About this work
This prelude, one of Bach's best known, may be one of the earliest pieces Bach wrote for what years later became Book 1 of the Well Tempered Clavier. A short phrase in the right hand echoes in the left; this exchange is repeated several times, the phrase ascending the scale, whereupon the right- and left-hand parts gradually become more fully integrated. An unexpected, wild little run stops up short against a measured, chordal section that follows the contours of the opening melody. That melody finally reasserts itself in full and develops into a three-voice composition, two voices working in imitation and conversation while the third provides harmonic support. The piece continues in this vein at length; indeed, this is by far the most extended prelude in Book 1 of the Well Tempered Clavier. The fugue seems tiny and almost trivial by comparison; its chipper, sputtering subject enters three times, each arrival close upon the one before, and the theme soon becomes submerged in the free counterpoint. It resurfaces frequently, but only in fragmentary form.
Curated by Anna Lachegyi, Viola da gamba player and Cellist