Fugues through all the tones and semitones
including those with a major third or Ut Re Mi
as well as those with a minor third or Re
Mi Fa. For the profit and use of
musical youth desirous of learning
and especially for the pastime
of those already skilled in
this study composed and prepared by
Johann Sebastian Bach
First of all,you should use a well-tempered clavier.
Around the year 1722 when I completed this work, it was very difficult, even for me, of course for you, to keep the tuning of claviers stabilized. You may have an experience of hearing a sound from a badly-tuned clavier on which a young lady of a royal family is fighting to play one of my works in her grand mansion. It is miserable. In case of organs, you do not have to worry about the tuning everytime before your playing, because the tuning of organs should have been all set at the completion of manufacturing of pipes. But claviers have many highly tensioned steel strings whose ends tuning pins are holding. Temperature, humidity, mechanical shock, rough usage and the most important factor "time" affect the tuning conditions. Even after some professional tuned your clavier properly, on the next day some strings would slip. A week later you will have a different tuning. So, you have to be very careful about the sound. It is the best that you know how to tune your clavier. Violinists know how to tune thier own instruments. Singletone instrument players do not have this kind of nuisance.
If you have a good clavier, you will enjoy your practice and music. But if you use a badly-tempered clavier, your practice and study of this Well-Tempered Clavier will not work. Worse, you may lose your ability to identify the tonality and the chord system. And you may say that this work is not interesting because you think that there are many hardly understandable notes and sequences. Or you may say that some of the preludes and fugues are only messes. Before you say those things, please check your clavier. The Well-Tempered Calvier is a new music work which requires a physically well-tempered clavier at least. In near future, we will have some good claviers well tempered by a rigid frame reinforced with steel structure which will give thier tuning a great stability for a longer period. In the next century or the 21th there will be a good clavier with an automatic tuner, then you will not be suffered from bad tunings.
Then what kind of tuning system do you apply? The equal-temperament system? The system of equal temperament, in which the ratio of frequencies of successive semitones is always exactly the twelfth root of two. No kidding. It is impossible for you to tune any instruments on the equal-temperament system. Why? Do you have a precise frequency counter? Without it, you cannot even attempt. In 1722, even in 1744, there was ( or is ) neither any knowledge about the tool of counting frequency nor a logarithm calculation method for figuring out the numbers of beats per second between two tones. The equal-temperament system is an imaginary one at that time or even now ( in 1744 ). So you may use one of the systems which Mr. Werckmeister invented. In the tuning of claviers we should achieve correct and pure temperament that all the keys sound pure and agreeable.
For a clavier I need an independent "3rd and 5th" like "C ( root ) - E", "C - G". In a pure-temperament, "E and G" is one of the neighboring harmonics of C ( root ). On one register, if any, every tone of a clavier has the same charactor. In a course of a polyphonic movement of notes, the perfectly resonant 3rd or 5th on the root will lose a certain power and the line of melody can not keep a steady stream. So they have to have some independence. I taught to one of my pupils, Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg, that every 3rd should be higher. In chorales or string ensambles each voice or each string instrument has its own character and position by which I can identify the sound as a chorale or a string ensamble.
In order to check your clavier, I recommend you to play the theme of the last fugue, namely Fugue No.24 h-moll ( = B minor ) and to listen to the notes of all the tones and semitones.
There are G-Fis, H-Ais, E-Dis, C-H, Fis-F, D-Cis-C, C-Cis and A-Gis ( in trill ) on the h-moll basic chord ( H-D-Fis; B minor ). All these semitones should sound natural. And if you get the concrete image of this theme as a melody and you can reproduce it in your brain, you will master your own Well-Temperament.
Notes of the musical scale are thought to be based upon the natural harmonics of sounds. Of course, we should respect the natual harmonics. I also find the sound of equal temperament, if exists, unacceptable for vocal or orchestral music. But through the Clavier I found out that in the begining there was the note. I can not accept the existance of the independent tone of Ais in place of B ( in your expression; Bflat ). As you know my family name, BACH is the combination of "B", "A", "C" and "H". In other words, Bflat, A, C and B. This sequence of notes should be the same in every scale. It is an enigma that in Germany "H" is used in place of "B". Perhaps the original expression was "CDEFGABC". In small cases, "cdefgabc". German people were not good at writing "b". Then "b" was distorted into "h" which is " b minus _" or its bottom end was opened. And "b" has almost the same shape of "flat". So, in order to distinguish them with each other, German people began to use "h" instead "b". Fortunately for the Bach family, "H" of "Bach" is one of the note names. So BACH can be a melodic theme. "BACH" is the Word, and at the same time is the Note. Some says that the system of equal temperament, if exists, is a universal compromise which leaves each key equally damaged and none perfectly in tune, and that it also totally removes the differences between keys which composers assumed when writing keyboard music. I do not agree with this statement. The system of equal temperament is not a compromise. It is a principle a priori. As I said, "in the begining there was the note". One year is not exactly 365 days. A year is not 52 weeks. But one year consists of 365 days or 52 weeks. No one says these things are compromises. I would say other temperament systems are compromises. So there are many kinds of compromises. Like the Word, in the begining there was the Note. In the universe, I mean the outer space, there is said to be no air, then no sound. But music should exist even in the space as an information by the Note. The differences between keys of course exist. But they do not depend on the system of temperament. The authenticity of each key is from the melody. Every melody has its original tone hight. You can transpose any melody into any key for your convenience. But the original is the original. Composers may have some specific mood when they are going to write a music on the key like C sharp major ( Cis-dur ) which has seven sharps on the score or A flat minor ( as-mool ) which has seven flats.The score looks weird. Musicians will be tensed up in front of the score. Don't say, " Let's make one halftone higher from C major or one flat from A minor".
The 8-note diatonic scale has two variations the major scale and the minor scale. There are 15 major scales. Each of the 15 major scales has its own relative minor scale the natural minor scale which begins on the sixth note of the major scale. The other two forms of the minor scale are the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale. Well so, there are 60 scales. 15 scales for major, 45 scales for minor. The three forms of the minor scale are the inner variations or melodiac treatments of the basic minor scale or key.
H-dur = Ces-dur, Fis-dur = Ges-dur and Cis-dur = Des-dur for major scales, gis-moll = as-moll, dis-moll = es-moll, and ais-moll = b-moll for minor scales are in enharmonic relationship. I applied Cis-dur ( Csharp Major ) for No.3 Prelude and Fugue in place of Des-dur ( Dflat Major ). H-dur ( Asharp Major ) in place of Ces-dur ( Cflat Major ). es-moll instead of dis-moll.
If you do not agree with the equal-temperament, it is as though you still believe that the sun and the planets revolve around Earth, and there are 15 major scales and 15 minor scales remained. When you understand the meaning of the equal-temperament theory, you will get 12 major scales and 12 minor scales. The equal-temperament theory is not only for the way of tuning. It establishes the Note as the music infromation or language in the world and the universe.
About a hundred years after, someone called Hans von Bulow would praise me by saying, "The Well-Tempered Clavier by J. S. Bach is the Old Testament, and Be*******'s Sonatas are the New Testament for pianists." Excuse me for saying, "No, thank you". If you graciously compare the Well-Tempered Clavier to the Sacred Scripture, I would owe you that you might say "The Well-Tempered Clavier by J. S. Bach is the New Testament". The Old Testament of music might be "Gregorian Chants".
Secondarily,you should not only listen to but also perform these preludes and fugues.
I composed it "For the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study". You can not play the piano? Then you have to practise. Or instead of playing the piano, you can read and transcribe the score for your use. Ah, you can buy the score and there is no need for you to transcribe it. Well, then transcribe it into your mind.
About a hundred years after, someone called Robert Schumann would descrive the Well-Tempered Clavier as "a daily food for the mind". I will appreciate this statement. And he would add, "I am now analyzing fugues of my beloved 'the Well-Tempered Clavier' by J. S. Bach in detail. This study gives me a lot and makes my mind and heart stronger from the theoretical aspect. Bach is a man of the man. He dose have no insufficiency, no morbidity at all. All has been writen for the eternity." If Robert were here, we could have talked a lot about the music with him.
My intenstion is for musical young people to develop their own musical intelligence from the very beginning along with technique. Wilhelm Friedemann, my eldest son at that time (in the year 1722) eleven years old, learned how to compose through the Well-Tempered Clavier. Listening only is a passive way of study and it is not sufficient. You have to participate into the music. If you invent a new instrument without keyboard which can performe automatically under your direction with inputting every note, it will be great. One of the most important concepts for me is that there are twelve keys, even imaginary, in one octave. The Note is the Word in music. I have covered all the notes possible.
Anna Magdalena, my second wife, a vocalist with fine soprano, became a good housekeeper, and she took a lively interest in my work, often helping me by neatly transcribing my manuscripts. Of course she copied several times the Well-Tempered Clavier for our pupils. Through these transcriptions, Anna Magdalena has been trained to understand my music.
Finally,this Well-Tempered Clavier is not Book 1 nor Volume 1.Well, anyway enjoy yourself playing the Well-Tempered Clavier.
Surely, now ( around 1744 ) there is another plan for a new set of the Well-Tempered Clavier. In my opinion, it is not necessary to have a Book 2 or a Volume 2. In these 20 years, the Well-Tempered Clavier has worked well and is still working. If some revision is possible, I would like to change, for example, No.14 F sharp Minor to another new beautiful one which I have now.
But I have to care about my second wife. Anna Magdalena is always very kind to my ex-wife's children. As you may know that I presented her a special and beautiful music notebook with her name on its cover. At that time the children from my second marriage were small. But they are all born musicians, and I could form both a vocal and an instrumental concert within my family, especially since Anna Magdalena sang with a pure soprano voice.
And she wanted a new complete practice book for our children between Anna and me. It was just like that Wilhelm Friedemann, Maria Barbara's son, had this Well-Tempered Clavier for his learnig clavier. I understand her feeling. Johann Christov Altnikol, my daughter's future husband has been helping his future mother-in-law to compiling the new set of twenty four Preludes and Fugues and I heard that he put a name to this set ""The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2". I will accept this. But the first one is not "Book 1". Do not tell this to my dear wife, Anna Magdalena. It is a secret between you and me.
The Well-Tempered Clavier is aimed to regulate the musical universe within the Note of 12 tones and 24 keys. In this sense, no Book 2 is necessary unless it has something completely new. It is not the matter of comparison.
Clich the name of tune, then you will go to the page you want.
Click "mid" or "mp3", then you can hear the music on this page.
Or for a continuous play on WMP, click " PLAY "
|Prelude||Fugue||Key||( Key )||BWV|
|Prelude No. 1: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 1: mid:mp3||C Major||C-dur||846|
|Prelude No. 2: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 2: mid:mp3||C Minor||c-moll||847|
|Prelude No. 3: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 3: mid:mp3||C# Major||Cis-dur||848|
|Prelude No. 4: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 4: mid:mp3||C# Minor||cis-moll||849|
|Prelude No. 5: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 5: mid:mp3||D Major||D-dur||850|
|Prelude No. 6: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 6: mid:mp3||D Minor||d-moll||851|
|Prelude No. 7: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 7: mid:mp3||Eb Major||Es-dur||852|
|Prelude No. 8: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 8: mid:mp3||Eb Minor|
|Prelude No. 9: mid:mp3||Fugue No. 9: mid:mp3||E Major||E-dur||854|
|Prelude No.10: mid:mp3||Fugue No.10: mid:mp3||E Minor||e-moll||855|
|Prelude No.11: mid:mp3||Fugue No.11: mid:mp3||F Major||F-dur||856|
|Prelude No.12: mid:mp3||Fugue No.12: mid:mp3||F Minor||f-moll||857|
|Prelude No.13: mid:mp3||Fugue No.13: mid:mp3||F# Major||Fis-dur||858|
|Prelude No.14: mid:mp3||Fugue No.14: mid:mp3||F# Minor||fis-moll||859|
|Prelude No.15: mid:mp3||Fugue No.15: mid:mp3||G Major||G-dur||860|
|Prelude No.16: mid:mp3||Fugue No.16: mid:mp3||G Minor||g-moll||861|
|Prelude No.17: mid:mp3||Fugue No.17: mid:mp3||Ab Major||As-dur||862|
|Prelude No.18: mid:mp3||Fugue No.18 : mid:mp3||G# Minor||gis-moll||863|
|Prelude No.19: mid:mp3||Fugue No.19: mid:mp3||A Major||A-dur||864|
|Prelude No.20: mid:mp3||Fugue No.20: mid:mp3||A Minor||a-moll||865|
|Prelude No.21: mid:mp3||Fugue No.21: mid:mp3||Bb Major||B-dur||866|
|Prelude No.22: mid:mp3||Fugue No.22: mid:mp3||Bb Minor||b-moll||867|
|Prelude No.23: mid:mp3||Fugue No.23: mid:mp3||B Major||H-dur||868|
|Prelude No.24: mid:mp3||Fugue No.24: mid:mp3||B Minor||h-moll||869|
|Prelude||Fugue||Key||( Key )||BWV|
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