Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bach's Well Tempered Clavier

For the season of Lent, I've chosen to play some of Bach's preludes and fugues from the Well Tempered Clavier as the preludes. Bach wrote two famous volumes of these preludes and fugues, one in each of the 24 keys (major and minor). For him, they may have primarily been an academic exercise and lesson/practice book. Indeed, almost every major composer since his time has spent countless hours studying the structure of those famous pieces.

This Sunday, I'll be playing the c minor from book one on the harpsichord. It has a fiery prelude with an extended cadenza/coda and an easily memorable fugue theme. Listen for it as it repeats throughout the second movement.

You'll also notice throughout Lent that though I'm playing minor key preludes, they drift harmonically through the relative major sounds and almost invariably end on a major chord. That's a common musical flourish of Bach's era, but when I play it during Lent I like to think of it as symbolizing the eventual end of the season with the festival of Easter.

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