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Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
#2983731 05/25/20 01:36 PM
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I'm about to take a look at the Well Tempered Clavier. I've played plenty of 19th century music, but very little Bach (a few of the inventions and one prelude and fugue, years ago). I think it's time to dig into it a little more.

Any recommendations on which of the pieces from the Well Tempered Clavier I should start with? I have book 1, the Henle edition.

Thanks for any suggestions.


Yamaha Avantgrand N2, Bush & Lane upright grand (1920s), Steinway upright grand (1893)
Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2983785 05/25/20 03:13 PM
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There is a very big range in musical and technical difficulty in these pieces for both the preludes and the fugues. I don't really know that many of them well, but besides the C minor already mentioned, the C# major and f minor are relatively straightforward. One problem in selecting is that the prelude and fugue can be not be of the same difficulty. You don't have to play both the prelude and fugue in a given key but, of course, that's done most of the time. I'm sure that somewhere you can find a ranking of these pieces by order of difficulty. To start out, I would stick to ones where the fugue has only three voices.

You might also consider some movements from one of the French Suites as a possibly more accessible alternative. The G major is very popular.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/25/20 03:23 PM.
Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2983798 05/25/20 03:42 PM
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I discovered the Eb major prelude and fugue thanks to an album Switched On Bach (now you know how old I am). It's a wonderful piece and interestingly the prelude is a double fugue (of sorts) in 4 voices and 4 pages (in my edition). The fugue is 3 voices on just 2 pages and is harder (IMO). The prelude is a piece that can stand on its own, but the fugue is a lot of fun once you learn it. Not the easiest of the WTC, but some great music.

Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2983828 05/25/20 04:55 PM
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There is a lot of variety in the WTC1, so it kind of depends what you are looking for. Easier pieces or it does not matter ? Particular style ? You may want to warm up playing some of the sinfonias with 3 voices, just to see how it works. The number 5 in the ornamented version or 9 or 11 are beautiful pieces.

Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Sidokar #2983833 05/25/20 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
There is a lot of variety in the WTC1, so it kind of depends what you are looking for. Easier pieces or it does not matter ? Particular style ?

Doesn't need to be easier pieces. I'm up for a challenge. I want to start to get a feeling of how this music works "from the inside," rather than just by listening to it.


Yamaha Avantgrand N2, Bush & Lane upright grand (1920s), Steinway upright grand (1893)
Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2983869 05/25/20 07:01 PM
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From a previous thread March 2007;

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)

Interesting that Prelude and Fugue No. 1, C major Book 1 is ranked at 22. The Prelude is obviously one of the starter pieces of Bach, yes the fugue is a difficult 4 voice, but more accessible than some of the fuques listed higher.


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Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
BeeZee4 #2983877 05/25/20 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by BeeZee4
From a previous thread March 2007;
1. no. 15 in G (Book II)
2. no. 6 in Dm
3. no. 21 in Bb
How can the virtuosic Prelude in B flat be the third easiest?

Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
BeeZee4 #2983904 05/25/20 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by BeeZee4
Interesting that Prelude and Fugue No. 1, C major Book 1 is ranked at 22. The Prelude is obviously one of the starter pieces of Bach, yes the fugue is a difficult 4 voice, but more accessible than some of the fuques listed higher.

An interesting piece of trivia:

It's likely that the simple first prelude in C owes its origins to historical lute suites, where the performer would often improvise a basic chordal piece at the start in order to check the tuning of their instrument.


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Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
pianoloverus #2983922 05/25/20 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by BeeZee4
From a previous thread March 2007;
1. no. 15 in G (Book II)
2. no. 6 in Dm
3. no. 21 in Bb
How can the virtuosic Prelude in B flat be the third easiest?

Exactly. Should be much further down the list.


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Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2983936 05/25/20 11:17 PM
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Have you played through all the Little Preludes, Fugettas, and Fugues? It might be a good idea to start where Bach would have started you.


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Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2984007 05/26/20 04:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric NYC
Doesn't need to be easier pieces. I'm up for a challenge. I want to start to get a feeling of how this music works "from the inside," rather than just by listening to it.

Some of the most approachable pieces are the F major, E major, E minor. The F major is one where both prelude and fugue are well balanced. Usually either the prelude or the fugue would be more difficult. The fugue in E major is more challenging than the rest but both the prelude and fugue are short.

That will give you a sense of how you are doing. What is interesting in the WTC is to look at the diversity of compositional styles being used. What is challenging is to decide which tempo, articulation, dynamics to use since none of that is indicated in the score and was implicit at the time.

Re: Which pieces from Well-Tempered Clavier?
Eric NYC #2988545 06/06/20 05:03 PM
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My first Bach prelude and fugue will be the one in Eb Major (no. 7)! I'm excited, and also slightly intimidated by the fugue haha.
Good luck to you!


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