Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” is a crowning jewel of the Baroque era. That is a vivid collection of two unique sets of “preludes” and “fugues.” The collection dissects the intricacies of all 24 secrets (12 major keys and also 12 minor keys) in every book and was created by Bach because that solo keyboard.

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In the Baroque era, “Clavier” to be the generic name supplied to show different species of key-board instruments. The most usual ones consisted of a clavichord, harpsichord, and other organs.


Prelude in C major by Bach through his autograph in 1722


Johann Sebastian title the collection “Das Wohltemperirte Clavier” while the contemporary German location stands together “Das wohltemperierte Klavier.” The book is dated 1722 and was written in Köthen, essentially for the youth who preferred to find out music, including those who were currently proficient in the examine of music. Bach crafted the 2nd book roughly two decades after the very first book, title “The Well-Tempered Clavier - component Two” in Leipzig.

The modern-day editions room titled “The Well-Tempered Clavier - publication I & publication II” respectively. This collection is concerned as among the finest works in the vast history of timeless music. No other publication from the Baroque era has actually been so thoroughly scrutinized, cherished, and also performed.

Although Bach’s arsenal was not basically published throughout his lifetime, lot of copies and manuscripts were spread all throughout Europe by his pupils. Contemporary musicians prefer Beethoven and Mozart also got organize of this manuscripts, in turn influencing the pathway of western music. The entirety collection to be published practically 51 year after Bach’s death.


The intake of the word “well-tempered” proponents that back in those days, fine-tuned keyboard instruments that deserve to play every 24 secrets were scarce. From the latter half of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, the definition of this indigenous was considered to be “equal-temperament.” If we follow the follow of “well-tempered’s” historical significance, we will first arrive in ~ A. Werckmeister, the advocate of tuning methods. A comparable historical adjust was also paramount at the time, the initiation the the “tonal system.” together the Baroque era began, lot of church modes were reduced, establishing the scope for flexibility of modulation. Subsequently, an ext “major” and also “minor” tricks became obtainable for usage. Bach was clearly influenced by these developments, and it is fixed surprising the he chose this exact period to beginning his venture - using all secrets theoretically available. This makes Bach’s collection exceptionally important, not just for the era but also for launching brand-new avenues because that future generations. 

Musical Intention

Bach, however, successfully differentiated the body organ from various other stringed key-board instruments. His own classification of the instruments was likewise a convenient referral to a distinctive character that timbre and also sound, consisting of the physical dimensions the the instruments. Such differences are far-ranging to a composer, and also for someone of Bach’s class, it to be epoch-making. Bach’s choice of tools while functioning on this collection has been thoroughly disputed over time. That speculated that he had regular accessibility to part “clavier” form instrument. The conventional view says that Bach wanted to carry out the work on his clavichord, but accepted the restrictions of the key-board after considering the needs of future performers and also learners. The had understood the importance of disseminating his work.

The location of the collection additionally suggests that Bach had actually composed for a “12-note” tuning system where all tricks were in tune. This was additionally known together “circular temperament.” Bach, as an organist, was definitely familiar through all tuning systems, including the meantone system. Another speculation says that Bach to plan to usage equal temperament.

Musical Overview 

Both publication I and Book II comprises 24 pairs of “prelude “ and also “fugue.” The pairs space alternatively collection in major and minor keys - the very first pair in “C major,” the second pair in “C minor,” the 3rd pair in “C sharp major” and also so forth. A climbing chromatic form is continued until all secrets are represented, finishing with a fugue in “B minor.” This is followed through repeatedly, raising a halftone v each instance. Johann Sebastian had additionally recycled several of the preludes and fugues from different sources.

Bach"s autograph in the very first book is date 1722. However, it also comprises numerous preludes type his previously works, consisting of the “Klavierbüchlein” i m sorry is date 1720. Over there is additionally a vast collection that “Prelude and also Fughetta” predating the first book.

The primary resource of “The Well-Tempered Clavier - book II” is the manuscript titled “London Original.” Also, there is a different version that this book, which to be published later by the 19th-century Bach-Gesellschaft. This version is assumed to be crafted in 1744. Johann Sebastian"s son-in-law Johann Christoph Altnickol is the main writer, including some correction by Bach himself.

A musical evaluation of “The Well-Tempered Clavier” says it includes a tremendously broad array that styles, also when compared to most iconic pieces of literature. The preludes frequently exhibit Baroque melodies but are formally freestyle. They are often paired v a totally free coda. Castle are additionally distinct for having actually an odd number of measures, both once it comes to the measures and phrases in each prelude.

All fugues are significant to display how numerous voices there room in any given fugue (2, 3, 4, or 5 voices). There is a single “two-voiced” fugue, 2 “5-voiced” fugues, if the majority are “three voiced” and “four voiced.” They utilize a complete array of “counterpoint,” specific stretto, subject inversion, fugal exposition, etc. However, these fugues room comparatively no so dynamic together Johann Sebastian’s fugues composed for organ. Also, multiple analysis has been attempted come decipher the relationships of motifs in between fugue and also prelude. The most motivic reference is present in book 1, in the “B major” set. Here, the fugue utilizes the an initial 4 prelude notes in a comparable metric position, albeit, in ~ half-speed.

Major Recordings

Over 150 recordings the this celebrated collection have been recorded until now, additionally transcriptions because that synthesizers and also ensembles.

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In the duration spanning indigenous 1933 and 1936, Edwin Fischer videotaped the very first complete variation of “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” In 1949 (Book I) and 1952 (Book II), Wanda Landowska made the 2nd recording on harpsichord of both book I and Book II of the collection. In 1959 (Book I) and 1967 (Book II), Ralph Kirkpatrick recorded the very first complete variation on a clavichord. In 1959 (Book I) and also 1961 (Book II), another famous organist Helmut Walcha also recorded both books on a harpsichord.In 1982, Daniel Chorzempa ended up being the very first person to document it, utilizing multiple instruments, namely fortepiano, organ, clavichord, and harpsichord.Tatiana Nikolayeva, Rosalyn Tureck, András Schiff, João Carlos Martins, and also Angela Hewitt have all taped the collection on piano twice. Ralph Kirkpatrick additionally holds a similar feat (for harpsichord and also clavichord.) Anthony Newman is the only human to have actually recorded that thrice, once on the piano and also twice ~ above the harpsichord.A Canadian pianist valley Gould who specializes in Bach pieces, tape-recorded Well-Tempered Clavier publication 1 & 2 beginning in 1963 and also completing record in 1971.


Clarity is important when it pertains to considering “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” Hans von Bülow called it music’s “Old Testament,” and rightfully so. The limpid, clean, textures are just one the its many striking characteristics. Include to that a subtle sense of correct in every tempo. The tone of the preludes room perfectly timed, nothing appears labored or hurried, together the fugues normally unfold. Each voice exudes its own distinct an are and color, like the savory icing top top a breakable dessert.

The wonderfully lucid and thoughtful range of music, consisting of Bach’s myriad styles, renders the collection an prompt blockbuster. The means Bach differed his preludes to incorporate multiple music forms, from improvisations to arias, studies to dances, tending every among them personally evokes a clear feeling of music authority and direction. There are no ulterior motives, just a natural unfolding of part truly mesmerizing music.