Manual Prelude and Fugue

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After all four voices have entered with the theme, Bach starts making things more interesting, and voices start playing the theme so that it overlaps with other voices. When the theme entrances overlap, this is called stretto. As you watch, you'll see that Bach uses stretto more and more, which heightens the tension of the piece. The theme occurs 24 times in this fugue. Bach loved numbers, symbolism, and symmetry, so this is very likely his way of showing that he intended to write 24 fugues altogether.

See if you can hear each entrance of the fugue while you listen to Kimiko Ishizaka performing it. The 2nd prelude, in C-Minor, is a dramatic, almost mechanical creation where tempo and articulation are the principal interpretive tools available to the artist. The piece has tempo indications from Bach, a rarity, in that bar 28 is marked presto , bar 34 adagio , and then allegro in bar You can also listen to the version of the Prelude No.

The C-Minor Fugue, in three voices, is textbook material for learning what a fugue really is. DaveConservatoire uses a live performance by Kimiko Ishizaka from to exemplify various fugal constructions in this video:. You can hear the later, studio recording of the same piece in this video. It is interesting to hear how Kimiko's interpretation of the piece evolved from to , over the course of constant study and multiple performances.

This fugue's theme features the interval of the 6th very prominently, which is strongly linked to the overall feeling of exuberance and joy that the music expresses. The three fugue subjects are introduced from top to bottom and they never overlap no stretto. No other techniques, such as augmentation, diminution, or inversion are applied to the fugue theme. One of the striking structural characteristics of the piece is the extended episode - music based on fragments of the theme, used in imitation, usually for modulation - between bars 29 and One of the key features of this episode is the imitative exchange of three note fragments between voices with running 16th notes in the third voice.

The haunting five-voice fugue in B-flat minor has several characteristics which are notable. First, it is one of the rare fugues with five voices there are two in Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, and none in Book 2.


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Second, the theme features a dramatic and expressive leap of a minor 9th the big jump upwards between the 2nd and 3rd notes. This is the only fugue theme to have such a dramatic leap. And finally, at the climactic moment of the piece, it features a mind-blowing hyperstretto. Stretto is the overlapping of the theme voices.


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Bach takes it to the extreme by overlapping all five voices, offset by only one note! See the diagram for an illustration. Skip to main content. An example of such a system, though not the only one available, is that of equal temperament , in which the octave is divided into 12 semitones of exactly equal intervals compare meantone temperament. Further, by using the word clavier , Bach indicated that his music could be played on any keyboard instrument , including harpsichord , clavichord , and organ.

The collection takes advantage of the knowledge that though keyboard instruments have different mechanisms and produce distinctive sounds, any reasonably competent player can move from one to another without difficulty.


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Together the two volumes of The Well-Tempered Clavier consist of 24 preludes paired with 24 fugues. The pieces were intended as pedagogical exercises to give keyboard players experience in working with the chords , scales , and arpeggios in each key. A performance by American composer Wendy formerly Walter Carlos of two of the prelude and fugue numbers from Book I is noteworthy for having been played on a Moog synthesizer Switched-On Bach , She made other recordings of Baroque music on synthesizer as well, adapting for one recording the name The Well-Tempered Synthesizer Baroque Banquet.

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