think about it as embedded into something bigger (i.e., Book 1), and "feel" the tension that it creates by being so simple and monotone, compared to what is coming after. It clearly is a very beautiful piece of music, and it should be treated with respect and diligence. No strong rubatos, no "search" for hidden melodies, no big interpretational concepts, no wanted (or even worse: unwanted) tempo changes. Please leave it as what it is - a reduced sequence of chords, arpeggiated, with a beauty that lies in its simplicity, not in major interpretational efforts of the artists, who longs for something to "happen" in the music he plays. Save your interpretational energy for the later pieces, you will need them there. 
 
If you want to listen to a beautifully simple interpretation of the Cmaj Prelude, I recommend Friedrich Gulda's recording. He has obviously understood what this prelude stands for. Glenn Gould, as a comparison, presents the prelude in a quite artificial phrasing, which even changes a lot throughout the short piece, and while this might sound somehow interesting, in my opinion it misses the point.  Very nice also Jando, Hewitt, Koroliov, Richter (a little romantic, but well dosed), and many others. For the harpsichord, listen to Hantai. A surprise: Andras Schiff's 1990 version is quite dramatic (and not really convincing), while his 2012 version is simple and beautiful. The price for celebrating the C maj very slowly and with lots of rubato goes to Tureck. 

Well Tempered Clavier Book I, Fugue C major

The Fugue C maj is a beautifully flowing piece of music, which is seemingly the perfect choice to be the introductory fugue to Book 1. The fugue has practically no episodes, and, as scholars have pointed out, the subject enters 24 times (as a reference to the number of P/F in Book 1), which seems not to be a coincident, given JSBs fondness of number symbolic. Its a quite dense piece of counterpoint, however, as should be expected, there are far more complex fugues in Book 1 than C maj. Thus, the fugue C maj is a very balanced and suitable opening piece to the work.  

For performers, it is important to understand the overall architecture of the fugue. It starts with a regular exposition through all 4 voices in bars 1-6. The first development (bars 7 ff) already brings 2 strettos and modulates (finally) into Amin, which results in increasing tension and raises the expectation of the listener as to what is coming. The second development, starting in bar 14, more than fulfills such expectations, with an incredibly dense series of strettos, leading into the gloomy Dmin, only to release the built up tension in bar 19 by resolving the candenca into D maj (used as double dominant chord), passing on the flow into a further development (3), which also introduces some strettos, but in a more relaxed context, both harmonically and with regards to the density of the counterpoint. The fugue closes by ways of a warm and splendid organ point with the upper voices rising in counterpointal dialogue to a crowning and lofty C maj. 

Below is an overview of the 4 sections of the fugue, as well as an indication of the modulations that occur. Performers should carefully build up tension to bar 14 and then play in higher intensity section D2. Tension then should be lowered in section D3, and the fugue should end in perfect flow, legato and warm sound (which is not easy, given the register of the right hand in the final chord). 

Just to mention it: higher intensity, in my thinking, does not mean forte, and it has nothing to do with raising the tempo or playing stressfully. It all has to happen with a continuous flow, which is characteristic for the C maj fugue. Sometimes, lowering the sound level and let the music speak is the best way to create additional tension. 

Regarding the stylistic elements, the most important thing to achieve when playing the fugue is flow. The theme is such a round and wonderful phrase, which has some parallels to BWV 545. One might also compare the fugue to WTC Book 1 Fugue B major, or in a wider sense, to the "Gratias Agimus" of JSBs mass in B minor. 

Here is the beginning of BWV 545, an organ work, which is an interesting comparison. 

Technically, the fugue is not too difficult to play, as the lines progress without causing greater problems for left or right hand. Special attention, however, require the multiple strettos in bars 14 to 19, which is the key section of the fugue (given the above analysis of the tension development). These few bars should be practiced separately and interprets need to find a suitable fingering that fits their hands and phrasing. 

Here is what works for me:  

For a good interpretation of the fugue, I recommend the recording of Andras Schiff (both 1990 and 2012 - the latter is more interesting in it's articulation of the subject, which is carried throughout the fugue very well) and of Till Fellner. So pure and easy, flowing and controlled.  Richter uses lots of pedal, but his take is noble and earnest. Koroliov also follows a very calm path, and makes a long stop before bars 14f, with interesting results. Interesting phrasing from Hewitt (very similar to Hentai), and Gould (here: in a positive sense). Quite special Egarr, who plays the 32nd notes in the subject as 16th notes, thus shortening the preceding note. 

You can find my own interpretation of JS Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 P/F C major, which I try to keep simple and flowing, using a reduced registration, here. 

BPM comparison

Below you can find a comparison of the speed of execution, measured in beats per minute, for the records covered (see Well-tempered Clavier - Notable Performances). Interesting that Barenboim's C major prelude is almost double speed to Tureck. Further, the relationship of the prelude to the fugue shows material differences: Gould and Stadtfeld play 1:1, Gulda (almost) 2:1. 

For the Westworld episode, see The Well-Tempered Clavier (Westworld).

The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, is a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, composed for solo keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach. In the German of Bach's time Clavier (keyboard) was a generic name indicating a variety of keyboard instruments, most typically a harpsichord or clavichord – but not excluding an organ either.

The modern German spelling for the collection is Das wohltemperierte Klavier (WTK; German pronunciation:[das ˌvoːlˌtɛmpəˈʁiːɐ̯tə klaˈviːɐ̯]). Bach gave the title Das Wohltemperirte Clavier to a book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, dated 1722, composed "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study". Some 20 years later Bach compiled a second book of the same kind, which became known as The Well-Tempered Clavier, Part Two (in German: Zweyter Theil, modern spelling: Zweiter Teil).

Modern editions usually refer to both parts as The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I (WTC I) and The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II (WTC II), respectively.[1] The collection is generally regarded as being among the most important works in the history of Western classical music.[2]

Composition history[edit]

Each set contains twenty-four pairs of prelude and fugue. The first pair is in C major, the second in C minor, the third in C♯ major, the fourth in C♯ minor, and so on. The rising chromatic pattern continues until every key has been represented, finishing with a B minor fugue. The first set was compiled in 1722 during Bach's appointment in Köthen; the second followed 20 years later in 1742 while he was in Leipzig.

Bach recycled some of the preludes and fugues from earlier sources: the 1720 Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, for instance, contains versions of eleven of the preludes of the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The C♯ major prelude and fugue in book one was originally in C major – Bach added a key signature of seven sharps and adjusted some accidentals to convert it to the required key.

In Bach's own time no similar collections were published, except one by Johann Christian Schickhardt (1681–1762), whose Op. 30 L'alphabet de la musique, contained 24 sonatas in all keys for alto recorder or flute or violin and basso continuo.[3]

Precursors[edit]

Although the Well-Tempered Clavier was the first collection of fully worked keyboard pieces in all 24 keys, similar ideas had occurred earlier. Before the advent of modern tonality in the late 17th century, numerous composers produced collections of pieces in all seven modes: Johann Pachelbel's magnificat fugues (composed 1695–1706), Georg Muffat's Apparatus Musico-organisticus of 1690 and Johann Speth's Ars magna of 1693 for example. Furthermore, some two hundred years before Bach's time, equal temperament was realized on plucked string instruments, such as the lute and the theorbo, resulting in several collections of pieces in all keys (although the music was not yet tonal in the modern sense of the word):

One of the earliest keyboard composers to realize a collection of organ pieces in successive keys was Daniel Croner (de) (1656–1740), who compiled one such cycle of preludes in 1682.[8][9] His contemporary Johann Heinrich Kittel (1652–1682) also composed a cycle of 12 organ preludes in successive keys.[10]

J.C.F. Fischer's Ariadne musica neo-organoedum (published in 1702 and reissued 1715) is a set of 20 prelude-fugue pairs in ten major and nine minor keys and the Phrygian mode, plus five chorale-based ricercars. Bach knew the collection and borrowed some of the themes from Fischer for the Well-Tempered Clavier.[11] Other contemporary works include the treatise Exemplarische Organisten-Probe (1719) by Johann Mattheson (1681–1764), which included 48 figured bass exercises in all keys,[12]Partien auf das Clavier (1718) by Christoph Graupner (1683–1760) with eight suites in successive keys,[13] and Friedrich Suppig's Fantasia from Labyrinthus Musicus (1722), a long and formulaic sectional composition ranging through all 24 keys which was intended for an enharmonic keyboard with 31 notes per octave and pure major thirds.[12][14] Finally, a lost collection by Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706), Fugen und Praeambuln über die gewöhnlichsten Tonos figuratos (announced 1704), may have included prelude-fugue pairs in all keys or modes.[15]

It was long believed that Bach had taken the title The Well-Tempered Clavier from a similarly-named set of 24 Preludes and Fugues in all the keys, for which a manuscript dated 1689 was found in the library of the Brussels Conservatoire. It was later shown that this was the work of a composer who was not even born in 1689: Bernhard Christian Weber (1 December 1712 – 5 February 1758). It was in fact written in 1745–50, and in imitation of Bach's example.[16][17]

Well-Tempered tuning[edit]

See also: Musical temperament and Musical tuning § Tuning systems

Bach's title suggests that he had written for a (12-note) well-tempered tuning system in which all keys sounded in tune (also known as "circular temperament"). The opposing system in Bach's day was meantone temperament[citation needed] in which keys with many accidentals sound out of tune. (See also musical tuning.) Bach would have been familiar with different tuning systems, and in particular as an organist would have played instruments tuned to a meantone system.

It is sometimes assumed that by "well-tempered" Bach intended equal temperament, the standard modern keyboard tuning which became popular after Bach's death, but modern scholars suggest instead a form of well temperament.[18] There is debate whether Bach meant a range of similar temperaments, perhaps even altered slightly in practice from piece to piece, or a single specific "well-tempered" solution for all purposes.

Intended tuning[edit]

During much of the 20th century it was assumed that Bach wanted equal temperament, which had been described by theorists and musicians for at least a century before Bach's birth. Internal evidence for this may be seen in the fact that in Book 1 Bach paired the E♭ minor prelude (6 flats) with its enharmonic key of D♯ minor (6 sharps) for the fugue. This represents an equation of the most tonally remote enharmonic keys where the flat and sharp arms of the circle of fifths cross each other opposite to C major. Any performance of this pair would have required both of these enharmonic keys to sound identically tuned, thus implying equal temperament in the one pair, as the entire work implies as a whole. However, research has continued into various unequal systems contemporary with Bach's career. Accounts of Bach's own tuning practice are few and inexact. The three most cited sources are Forkel, Bach's first biographer; Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, who received information from Bach's sons and pupils; and Johann Kirnberger, one of those pupils.

Forkel reports that Bach tuned his own harpsichords and clavichords and found other people's tunings unsatisfactory; his own allowed him to play in all keys and to modulate into distant keys almost without the listeners noticing it. Marpurg and Kirnberger, in the course of a heated debate, appear to agree that Bach required all the major thirds to be sharper than pure—which is in any case virtually a prerequisite for any temperament to be good in all keys.[19]

Johann Georg Neidhardt, writing in 1724 and 1732, described a range of unequal and near-equal temperaments (as well as equal temperament itself), which can be successfully used to perform some of Bach's music, and were later praised by some of Bach's pupils and associates. J.S. Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach himself published a rather vague tuning method which was close to but still not equal temperament: having only "most of" the fifths tempered, without saying which ones nor by how much.

Since 1950 there have been many other proposals and many performances of the work in different and unequal tunings, some derived from historical sources, some by modern authors. Whatever their provenances, these schemes all promote the existence of subtly different musical characters in different keys, due to the sizes of their intervals. However, they disagree as to which key receives which character:

  • Herbert Anton Kellner argued from the mid-1970s until his death that esoteric considerations such as the pattern of Bach's signet ring, numerology, and more could be used to determine the correct temperament. His result is somewhat similar to Werckmeister's most familiar "correct" temperament. Kellner's temperament, with seven pure fifths and five ​15comma fifths, has been widely adopted worldwide for the tuning of organs. It is especially effective as a moderate solution to play 17th-century music, shying away from tonalities that have more than two flats.
  • John Barnes analyzed the Well-Tempered Clavier 's major-key preludes statistically, observing that some major thirds are used more often than others. His results were broadly in agreement with Kellner's and Werckmeister's patterns. His own proposed temperament from that study is a ​16 comma variant of both Kellner (​15) and Werckmeister (​14), with the same general pattern tempering the naturals, and concluding with a tempered fifth B–F♯.
  • Mark Lindley, a researcher of historical temperaments, has written several surveys of temperament styles in the GermanBaroque tradition. In his publications he has recommended and devised many patterns close to those of Neidhardt, with subtler gradations of interval size. Since a 1985 article in which he addressed some issues in the Well-Tempered Clavier, Lindley's theories have focused more on Bach's organ music than the harpsichord or clavichord works.

Title page tuning interpretations[edit]

More recently there has been a series of proposals of temperaments derived from the handwritten pattern of loops on Bach's 1722 title page. These loops (though truncated by a later clipping of the page) can be seen at the top of the title page image at the beginning of the article.

  • Andreas Sparschuh, in the course of studying German Baroque organ tunings, assigned mathematical and acoustic meaning to the loops. Each loop, he argued, represents a fifth in the sequence for tuning the keyboard, starting from A. From this Sparschuh devised a recursive tuning algorithm resembling the Collatz conjecture in mathematics, subtracting one beat per second each time Bach's diagram has a non-empty loop. In 2006 he retracted his 1998 proposal based on A = 420 Hz, and replaced it with another at A = 410 Hz.
  • Michael Zapf in 2001 reinterpreted the loops as indicating the rate of beating of different fifths in a given range of the keyboard in terms of seconds-per-beat, with the tuning now starting on C.
  • John Charles Francis in 2004 performed a mathematical analysis of the loops using Mathematica under the assumption of beats per second. In 2004, he also distributed several temperaments derived from BWV 924.[20]
  • Bradley Lehman in 2004 proposed[21] a ​16 and ​112 comma layout derived from Bach's loops, which he published in 2005 in articles of three music journals. Reaction to this work has been both vigorous and mixed, with other writers producing further speculative schemes or variants.
  • Daniel Jencka in 2005 proposed[22] a variation of Lehman's layout where one of the ​16 commas is spread over three fifths (G♯–D♯–A♯/B♭), resulting in a ​118 comma division. Motivations for Jencka's approach involve an analysis of the possible logic behind the figures themselves and his belief that a wide fifth (B♭–F) found in Lehman's interpretation is unlikely in a well-temperament from the time.
  • Graziano Interbartolo and others in 2006 proposed[23] a tuning system deduced from the WTK title page. Their work was also published in a book: Bach 1722 – Il temperamento di Dio – Le scoperte e i significati del 'Wohltemperirte Clavier', p. 136 – Edizioni Bolla, Finale Ligure.

Nevertheless, some musicologists say it is insufficiently proven that Bach's looped drawing signifies anything reliable about a tuning method. Bach may have tuned differently per occasion, or per composition, throughout his career.

  • David Schulenberg, in his book The Keyboard Music of J. S. Bach, allows that Lehman's argument is "ingenious" but counters that it "lacks documentary support (if the swirls were so important, why did Bach's students not copy them accurately, if at all?")[24] and concludes that the swirls cannot "be unambiguously interpreted as a code for a particular temperament".[25]
  • Luigi Swich, in his article "Further thoughts on Bach's 1722 temperament",[26] more recently presents an alternative reading from that of Bradley Lehman and others of Johann Sebastian Bach's tuning method as derived from the title-page calligraphic drawing. It differs in significant details, resulting in a circulating but unequal temperament using ​15 Pythagorean-comma fifths that is effective through all 24 keys and, most important, tunable by ear without an electronic tuning device. It is based on the synchronicity between the fifth F–C and the third F–A (c. 3 beats per second) and between the fifth C–G and the third C–E (c. 2 beats per second). Such a system is reminiscent of Herbert Anton Kellner's 1977 temperament and even more, among the others, the temperament of the 1688 Arp Schnitger organ in Norden, St Ludgeri and the temperament later described by Carlo Gervasoni in his La scuola della musica (Piacenza, 1800). Such a system with all its major thirds more or less sharp is confirmed by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg's report about the way a famous student of Bach's, Johann Philipp Kirnberger, was taught to tune in his lessons with Bach. It allows all 24 keys to be played through without changing tuning nor unpleasant intervals, but with varying degrees of difference-the temperament being unequal, and the keys not all sounding the same. Compared to Werckmeister III, the other 24 keys-circulating temperament, Bach's tuning is much more differentiated with its 8 (instead of Werckmeister's 4) different kinds of major thirds. The manuscript Bach P415 in Berlin Staatsbibliothek is the only known copy of the WTC to show this drawing which represents, a bit cryptically in Bach's spirit, the purpose for which the masterpiece was written and its solution at the same time. Not surprisingly, since this is most probably the working copy that Johann Sebastian Bach used in his classes.

Content[edit]

See also: List of solo keyboard compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach § The Well-Tempered Clavier (846–893), and List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach § BGA14

Each Prelude is followed by a Fugue in the same key. In each book the first Prelude and Fugue is in C major, followed by a Prelude and Fugue in its parallel minor key (C minor). Then all keys, each major key followed by its parallel minor key, are followed through, each time moving up a half tone: C → C♯ → D → E♭ → E → F → F♯ → ... ending with ... → B♭ → B.

Book I[edit]

The first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier was composed in the early 1720s, with Bach's autograph dated 1722. Apart from the early versions of several preludes included in W. F. Bach's Klavierbüchlein (1720) there is an almost complete collection of "Prelude and Fughetta" versions predating the 1722 autograph, known from a later copy by an unidentified scribe.[27]

Title Page[edit]

The title page of the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier reads:

Das Wohltemperirte Clavier oder Præludia, und Fugen durch alle Tone und Semitonia, so wohl tertiam majorem oder Ut Re Mi anlangend, als auch tertiam minorem oder Re Mi Fa betreffend. Zum Nutzen und Gebrauch der Lehrbegierigen Musicalischen Jugend, als auch derer in diesem studio schon habil seyenden besonderem Zeitvertreib auffgesetzet und verfertiget von Johann Sebastian Bach. p. t: Hochfürstlich Anhalt-Cöthenischen Capel-Meistern und Directore derer Camer Musiquen. Anno 1722.

In English:[28]

The well-tempered Clavier, or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones, both as regards the tertiam majorem or Ut Re Mi [i.e., major] and tertiam minorem or Re Mi Fa [i.e., minor]. For the profit and use of the studious musical young, and also for the special diversion of those who are already skilful in this study, composed and made by Johann Sebastian Bach, for the time being Capellmeister and Director of the Chamber-music of the Prince of Anhalt-Cothen. In the year 1722.

No. 1: Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846[edit]

Further information: Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846

Early version BWV 846a of the Prelude in Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (No. 14: "Praeludium 1"). The prelude is a seemingly simple progression of arpeggiated chords, one of the connotations of 'préluder' as the French lutenists used it: to test the tuning. Bach used both G♯ and A♭ into the harmonic meandering.

No. 2: Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 847[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 847. Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 15: Praeludium 2.

No. 3: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ major, BWV 848[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp major, BWV 848. Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 21: Praeludium [8].

No. 4: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ minor, BWV 849[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp minor, BWV 849. Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 22: Praeludium [9].

No. 5: Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 850[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 850 (commons). Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 17: Praeludium 4.

No. 6: Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 851[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 851 (commons). Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 16: Praeludium 3.

No. 7: Prelude and Fugue in E♭ major, BWV 852[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in E-flat major, BWV 852 (commons).

No. 8: Prelude in E♭ minor and Fugue in D♯ minor, BWV 853[edit]

Prelude in E-flat minor and Fugue in D-sharp minor, BWV 853 (commons). Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 23: Praeludium [10]. The fugue was transposed from D minor to D♯ minor.

No. 9: Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 854[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 854 (commons). Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 19: Praeludium 6.

No. 10: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 855[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 855. Early version BWV 855a of the Prelude in Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (No. 18: "Praeludium 5").

No. 11: Prelude and Fugue in F major, BWV 856[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F major, BWV 856 (commons). Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 20: Praeludium 7.

No. 12: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 857[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 857 (commons). Prelude also in WFB Klavierbüchlein, No. 24: Praeludium [11].

No. 13: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ major, BWV 858[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp major, BWV 858 (commons).

No. 14: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ minor, BWV 859[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp minor, BWV 859 (commons).

No. 15: Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 860[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 860 (commons).

No. 16: Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 861[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 861.

No. 17: Prelude and Fugue in A♭ major, BWV 862[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in A-flat major, BWV 862 (commons).

No. 18: Prelude and Fugue in G♯ minor, BWV 863[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in G-sharp minor, BWV 863 (commons).

No. 19: Prelude and Fugue in A major, BWV 864[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in A major, BWV 864 (commons).

No. 20: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 865[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 865 (commons).

No. 21: Prelude and Fugue in B♭ major, BWV 866[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in B-flat major, BWV 866 (commons).

No. 22: Prelude and Fugue in B♭ minor, BWV 867[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in B-flat minor, BWV 867 (commons).

No. 23: Prelude and Fugue in B major, BWV 868[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in B major, BWV 868 (commons).

No. 24: Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 869[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 869 (commons).

Book II[edit]

The two major primary sources for this collection of Preludes and Fugues are the "London Original" (LO) manuscript, dated between 1739 and 1742, with scribes including Bach, his wife Anna Magdalena and his oldest son Wilhelm Friedeman, which is the basis for Version A of WTC II,[29] and for Version B, that is the version published by the 19th-century Bach-Gesellschaft, a 1744 copy primarily written by Johann Christoph Altnickol (Bach's son-in-law), with some corrections by Bach, and later also by Altnickol and others.[30]

No. 1: Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 870[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 870.

No. 2: Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 871[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 871 (commons).

No. 3: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ major, BWV 872[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp major, BWV 872 (commons).

No. 4: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ minor, BWV 873[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp minor, BWV 873 (commons).

No. 5: Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 874[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 874 (commons).

No. 6: Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 875[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 875 (commons).

No. 7: Prelude and Fugue in E♭ major, BWV 876[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in E-flat major, BWV 876 (commons).

No. 8: Prelude and Fugue in D♯ minor, BWV 877[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in D-sharp minor, BWV 877 (commons).

No. 9: Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 878[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 878 (commons).

No. 10: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 879[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 879 (commons).

No. 11: Prelude and Fugue in F major, BWV 880[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F major, BWV 880 (commons).

No. 12: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 881[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 881. Prelude as a theme with variations. Fugue in three voices.

No. 13: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ major, BWV 882[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp major, BWV 882 (commons).

No. 14: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ minor, BWV 883[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp minor, BWV 883 (commons).

No. 15: Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 884[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 884 (commons).

No. 16: Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 885[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 885 (commons).

No. 17: Prelude and Fugue in A♭ major, BWV 886[edit]

Prelude and Fugue in A-flat major, BWV 886

Title page of Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, Book I (autograph)

Contents

  • 1Composition history
  • 2Content
    • 2.1Book I
      • 2.1.1Title Page
      • 2.1.2No. 1: Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 846
      • 2.1.3No. 2: Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 847
      • 2.1.4No. 3: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ major, BWV 848
      • 2.1.5No. 4: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ minor, BWV 849
      • 2.1.6No. 5: Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 850
      • 2.1.7No. 6: Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 851
      • 2.1.8No. 7: Prelude and Fugue in E♭ major, BWV 852
      • 2.1.9No. 8: Prelude in E♭ minor and Fugue in D♯ minor, BWV 853
      • 2.1.10No. 9: Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 854
      • 2.1.11No. 10: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 855
      • 2.1.12No. 11: Prelude and Fugue in F major, BWV 856
      • 2.1.13No. 12: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 857
      • 2.1.14No. 13: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ major, BWV 858
      • 2.1.15No. 14: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ minor, BWV 859
      • 2.1.16No. 15: Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 860
      • 2.1.17No. 16: Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 861
      • 2.1.18No. 17: Prelude and Fugue in A♭ major, BWV 862
      • 2.1.19No. 18: Prelude and Fugue in G♯ minor, BWV 863
      • 2.1.20No. 19: Prelude and Fugue in A major, BWV 864
      • 2.1.21No. 20: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 865
      • 2.1.22No. 21: Prelude and Fugue in B♭ major, BWV 866
      • 2.1.23No. 22: Prelude and Fugue in B♭ minor, BWV 867
      • 2.1.24No. 23: Prelude and Fugue in B major, BWV 868
      • 2.1.25No. 24: Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 869
    • 2.2Book II
      • 2.2.1No. 1: Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 870
      • 2.2.2No. 2: Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 871
      • 2.2.3No. 3: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ major, BWV 872
      • 2.2.4No. 4: Prelude and Fugue in C♯ minor, BWV 873
      • 2.2.5No. 5: Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 874
      • 2.2.6No. 6: Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 875
      • 2.2.7No. 7: Prelude and Fugue in E♭ major, BWV 876
      • 2.2.8No. 8: Prelude and Fugue in D♯ minor, BWV 877
      • 2.2.9No. 9: Prelude and Fugue in E major, BWV 878
      • 2.2.10No. 10: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 879
      • 2.2.11No. 11: Prelude and Fugue in F major, BWV 880
      • 2.2.12No. 12: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 881
      • 2.2.13No. 13: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ major, BWV 882
      • 2.2.14No. 14: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ minor, BWV 883
      • 2.2.15No. 15: Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 884
      • 2.2.16No. 16: Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 885
      • 2.2.17No. 17: Prelude and Fugue in A♭ major, BWV 886
      • 2.2.18No. 18: Prelude and Fugue in G♯ minor, BWV 887
      • 2.2.19No. 19: Prelude and Fugue in A major, BWV 888
      • 2.2.20No. 20: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 889
      • 2.2.21No. 21: Prelude and Fugue in B♭ major, BWV 890
      • 2.2.22No. 22: Prelude and Fugue in B♭ minor, BWV 891
      • 2.2.23No. 23: Prelude and Fugue in B major, BWV 892
      • 2.2.24No. 24: Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 893
  • 3Style
  • 4Reception
  • 5Recordings
  • 6References
  • 7Sources
  • 8External links
Bach's autograph of the 4th Fugue of Book I
Bach's autograph of Fugue No. 17 in A♭ major from the second part of Das Wohltemperierte Clavier
Top of Bach's title page for the 1st book of 'The Well-Tempered Clavier', 1722, showing handwritten loops which some have interpreted as tuning instructions.
Early version BWV 846a (1720) of the first prelude of the first book, as written down by Bach in his eldest son's notebook
Bach's autograph (1722) of the first prelude of Book I

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