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For me, and I think for many, this is an amazing piece that one can hear hundreds of times and not tire of. Can anyone give some reasons why this piece is so appealing? How can a series of arpeggiated chord be so great? Or maybe you think it's not so great and you can tell us why you think that way.

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Early pop harmony?

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I think the master stroke is the repeating pattern in the RH.

This simple device makes it so much more than a series of broken chords. When you have say (G C E) (G C E) in the RH with every second note having less emphasis in the rhythmic pattern, different notes are emphasised in each pair of three notes, so it's (G c E) (g C e), so it's not a literal repeat.

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Indeed, it's one of the greatest pieces of music ever written and I don't have an explanation besides the fact it follows a very strict and immediately recognizable pattern of "A - B - c - d - e - c - d - e" (these are no note names) where the capital letters are held throughout the entire pattern and the rest are short notes, and the "abcde" notes are ascending. And then the harmony is really modern one if you look at it as a chord progression.

And then the beauty of the added Ave Maria melody (and an additional measure) by Gounod that unexpectedly enriches it so much smile

The only other similar masterpiece is the Em prelude by Chopin IMO


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John beat me by 1 minute wink (I shouldn't have elaborated into Ave Maria and Chopin...)


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For some reason it doesn't feel like Bach to me.

Is it just me that hears a connection with the first movement of Moonlight Sonata?

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Originally Posted by KevinM
For some reason it doesn't feel like Bach to me.

Is it just me that hears a connection with the first movement of Moonlight Sonata?

Back in the progressive rock days some band (Yes, ELP, I don't exactly remember) quoted the Bach C major prelude. I asked my Mom what piece it was and she said it was the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. Obviously it wasn't and it was later I figured out it was Bach. My Mom agreed with you regarding similarity to the Moonlight, from my perspective the similarity is only in the use of arpeggiation.

As for the OP's inquiry, the piece is a wonderful exercise in using only harmony to build and release tension. While shifting register comes into play to a small degree, the rhythm remains unchanged, dynamics are not marked (and didn't exist on harpsichord) and there's no melody to speak of. If your edition shows some of the variants it's obvious that this piece evolved over time. I agree it's an amazing piece because of the surface simplicity but relative depth of the harmony is what makes it amazing.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
For me, and I think for many, this is an amazing piece that one can hear hundreds of times and not tire of. Can anyone give some reasons why this piece is so appealing? How can a series of arpeggiated chord be so great? Or maybe you think it's not so great and you can tell us why you think that way.

I think it's similar to the prelude to the first cello suite, and I think there a couple of things that this WTC prelude and the cello suites as a whole have in common that contribute to their greatness. First, a sort of grandeur in simplicity. Second, a lot that is implied rather than being stated explicitly. I sense an implied melodic line over the arpeggios in both pieces, but that line is never stated in itself. In addition to all this there is that feeling of serenity in both.

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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
I think it's similar to the prelude to the first cello suite, and I think there a couple of things that this WTC prelude and the cello suites as a whole have in common that contribute to their greatness. First, a sort of grandeur in simplicity. Second, a lot that is implied rather than being stated explicitly. I sense an implied melodic line over the arpeggios in both pieces, but that line is never stated in itself. In addition to all this there is that feeling of serenity in both.
Many good and interesting replies so far, but this one "clicked" a lot with me.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 03/30/20 12:34 PM.
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
I think it's similar to the prelude to the first cello suite, and I think there a couple of things that this WTC prelude and the cello suites as a whole have in common that contribute to their greatness. First, a sort of grandeur in simplicity. Second, a lot that is implied rather than being stated explicitly. I sense an implied melodic line over the arpeggios in both pieces, but that line is never stated in itself. In addition to all this there is that feeling of serenity in both.
Many good and interesting replies so far, but this one "clicked" a lot with me.


Yes, with me, too. There is a quiet elegance and majesty to this Prelude that almost defies or eludes description.

Thanks, rmns2bseen.

Regards,


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It always made me feel that the universe was being taken apart and then put back together again. Deeply comforting in that way.


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I played this at my Mother's memorial service.

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I came across this performance recently. Lots of rubato, but tastefully done, IMO. Really enjoyed it.

https://youtu.be/DclbFdWZ1sE

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I don't think it's amazing at all. And this is coming from someone who likes the WTC. To me it sounds far too poppy, and the bad kind of pop.

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If only pop music used rich chord progressions like this... I’m really interested in what you consider “good” pop music when comparing the prelude to “bad” pop music 😱

Last edited by CyberGene; 03/30/20 04:57 PM.

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Originally Posted by CyberGene
If only pop music used rich chord progressions like this... I’m really interested in what you consider “good” pop music when comparing the prelude to “bad” pop music 😱

I just find it very repetitive to play and listen to. I'm not saying that it isn't more complex. I think there are so many pieces on the WTC that are far better.

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Originally Posted by From the Alps
Originally Posted by CyberGene
If only pop music used rich chord progressions like this... I’m really interested in what you consider “good” pop music when comparing the prelude to “bad” pop music 😱

I just find it very repetitive to play and listen to. I'm not saying that it isn't more complex. I think there are so many pieces on the WTC that are far better.

Well then you'd love Philip Glass.

That prelude has a repetitive arpeggio pattern, but harmonically the music itself isn't repetitive. There's the clear sense of purposeful, logical forward motion toward a resolution. In Bach there always is.

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^ I'll amend that a little. Some (all?) of the canons could theoretically go on for all eternity, I guess.

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Bach was a religious composer and I think his works need to be perceived from that point of view. This particular prelude in my opinion is an instruction of how a believer should overcome their passions and reach the piece and the acceptance of God's will in their soul. I must say I love this prelude.

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