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#425540 - 03/21/07 08:57 AM WTC difficulty  
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Follow up from the thread on Bartok's list:

Would anyone care to offer their rankings of the preludes by difficulty and the fugues by difficulty?


Bob Runyan
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#425541 - 03/21/07 09:37 AM Re: WTC difficulty  
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... assuming, of course, that we have studied all 48 thoroughly enough to make such a ranking!

Regards,


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#425542 - 03/21/07 09:50 AM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Quote
Originally posted by BruceD:
... assuming, of course, that we have studied all 48 thoroughly enough to make such a ranking!
Has anyone here? That's a tough question and not one with any easy -or necessary- answer.


Jason
#425543 - 03/21/07 10:06 AM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Regarding book 1, I guess that numbers 2,6,10 are one of the easiest

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#425544 - 03/21/07 10:47 AM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Quote
Originally posted by Bassio:
Regarding book 1, I guess that numbers 2,6,10 are one of the easiest
Did you forget the C major? Of was that just too obvious? wink


Jason
#425545 - 03/21/07 11:02 AM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Here's another list:

1. no. 15 in G (Book II)
2. no. 6 in Dm
3. no. 21 in Bb
4. no. 10 in Em
5. no. 20 in Am (Book II)
6. no. 11 in F
7. no. 2 in Cm
8. no. 9 in E
9. no. 13 in F#
10. no. 21 in Bb (Book II)
11. no. 6 in Dm (Book II)
12. no. 19 in A (Book II)
13. no. 11 in F (Book II)
14. no. 19 in A
15. no. 14 in F#m
16. no. 18 in G#m
17 no. 2 in Cm (Book II)
18. no. 5 in D
19. no. 7 in Eb
20. no. 14 in F#m (Book II)
21. no. 7 in Eb (Book II)
22. no. 1 in C
23. no. 17 in Ab
24. no. 13 in F# (Book II)
25. no. 15 in G
26. no. 12 in Fm (Book II)
27. no. 1 in C (Book II)
28. no. 24 in Bm (Book II)
29. no. 10 in Em (Book II)
30. no. 16 in Gm
31. no. 5 in D (Book II)
32. no. 18 in G#m (Book II)
33. no. 24 in Bm
34. no. 9 in E (Book II)
35. no. 4 in C#m (Book II)
36. no. 23 in B
37. no. 3 in C# (Book II)
38. no. 12 in Fm
39. no. 3 in C#
40. no. 8 in D#m (Book II)
41. no. 22 in Bbm
42. no. 17 in Ab (Book II)
43. no 4 in C#m
44. no. 8 in D#m
45. no. 20 in Am
46. no. 22 in Bbm (Book II)
47. no. 16 in Gm (Book II)
48. no. 23 in B (Book II)


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#425546 - 03/21/07 11:21 AM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Interesting. That is the same list as Bartok devised and was talked about in the other thread, but it adds the two missing preludes and fugues: Numbers 1 and 2 from Book 1.


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#425547 - 03/21/07 03:20 PM Re: WTC difficulty  
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I found this list at another forum:

Here.


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#425548 - 03/21/07 03:35 PM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Quote
Originally posted by George K:
I found this list at another forum:

Here.
Ok, this deserves to be copied; it's very good stuff.

Typed by Bernhard on Piano Street:

"1. There is no evidence that Bach considered the WTC as a cycle to be performed in its entirety. Quite the opposite, all the evidence is that in his time (and his pupils according to his teaching) would not even pair the preludes and fugues.

2. The WTC – again according to all evidence available at present – was never intended for public performance (Bach composed plenty of other works for that purpose). Rather these were teaching/studying pieces.

3. However – and here there is a very wrong assumption – what they were intended to teach was most emphatically not keyboard technique, that is finger dexterity, hand independence and so on. But rather music in its most comprehensive meaning.

4. A student of Bach’s time would derive the following understandings from working on the WTC:

a. Theory and harmony: how to create motifs; how to develop them; relationship between keys; musical patterns (arpeggios, scales, broken chords, etc.); how to structure fugues, etc.

b. Composition: based on the above, how to compose one’s own prelude and fugue, with Bach’s own serving as models and inspiration.

c. Tuning. Musicians had to tune their own instruments at the time. In order to play the WTC one needed to be versed in Bach’s own well-temperament system (which by the way is lost: we do not know how he tuned his instruments). You cannot play the WTC in the usual temperaments of the time, and that was a turning point in muscal history that eventually lead to the supremacy of equal temperament (although Bach and his contemporaries did not use equal temperament as we know it today). This is particularly important for the WTC I, but possibly less so for WTC II – composed 20 years later – by which time equal temperament (well temperament) was pretty much established.

d. Keyboard technique. Which of course was catered for as well.

e. These understandings were taken for granted at the time: the division between performing and composing is a very recent phenomenon. In fact other keyboard works like the Little preludes, the Inventions and the Sinfonias shared the same aims.

From all that, it necessarily follows that if you truly want to squeeze from these pieces all that you can, the analysis and study of preludes and fugues, composing similar pieces, and improvising in their style, and even may be trying your hand at tuning a clavichord (the most common house instrument, Bach’s favourite keyboard instrument after the organ, and arguably the instrument the WTC was intended for) should make part of your study. (Several modern manufacturers of historical instruments make clavichords at a surprisingly reasonable price. If you have never played one, it is quite a shock how fragile they are, and how soft their sound is).

5. The most likely scenario for the performance for the WTC in Bach’s time would be with the keyboardist playing a selected prelude or fugue (not necessarily paired) and discerning the several voices by associating them with the hand and finger movement/distribution. The actual sound was used to delight in the blending[i/] and bringing up one voice above the others, or pointing out through accenting the entries of the theme would have been considered in bad taste and patronising. Meanwhile the students listening would [i]have a copy of the piece in their laps in order to visually follow the separate voices, while their ears would get the blending of it all. Most likely the piece would be repeated several times to let the students “hear” the several motif manipulations. The modern way of performing the WTC by playing it once and with the audience without a clue about what is going on – which forces the perform into systematically destroying the subtlety and complexity of these pieces by forcibly hammering down separate voices and showing by soundthe different entries of a theme must make Bach turn several times in his grave. These pieces are not about a “nice tune” (although they do have superb tunes). These are intricate tapestries of sound, and they are for the cognoscenti. One must study and study hard before one starts to glimpse what they are all about, let alone appreciate them properly.

This is not very different from wine appreciation. You would be unlikely to share a bottle of Chateaux Margaux with some ignoramus whose idea of a satisfying meal is a Big Mac with double chips and coke.

6. Personally, I think that the preludes are the real technical exercises (many of them are not that different in structure form Czerny), while the fugues are the musical tour –de-force, since there is no more difficult form in which to compose. There is some evidence for that in the fact that 11 of the preludes of the WTC1 first appear in the Little notebook of W.F Bach, which Bach wrote for his son’s keyboard instruction.

7. The order in which they appear (chromatically) most likely is simply because it makes it easier to find a particular prelude in the book. Bach himself almost certainly taught them in a different order. See this thread for more details:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5143.msg49995.html#msg49995

8. Summing it all up:

a. No, I would not start with the most difficult prelude and fugue. I would start with the easiest and proceed in an ascending order of difficulty, since in this way one P&F prepares for the next. The list I provided is the one I use, but it is by no means a definitive or in any way an authoritative list. In fact I would be most interested in seeing alternative listings.

b. Personally, I always learn/teach the prelude paired with its fugue. But again, this is a purely personal bias. As I said there is no evidence (even of a musical nature) that says they should be played together.

c. In learning these pieces, the best way is to do a motif analysis (since this was Bach’s preferred mode of composition) and learn first the motifs, then the separate voices and finally the whole piece. At each of these steps (motif-voices-full piece) it is usually not necessary to work HS, it is perfectly possible to do HT straightaway. But this depends on the student.

d. Technically, fingering is the most important consideration, and it will all hinge on articulation. So before deciding on fingering one must decide on articulation. This is by no means an easy task, since Bach left precious little information about it and the experts more or less all disagree.

e. Here are a few references that I found particularly useful (tip of the iceberg):

i. Ralph Kirkpatrick – Interpreting Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier (Yale University Press).

ii. Paul Badura-Skoda – Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard (Oxford University Press).

iii. Frederick Iliffe: Analysis Of Bach's 48 Preludes & Fugues (2 vols. – Novello)

iv. Joseph Groocock - Fugal Composition: A Guide to the Study of Bach's '48'. (Greenwood Press)

v. David Ledbetter - Bach's Well-tempered Clavier: The 48 Preludes and Fugues. (Yale University Press)

vi. Also have a look here:
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/wtc.html

9. And last but not least, keep in mind Bach’s own words:

“Composed for music-lovers, to refresh their spirits” Cheesy

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard."


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#425549 - 03/21/07 07:05 PM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Great info, but in the link of pianostreet I dont see the "difficult" lisf of the WTC...Is says:


"...So here is Bach’s order (from easy to difficult) as it appears in WF book:..."

What's "WF"? xD sorry ^^

#425550 - 03/21/07 08:34 PM Re: WTC difficulty  
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Quote
Originally posted by KoRnU:
Great info, but in the link of pianostreet I dont see the "difficult" lisf of the WTC...Is says:


"...So here is Bach’s order (from easy to difficult) as it appears in WF book:..."

What's "WF"? xD sorry ^^
Maybe it has something to do with Wilhelm Friemann Bach? I know he wrote that famous table of ornaments, so maybe it's from the same thing? I never knew exactly where that table came from.


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#425551 - 03/21/07 08:55 PM Re: WTC difficulty  
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George K, Thanks for the list. As one who loves Bach, and is willing to struggle with the Preludes and Fugues in the WTC, I appreciate knowing which are less difficult than others. Gaby Tu

#2053011 - 03/23/13 02:42 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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My list:

1. no. 10 in Em
2. no. 2 in Cm
3. no. 6 in Dm
4. no. 19 in A
5. no. 13 in F#
6. no. 11 in F
7. no. 21 in Bb
8. no. 12 in Fm (Book II)
9. no. 15 in G (Book II)
10. no. 21 in Bb (Book II)
11. no. 6 in Dm (Book II)
12. no. 17 in Ab
13. no. 16 in Gm
14. no. 19 in A (Book II)
15. no. 9 in E
16. no. 20 in Am (Book II)
17. no. 18 in G#m
18. no. 1 in C
19. no. 13 in F# (Book II)
20. no. 23 in B
21. no. 11 in F (Book II)
22. no. 7 in Eb (Book II)
23. no. 5 in D
24. no. 1 in C (Book II)
25. no. 24 in Bm (Book II)
26. no. 3 in C#
27. no. 14 in F#m
28. no. 2 in Cm (Book II)
29. no. 15 in G
30. no. 7 in Eb
31. no. 14 in F#m (Book II)
32. no. 5 in D (Book II)
33. no. 3 in C# (Book II)
34. no. 10 in Em (Book II)
35. no. 9 in E (Book II)
36. no. 4 in C#m (Book II)
37. no. 12 in Fm
38. no. 16 in Gm (Book II)
39. no. 22 in Bbm
40. no. 23 in B (Book II)
41. no. 17 in Ab (Book II)
42. no. 8 in D#m (Book II)
43. no. 18 in G#m (Book II)
44. no. 8 in D#m
45. no. 24 in Bm
46. no. 20 in Am
47. no. 4 in C#m
48. no. 22 in Bbm (Book II)

I arranged them considering lenghts of pieces and such difficulties as strettos, subject inversions, etc


Working on: Bach, P&F no. 12 from WTC I (Fm), Beethoven, Sonata no. 13 (Eb); Prokofiev, Sonata no. 1 (Fm) Scriabin, Etudes 8-11 (Bbm) and 8-12 (D#m); Rachmaninoff, Preludes 23-4 (D) and 23-5 (Gm); Chopin, Scherzo no. 3 (C#m).
#2053162 - 03/23/13 07:41 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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Are these orders the order of prelude and fugue combined? Or just the fugues?
In WTC1, the prelude in C major is probably the easiest, but the fugue is tricky.

I remember playing D major and C minor from book 1 (D1, c1), and D minor from book 2 (d2).
My order for the preludes would be (from easier to harder): c1, D1, d2. For the fugues: D1, c1, d2.
But the differences in difficulty for these three is small.


Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.
#2053201 - 03/23/13 09:49 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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Here, as opposed to there
I've performed all 48 (two recitals) and they're all difficult.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#2053205 - 03/23/13 10:09 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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While you're at it, rank the Scarlatti sonatas in difficulty, too.

But seriously, they are all very difficult pieces! Yes, some maybe more than others at first, but still, they are all hard!

#2053206 - 03/23/13 10:09 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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This thread is almost as old as I am.


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#2053207 - 03/23/13 10:10 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: BruceD]  
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Originally Posted by BruceD
This thread is almost as old as I am.


Oh shoot... I did not notice. Oops! At least I wasn't the bumper smile

#2053411 - 03/24/13 10:19 AM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.



1) Bach c minor fantasy
2) Beethoven sonata g major 14 No. 2 (re do)
3) Chopin a flat major Ballade (schubert Impromptu A flat D935 No2)
4) Scriabin op11 prelude #2 and #14 (Re do #2, new #14)
5) Bartok. 4 old tunes and Scherzo)
#2054418 - 03/26/13 05:57 AM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
I've performed all 48 (two recitals) and they're all difficult.


thumb

According to one of his students, Chopin could play them all, from memory.


Slow down and do it right.
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#2054556 - 03/26/13 12:34 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: FarmGirl]  
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Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.


There's a lot of variety and almost no repetition in many Bach pieces. Taking a class in counterpoint will help to understand what's going on. Some folks need to be able to memorize concrete terms to keep their place.

#2054595 - 03/26/13 02:15 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
I've performed all 48 (two recitals) and they're all difficult.


Stores - I'm impressed - REALLY IMPRESSED !!!!!! That's quite an accomplishment !! thumb


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#2054631 - 03/26/13 03:27 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: FarmGirl]  
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Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
I've mentioned in some previous threads going to a recital where many students from Mannes(one of the top conservatoies in the U.S. from what I've heard)each performed one or two of the Preludes and Fugues. There were an incredible number of memory problems despite the level of the students and the limited repertoire being performed by each.

#2054799 - 03/26/13 07:37 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
I've mentioned in some previous threads going to a recital where many students from Mannes(one of the top conservatoies in the U.S. from what I've heard)each performed one or two of the Preludes and Fugues. There were an incredible number of memory problems despite the level of the students and the limited repertoire being performed by each.


It's kind of a litmus test, isn't it? It took me a very large amount of work to play WTC II G minor for a competition. The memorization was there, but it's still always nerve-wracking.

#2055054 - 03/27/13 10:35 AM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: jeffreyjones]  
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by FarmGirl
I add difficult in memorizing Bach piece! I don't know why but Bach pieces does not seem to stick to my brain compared with other composers such as Beethoven. Is it just me? Is it because of the particular piece I'm doing. I just wonder.
I've mentioned in some previous threads going to a recital where many students from Mannes(one of the top conservatoies in the U.S. from what I've heard)each performed one or two of the Preludes and Fugues. There were an incredible number of memory problems despite the level of the students and the limited repertoire being performed by each.


It's kind of a litmus test, isn't it? It took me a very large amount of work to play WTC II G minor for a competition. The memorization was there, but it's still always nerve-wracking.


I agree. It seems that even hitting one wrong note throws me off in performance situation. I have to perform WTC II f minor on stage at a performance center in May. I can play it by memory at home but I don't think it's enough for Bach. Need to really dissect this I think. Studying counter points makes sense. I am contemplating adding terrace dynamic to help my memory for the fugue.



1) Bach c minor fantasy
2) Beethoven sonata g major 14 No. 2 (re do)
3) Chopin a flat major Ballade (schubert Impromptu A flat D935 No2)
4) Scriabin op11 prelude #2 and #14 (Re do #2, new #14)
5) Bartok. 4 old tunes and Scherzo)
#2055191 - 03/27/13 03:20 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: jeffreyjones]  
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Technically you can rank them, no problem.

Musically it's impossible... once you get into "How do I make these sound REALLY GOOD?" all bets are off.


My take on J. S. Bach, Scarlatti, Shostakovich: https://www.youtube.com/user/dohgrant/playlists

My current thing.... a wee bit of Shostakovich, that underrated Russian composer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C29LqzTOoYM&list=PLP5BZzcdRkq1WU147i5-3K92XlBgTe-kp
#2055249 - 03/27/13 04:56 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
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I find Bach difficult to memorize, however once it is securely memorized, I never forget it, probably due to the type of memory work that is required for this music. I can still play the inventions and sinfonias that I memorized as a kid, and the prelude and fugue that I'm working on now is the most securely memorized piece in my program. It just took a long time to get there smile.

As for rating the difficulty .. well, we've had this discussion many times on PW. We all have different strengths and weaknesses as pianists and musicians and will find different things easy or difficult. And I agree with other posters -- they are ALL difficult! But aren't they just amazing to play once you've put the work in?

#2055770 - 03/28/13 03:28 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 157
BWV 846 Offline
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BWV 846  Offline
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Joined: May 2012
Posts: 157
Silver Spring, Maryland
Does anyone know of a ranking that treats the preludes and fugues separately rather than together (even though they are separate pieces of music)? Some keys may have a difficult prelude and a (relatively) easy fugue, or vice versa.

#2055771 - 03/28/13 03:32 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: BWV 846]  
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Posts: 2,648
jeffreyjones Offline
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jeffreyjones  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 2,648
San Jose, CA
Originally Posted by BWV 846
Does anyone know of a ranking that treats the preludes and fugues separately rather than together (even though they are separate pieces of music)? Some keys may have a difficult prelude and a (relatively) easy fugue, or vice versa.


Henle Verlag ranks them on a scale from 1-9.

http://www.henle.de/en/detail/index.html?Title=The+Well-Tempered+Clavier+Part+I+BWV+846-869_9014

http://www.henle.de/en/detail/index.html?Title=The+Well-Tempered+Clavier+Part+II+BWV+870-893_9016

#2055889 - 03/28/13 08:31 PM Re: WTC difficulty [Re: bobrunyan]  
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 157
BWV 846 Offline
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BWV 846  Offline
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Joined: May 2012
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Silver Spring, Maryland
jeffreyjones, that's very helpful. Thanks.

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