[38] Johann Sebastian Bach – The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1

27 Dec

My first impression of these piano snippets is of a collection of scales and exercises meant for an advanced student looking to improve their technique. Not so surprising since this is precisely what Bach has composed here, and how he used these pieces with his charges.

The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1

The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1











But even before I delve into the history of these pairs of Preludes and Fugues in every key, they begin to get under my skin, to capture my imagination with their variety, their small but perfectly formed structures. They are worlds apart from the complexities of Bach’s solo violin works, beautiful and distinct.

Austrian pianist, Till Fellner, plays with a warm, light touch and I find myself wanting to hear these sketches late at night as I drift away. The difference in approach between these solo pieces and Martha Argerich’s piano concertos is striking – an entirely different technique for an entirely different style of composition.

I certainly can’t fall asleep to Argerich’s passionate attack!

Still, the tunes and technique alone might not be enough to launch this recording into the Recommended column, but the story that goes along with the sounds highlights the importance beyond merely what is heard.

With this work, Bach may have helped codify the sound of music as we know it today.

The Well Tempered Clavier is his attempt to show the artistic possibilities for equal temperament tuning of the piano – ” which standardized intervals between pitches to make a uniform scale” – rather than the arguably more natural just intonation.

By any indication, he appears to have succeeded.

Owned before blogging? No. (2 of 38. 5%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 38. 11%)
Recommend? Yes. (32 of 38. 84%)

Next Week: Johann Sebastian Bach – Mass In B Minor

4 Responses to “[38] Johann Sebastian Bach – The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1”


  1. [39] Johann Sebastian Bach – Mass in B Minor | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - January 3, 2014

    […] Brandenburg Concertos, the tiny and complex solo violin pieces and the technical exploration of the Well Tempered Clavier should also be able to add the subtle shading of this vocal ensemble […]

  2. Bach’s temperament | Bibliolore - February 15, 2014

    […] [38] Johann Sebastian Bach – The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 […]

  3. [75] Ludwig van Beethoven – The Five Piano Concertos | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - September 12, 2014

    […] runs up and down keys.  During the solo piano sections there are moments that, like during The Well Tempered Clavier, seem almost like exercises, but they are so amusing and engaging that you can’t help but […]

  4. [166] Pablo Casals – Bach: Cello Suites Vols. 1 & 2 | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - January 15, 2020

    […] at my love for these two hours of compositions – I have already recommended four out of four J. S. Bach recordings.  I wonder if Moon has any more hiding in wait in the next eight […]

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