Prelude in C | J.S. Bach

The “Prelude in C major” is the first half of the first piece in Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, which consists of two books of 24 Preludes And Fugues each (48 in total).

Bach spent decades to create those magical pieces. Book 1 was completed in 1722, in his last year as chapel master at Prince Leopold’s court in Anhalt-Köthen. Book 2 was completed in 1742. 

Each book is composed by a prelude and a fugue in every key, arranged in a systematic format along the chromatic scale. Each prelude is used to create the right atmosphere and contrast its fugue.

The title “The Well-Tempered Clavier” is referred to a failing characteristic of baroque instruments. In fact the overtones in some keys were more exact, more finely nuanced and “in tune”, but others sounded extremely discordant and therefore composers often hesitated to use them.

Then in the 18th century the ‘equal temperament’ tuning approach came up. Basically scales were divided into 12 equal semitones. Using the new tuning approach Bach intended to explore every single scale!

The prelude in C Major, just as many other Bach’s pieces inspired later composers, as Chopin or Debussy for their own preludes. It begins with a simple four-bar phrase centring on C, then begins to modulate (harmonic progressions lead the melodies into new keys) and the piece become more and more colorful as it progress.

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