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Philip Goeth's JS Bach Page
Baroque Music Bach Well Tempered Clavier Organ BWV Prelude Fugue
Baroque Music Bach Well Tempered Clavier Organ BWV Prelude Fugue

Philip Goeth's JS Bach Page's posts

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Dear all, here is my P/F WTC1 F major, another part of my series. 

This pair is a treat on the organ, its very enjoyable to play and hopefully to listen to. For the prelude, I used two manuals, with the wonderful Sufflot register of the Freiberg Silbermann providing splendour to the right hand. The fugue is more modestly registered, the Octava and Rohrflöte are warm and welcoming and support the not so complicated polyphony. 

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue F major, BWV 856

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So here is my WTC1 e minor version. It was not easy to record this one as part of my series, given that the prelude starts with a harpsichord type aria, which is difficult to register on a pipe organ. Anyways, at last I think this version is quite fine. 

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue E minor, BWV 855

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Here is my version of WTC 1 Prelude and Fugue E major, BWV 854. 

This pair is a very rewarding and gratifying piece of music, easily flowing and pastoral. For the prelude, I used the nice Gedackt-register of the Freiberg Silbermann, and for the fugue I added the Rohrflöte.

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue E major, BWV 854

I (finally) finished my parts on the WTC 1 Eb major P/F. Not surprisingly, the emphasis was on the prelude, which is quite a complex entity. 

The key challenge to play the prelude is that it has a three part architecture, the actual "prelude" section (bars 1-10), a fugato (bars 11 - 24) and a double fugue. The subjects of the double fugue are derived from brief motives that occur in the prelude and fugato sections, and that are introduced by JS Bach within the double fugue not only in their final form, but also in the form of fragments, which enter throughout the piece in a continuous pattern, making it rather difficult to identify and articulate what is more or less important to the overall flow and structure. Please check out the solutions that I found in my analysis at

Quite fascinating to take a closer look at the recordings out there. The three sections of the prelude Eb maj (prelude, fugato, double fugue) set the stage for some material changes of tempo by the major interpreters, some of which are quite subjective. Many slow down the fugato a bit (one could say: to make it sound more "solemn" - e.g. Hantai, Gulda, Leonhard and others). 

Jando takes this to the extreme, he slows down from prelude at 72 BPM to fugato at 52 BPM, starting the following double fugue at 54 and continuously speeding it up. Again, Jando's double fugue is very thoughtful, but to me his choice of tempo disturbs the natural architecture of the piece and therefore its overall concept. Similar Richter at 
100/68/85 BPM, for whom bar 25 becomes something like a kick start moment, speeding up from the fugato at 68 BPM to the tempo of the double fugue at 85 BPM (which, again, is much slower than the tempo of the prelude section at 100 BPM - unclear). 

Gould goes the other way and starts up the prelude at 34 BPM and then turns the fugato into a alla breve tempo at 60 BPM (strictly against the note on the 1722 autograph). Finally, he speeds the double fugue further up to 90 BPM. His double fugue is great to listen to, but still I find the choice of tempo not convincing (quite definitely its Gould, not Bach, talking there).

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Another take from my WTC 1: The enigmatic P/F Eb/D# minor, BWV 853. If you like tombeaus, Peter Greenaway and Michael Nyman, you might like this too. :) 

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue Eb / D sharp minor, BWV 853

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Here is my take of WTC1 P/F Eb major, BWV 852. Since ages, I find the prelude quite difficult to play, as one needs to find a certain balance in the constant flow of motives. The fugue, on the other hand, is a very "thankful" piece for the interpreter. A good friend of mine once asked me: "with this incredible prelude, do we really need the Jodel-fugue as a consequence?". It was of course ironic, and we both agree: yes, we need it. :) 

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue Eb major, BWV 852

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Here is my version of WTC 1 Prelude and Fugue D-major, BWV 850. For those who like French Overtures - I have stretched this stylistic element a little, I hope its as enjoyable to listen as it is to play. 

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue D major, BWV 850, on organ

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News from my Well-tempered Clavier project: Here is my version of the incredible WTC1 P/F C#minor. Some fugues of the WTC are written "in stylo antico", and the C# minor is (to a certain extent) one of them. The organ sounds carry such fugues well, and the colors (I hope) create a fitting ambience for the music. Very glad this one is done, its quite a struggle :)  

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue C sharp minor, BWV 849, on organ

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A further take of my WTC1 collection: The (in-?)famous C major, one of the most "abused" music pieces ever (next to "Für Elise"). I tried to give it a rather straight and "innocent" ductus, so that the wonderful music can breathe :) 

JS Bach: Well-tempered Clavier I, Prelude & Fugue C major, BWV 846, on Organ

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Some news from my research project on the Well-tempered Clavier: 

This time I would like to outline some thoughts on the architecture of WTC1 Fugue C#minor, which is belongs to the most sophisticated works in the first book of the Well-tempered Clavier.

The interesting feature of this fugue is that it it features three subjects which are struggling for dominance in the development phase of the fugue. Here is a short verbal explanation of the main sections and their dynamic: 

@ The exposition in bars 1 to 34 is features solely Subject 1 (S1)

@ S2 enters in an abbreviated (counter-)exposition in bars 35 et seqq. 

@ With the entry of S3 in bar 49, all three subjects appear in quite equal distribution, so to say in a "phase of peaceful-coexistence", with continuous S1/S2/S3 strettos.

@ Bars 64/65 mark a first stretto entry of S3/S3, with S3 becoming more insisting in this phase. This first rise of S3 is answered by a very strong leadership statement of S1 (bar 73), followed by another section of well distributed S1, S2 and S3 ("second phase of peaceful coexistence", with continuous strettos of the three subjects). 

@ From bar 84 onwards, S3 becomes (again) more dominant and succeeds in pushing S2 out of the fugue in bar 93. 

@ With S3 gaining more room in bars 90-94, this insistence is answered by a wonderful stretto of S1/S1 in bars 94-96, which is clearly a statement of leadership of S1. Such, S1 at first seems to succeed to break the ever growing power of S3. 

@ However, even as S1 re-enters in the soprano and then in the bass in bar 98, S3 does not let go and dominates the following passage (bars 99-107), as if the battle is finally lost for S1. While S1 does appear in bar 100 in the tenor voice, this entry is incomplete and does not change much on S3's dominance in this section. 

@ Given that at this point it seems that S3 has prevailed, even more we have to be mindful of what happens in the last 11 bars of the fugue. After a chromatic descent in half notes in soprano, S1 reappears in bar 107 in quite gloriously high pitch, as if to mark that S3 has only putatively won the argument and S1 is insisting (S1 again being slightly altered). The same in the last 4 bars, when S1 enters in Soprano 2 and concludes the fugue in cooperation with S3, as if to say that this argumentative battle ended in a draw.

I am aware, of course, that this is potentially an overly dramatic description of the development of this fugue, and one should by no means overdo it. However, the "struggle" pattern as outlined above does provide clues to better understand the architecture of the fugue, and to fine-tune its interpretation. 

You can find a graphic analysis of the layout of the fugue and read more about this fascinating form (including how well-known interprets master its challenges) in
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