During his lifetime, Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote an immense amount of works totaling over 1000 different pieces. One particular set of pieces that stood out in his keyboard music was The Well Tempered Clavier a collection of 48 preludes and fugues. Bach composed two sets of 24 several years apart from each other and had originally written them for the harpsichord although in current times we mostly here them performed on the piano. Over the course of a few hundred years the collection became a favorite for young musicians looking to improve their skills and for composers to gain new inspiration. Although the prelude is separated from the Fugue it is critical to understand the importance of them as a single entity of music, however they are composed differently and have very unique qualities.
Bach's preludes cannot be classified into a set way of writing and one cannot guess what is going to happen. They are unlike a fugue or sonata where the different sections will be clear or where one will be listening for specific structure to the piece. The only connection is that the prelude often somehow relates to the fugue it's preceding. To understand the prelude better we have to first establish that in the early days it would be most likely for the musician to be at a patron's home playing, not in a hall for an audience to sit down and watch. Many of these patrons would not be fully educated in music and therefore entertaining them would take a significant amount of effort from the composer. An introduction with arpeggiated figures and rolling broken chords and some minor improvisation to prepare both himself and the audience for the main composition would be very common. However as time progressed it became more popular and a more intricate part of the musical world, with writing a Prelude for every Fugue, not just a 1 for all or a set. Then the emergence of a prelude that rivals the ensuing main piece is beginning to be shown, although the prelude will not break into its own separate composition until later in time, to artistic creativity of the prelude is constantly in motion and developing throughout Bach's lifetime.
[...] Bruhn, Siglind J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier In Depth Analysis and Interpretation 1 Hong Kong: Mainer International Ltd Print. Bruhn, Siglind J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier In Depth Analysis and Interpretation 1 Hong Kong: Mainer International Ltd Print. Bruhn, Siglind J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier In Depth Analysis and Interpretation 1 Hong Kong: Mainer International Ltd Print. Bruhn, Siglind J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier In Depth Analysis and Interpretation 1 Hong Kong: Mainer International Ltd Print Keller, Hermann. The Well Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach. [...]
[...] There are many different factors that affect the overall design of a prelude. “Every piece of music is horizontally structured; it consists of several sections each of which is determined by a rounded harmonic progression. Doing a harmonic analysis of the prelude to determine where all the cadences are is a good start to understanding the construction of the prelude. From there you can easily break it into several sections and whether or not one section stands on its own or is an introduction of a much larger section. [...]
[...] In addition Bach will put in many different note values in the same phrase and “there are many intermediate stages between fast and slow notes and many variations on them”.An example of this can be seen in the first 6 measures of the Fugue in B flat minor from book 2. Another very important educational aspect is voicing. It is very important to bring out subject whenever it is presented in the fugue, but when it occurs in a middle voice it can often be difficult for the performer. It can be inferred that Bach wanted his students to learn how to voice a melody beautifully while maintaining the contrapuntal art of the Fugue. [...]
[...] There are many different ideas about how to correctly perform and learn a prelude and Fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier, but what is undeniable is the legacy that has been left by the set of 48 preludes and Fugues. They have become standard repertoire for keyboard players and they put forth some of the greatest contrapuntal keyboard writing seen. The Well- Tempered Clavier has been used an enormous amount of teachers to educate their pupils not only in baroque music but piano work as a whole. [...]
[...] It is also important to keep in mind that a Prelude and fugue are connected and should always be performed together as they represent as coherent piece of art. Bibliography Bruhn, Siglind. J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier In Depth Analysis and Interpretation Hong Kong: Mainer International Ltd Print. Keller, Hermann. The Well Tempered Clavier by Johann Sebastian Bach. American Edition. New York: Norton & Company Print. Kirkpatrick, Raplh. Interpreting Bach's Well Tempered clavier. [...]
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