Johann Sebastian Bach: Well Tempered Clavier
What is referred to as the Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC) is actually two separate sets of compositions, arrayed as Book One and Book
Book One is a mix-and-match collection that evolved from a series of preludes that Bach composed and compiled for his son Wilhem Friedmann in 1720. Over the next two years Bach extended and added to the collection, until – in 1722 – he went public with an album of 24 preludes and fugues.
This first collection of 24 preludes and fugues – “Book One” – proved to be so popular that between 1738 and 1742 Bach composed a second set of 24 additional preludes and fugues, which was issued as “Book Two”.
It was the WTC (Books One and Two) that kept Bach’s name alive during the decades of obscurity that followed his death in 1750. Throughout the second half of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth century, the WTC was considered to be the basic manual for keyboard training.
Mozart was introduced to the Well-Tempered Clavier by his patron Baron Gottfried van Swieten in 1783. By his own admission, it changed his life.
Both Beethoven and Chopin were weaned on the WTC as children: they memorized all 48 preludes and fugues and carried them around in their heads for the rest of their lives.
In the 1830s, Robert Schumann referred to the Well-Tempered Clavier as “the pianist’s daily bread.”
When the unmanned Voyager space explorer was launched in 1977, it carried a recording of a prelude and fugue from
Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87
In 1950, the Soviet composer (and pianist) Dmitri Shostakovich was sent to the East German city of Leipzig (Bach’s home from 1723 until his death in 1750), there to be one of the judges of the International Bach Competition, which was held in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Bach’s death.
The pianist Tatiana
Bless her, Maestra
(FYI: over the last 20 years, I have lectured, performed, and had my music performed at that same Herbst Theater at least 60 times. I love the place, but I do NOT want to be carried off the stage!)
I own the second of
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