Prelude & Fugue No.4

Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude & Fugue No.4 in C# minor

BWV849 • “The Well-tempered Clavier Book 1: Prelude & Fugue No. 4”

About this work

This ruminative prelude would fit well into one of Bach's cello suites if it managed to establish and sustain its mood with only one line, rather than the two separate voices employed here. The piece meanders at a fairly slow pace, then gives way to a remarkably suspenseful fugal subject very slow, the player seeming to pause after each note to decide which menacing direction to take next. This is one of Bach's stile antico fugues, not "antique" enough to resort to the casual imitation common in the Renaissance, but working out the material in the patient manner of Buxtehude and his predecessors. Ultimately, the fugue becomes obsessed with a five-note figure derived from the original subject, and with this it trudges resignedly to its conclusion.